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India’s New Cosmetics Regulations Lower Barrier to Entry

"These measures do give more confidence to foreign brands to bring their brands into India."

India’s new cosmetic regulations are changing the playing field for global beauty retailers and brands bringing products into India.

A new policy went into effect Dec. 15 that reduces costs to register products by 50 percent, from $2,000 per category to $1,000 per category, and increases the validity of the registration from three years to five years.

Retailers and importers have been studying the fine print of the 136-page document, which is half in Hindi and half in English, to understand the implications of the policy. While details are becoming clearer, industry analysts believe this will be the next big step forward for global brands reaching out to the 400 million middle-class consumers in India.

“The registration fees reduced by half certainly help as it lowers the cost of entry into the Indian market. The validity date of five years will allow brands to have a longer gestation period for their business without having to apply for renewal. These measures do give more confidence to foreign brands to bring their brands into India,” said Tony Chin, chief executive officer, Beauty Concepts Private Ltd., a distributor in India responsible for Bulgari, Estée Lauder fragrances and other lines.

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Global beauty brands play a big role in India’s $15 billion beauty market. Top fragrance sellers and beauty brands including Davidoff, Hugo Boss, Clinique, MAC, Christian Dior, Clarins and others have rapidly increased their retail space in India over the past decade. New brands have also launched into India via e-commerce, as e-tailers like Nykaa have gained strength.

The new rules were unexpected—they were published by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which is already overburdened by issues related to health.

They were seen as a pleasant surprise for the beauty industry, and mitigated some of the indignation that ensued after prices per category were increased in 2018 from $250 to $2,000. They are also expected to help counter the severe impact of the retail lockdown and reduction in footfall and purchases due to the coronavirus.

“This change deserves applause from the beauty industry in India. This rulebook is a result of almost a decade of the cosmetic industry and regulatory obligations evolving in the Indian subcontinent—it is the first time an elaborate rulebook has been issued after 2012,” said Navraj Bindra, director, NKG Advisory Business and Consulting services, a multidisciplinary consulting company based in New Delhi offering regulatory compliance services to the industry. “The regulatory cost of entering the Indian market for a cosmetic product manufactured outside India will go down by an approximate 45 to 50 percent. It is not something that companies may have fully realized yet, but in six to nine months as approvals start coming in, the cost-benefit will be huge,” he said.

The new registration policy applies across both e-commerce and physical retail. It also introduces a $500 fee per manufacturing site for the products, meaning products made in different overseas manufacturing sites will each have an additional one-time cost. The additional fee of $50 per product variant remains the same as before.

The shifts will allow companies to relaunch new shades more frequently, with cost per product offset by the longer validity of the license, Bindra pointed out. This makes it easier for smaller players to look more closely at the Indian market, he said, and give the Indian consumer more choices at lower costs than before.

The regulations also introduce a “new cosmetics” framework for products that use new ingredients.

“Now there is a regulatory framework to prove their safety as a new cosmetic. That is a good thing for companies who invest in science, research and development, and makes it easier to bring a product into India which is progressive,” Bindra explained.

The new rules also allow a simplified way for brands to work with multiple importers in India, removing the difficulty of duplication of the entire regulatory process and formalities for the same products and brands. They also include more stringent labeling requirements and a six-month expiration date.

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