Sobhita Dhulipala in her new Smashbox campaign.

As India starts to reopen, Smashbox is looking to solidify its presence in the country.

About three months ago, just as the coronavirus started spreading around the globe, the Estée Lauder Cos.-owned brand launched its first country-specific brand here, and appointed its first brand ambassador for the country.

With e-commerce sales allowed as of Monday, and stand-alone stores being allowed to open, the new product will commence its first real engagement with the market, after a total country-wide lockdown since March 24. Malls across the country remain closed until May 31.

As of Friday, India has 118,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 3,583 deaths.

The lipstick, named Gula-Bae, is a cool rose shade and based on extensive market and trend research to appeal to the moods, personalities and lifestyles of the modern, Millennial Indian woman. It is priced at 2,100 rupees, about $28.

“We are delighted to be the first country for Smashbox in the world to have its own lipstick shade,” said Rohan Vaziralli, general manager and country head, The Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) India. “Lipsticks are the most regularly used makeup product by Indian consumers, making it a staple for women in India. This, coupled with consumer potential given the country’s density and diversity, made India the top choice to launch an exclusive shade of lipstick created especially for the women of India.”

During the early March launch of the lipstick, Smashbox also announced Bollywood actress Sobhita Dhulipala as its first brand ambassador in India.

While the celebration was short-lived, it was enough to fuel interest in the brand, and gauge consumer interest. “Given the spread of the global Indian diaspora, we’ve seen great opportunity and demand for the shade across multiple markets and anticipate it to launch in a few over the coming months,” said Vaziralli.

Smashbox has two freestanding stores in India, in Mumbai and New Delhi, and is in 58 specialty multistores like Sephora, department store chain Shoppers Stop, and multibrand beauty retailer Nykaa.

In total, Lauder has 586 doors across India, including 151 stand-alone stores and shop-in-shops in partnership with department store chain Shoppers Stop. MAC Cosmetics launched in India in 2005, followed by Clinique and Estée Lauder in 2007, Bobbi Brown in 2013, Jo Malone London and Smashbox in 2017 and Aveda in 2018. Glamglow, Too Faced, Tom Ford Beauty and designer fragrances are also sold here.

Euromonitor International estimates India’s beauty and personal-care market in India to have reached $11.12 billion in 2018. Although the premium segment is small, at $773.9 million in 2018, it grew 14.5 percent.

Smashbox’s new brand ambassador follows a change of strategy by Lauder in India over the last 18 months, with a local brand ambassador announced for the first time for Estée Lauder in November 2018 when Bollywood actress Diana Penty kicked off a campaign for Advanced Night Repair.

The other brands followed quickly with all the brand ambassadors so far have been Bollywood celebrities who are known to inspire trends all over India, and in the Indian diaspora living abroad.

“While macro and nano influencers drive incredible engagement, mega influencers such as Bollywood celebrities are able to capture reach, drive deeper penetration and awareness at scale,” said Vaziralli. “To further accelerate our growth ambitions in the country, brand ambassadors are a strategic investment to drive brand awareness, deepen consumer coverage, and drive desirability. The initial results have been very encouraging, with double-digit growth, increased consumer base, and stronger regional penetration.”

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