NEW DELHI — India’s beauty scene has a new player.
The Kama Ayurveda brand — long known for its quiet efficacy and stylish products — took its first step into the fray recently with a stand-alone store in New Delhi’s prestigious Khan market.
“Khan Market has the right mix, with a great footfall of tourists and educated discerning Indians,” observed Vikram Goyal, director of Kama Ayurveda. ”And the timing just seemed right for us.”
Known as the most expensive real estate in the country, Khan market has other stand-alone beauty stores including Shahnaz Husain, Forest Essentials, Kiehls, The Body Shop — and is in central Delhi, where smaller shops like Kama Ayurveda’s 380- square- foot outlet are much more common.
Earlier, Kama Ayurveda had been retailing through five-star hotel spas as well as through pharmacy outlets and other department stores in markets which stock everything from beauty to food items. An approximate 25 percent of their sales come from international markets and there has been a growing focus on travel retail, with three duty free outlets in India, in New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad and a recent opening in Male, in the Maldives.
However, the new store has spurred a vast expansion in terms of products. “We have introduced more than 60 additional stockkeeping units in the last two months,” said Vivek Sahni, another director at Kama Ayurveda’s. “And we’re still introducing more over the next few months.”
Sahni is one of four partners who started the brand with its minimalistic, no frills packaging and products that serve specific functions.
He added that some of the key launches have included more soaps and a new range, which does not necessarily require adding water to powders or using pure oils. “Earlier we had no day creams, night creams or scrubs. We’ve added a lot of soaps. Now we also have ranges of shampoos, face washes which didn’t exist earlier along with a men’s section,” he said.
As Vikram Goval, a fellow founder, explained, “Each of our products address a specific concern. They are treatments as well as beauty regimens.” To this end, the store not only has the regular run of beauty assistants, but also an Ayurveda doctor to assess the concerns of customers and recommend products according to their body type and specific needs, a practice that is not uncommon in Ayurveda. The doctor, Avilochan Singh, explained that “beauty comes from good health and you have to take care of the whole process rather than a single strand of hair or section of skin.”
Kama Ayurveda’s star products include Bringadi Intensive Hair treatment and the kumkumadi Miraculous Beauty Fluid.
The store itself has an airy, open, well-lit rectangular depth, with separate racks for face care, body, hair care, soaps, men’s grooming and gift sets. “We wanted to keep a sense of modernity with traditionalism,” Sahni explains. “Basically, we wanted to have a store that was like the Thirties India with a strong element from the South, like the brass sink, the brass pots, the containers the oil pourers, the burners, the spice mixers, etc. The idea was to have an old fashioned pharmacy with a modern element.”
But as global brands come in, and a customer must choose between the many local natural/Ayurvedic brands that most often do not use advertising to their advantage, how does it bode for competition?
“We’re an authentic Ayurveda brand and have been working with Arya Vaidya Pharmacy in Coimbatore, a non-profit trust which has 500 medicines, 100 doctors and 30 clinics all over the country and are a well-respected institution. I think people realize there is an authenticity to our brand and that they can appreciate what purity, organic, nature effectiveness, authenticity is all about,” Goyal observed.
Although Kama Ayurveda has been a brand with a small but committed following over the last 10 years, beauty analysts are watching to see how the brick-and-mortar presence will change the brand offering as well as perception with the customers.