Founded in 2016, TIW Private Equity-backed Kaunis Marketing Services Pvt. Ltd. aims to tap into the rapidly-growing Indian beauty and personal care market by developing strategies for the entry of world-class brands into the Indian market. It launched the first brand from Artdeco Group, a colour cosmetics line under the name BeYu, in March and now brought another premium skincare brand from the same group, Malu Wilz, to India. With more than two decades of experience in the beauty space and having worked with brands like L'Oréal India, Maybelline and Unilever in India's Lakmé and Ponds, Ajay Ghooli, Managing Director, Kaunis, talks about his company’s agenda, its marketing strategies and also about his views on the current status of the beauty and personal care industry.
What does Kaunis exactly do?
Kaunis is a platform which is responsible for bringing international premium beauty/ cosmetics brands into the country and we take end-to-end responsibility for the brand. We, at Kaunis, tell our partners that “we will be you in this country”. When we say end-to-end responsibility, we start with the registration of the brand to developing a sales, marketing and distribution strategy, and accentuating it, on the ground, which means that we build a sales team, we build a marketing team, we build a HR training, etc., and we bring the best talents from within the country who has worked in the segment. It’s like having a subsidy in the country and we act as one.
What were the agenda/ reasons behind the inception of Kaunis in India?
There are three very important, strong and compelling reasons for starting Kaunis in India. First, the Employee Engagement – a majority of big companies in the country outsource the beauty advisors who are the backbone of this business. To me, this was a big discomfort and I felt that we should do something for them because they do everything for the organization. So we took the first step and we have taken them on company roles rather than outsourcing them. We also started giving the top 10 percent of the beauty advisors ESOPs in order to give them a better opportunity. Second concern was the Retail Engagement at service levels. Retailer relationships over the last 7-10 years have nose-dived. Kaunis has maintained a reigning retailer relationship and that has helped us a lot across the country. We have gone to 300 stores in 5 months time and this is unthinkable for any good organization. This was only possible after re-establishing that connect between the employees and the retailers and assuring them that this company will stay with them brand after brand. Thirdly, Service Levels in terms of fill rate. We wanted to move to a consumer-oriented market and that’s why we are equipping our beauty advisors with tabs so that one has real time information on what is selling in the outside market so that, for example, I can place a forecast with Germany that I need these products. This is not going to happen immediately but at least we have the roadmap to ensure that our service levels are going to be phenomenal in the months to come. These are three compelling reasons that propelled us to form Kaunis.
Tell us about your partners/ clients. What does the company promise its clientele?
What we promise to our partners is that we will have a very transparent way of working. We believe that unless we behave like true partners, it’s not going to work. I can fool a partner once or twice but it would not work in the long run. They will ultimately stop working with us. What I realized when I went to Cosmoprof last year that the trust quotient on the Indian companies is a little low, and that was shocking for me. I was representing India at the event and it pained when you get to know about a different picture of India from outside. I think we definitely need to correct this perception and it’s important to have transparency and trust in your partners for a business to prosper. We started with partnership with BeYu on a 3-5 years contract basis and very soon, we have been able to convince our partner to get into perpetuity. Like I always say “we will be you in this country”, so we consider our partner brands as our own brands and we nurture them as our own brands.
How do you manage marketing strategies of an international brand entering India?
We work on “Think Global, Act Local” strategy. First, we choose what products would suit India. For example, with BeYu there were close to 500 SKUs which were available in colour assortments. But we brought only 200 SKUs that were relevant to India at the moment and are working with the brand team to develop close to 45-50 shades which will form the core assortment for us and it should be out in the market by February. So there is lots of work happening in the background. Similarly, we have an understanding with Malu Wilz as well that we will develop products specifically for the Indian market depending on what the market wants. That’s the strength of our partnership. For marketing and promotions, we work on a combination of print and digital media
What are the essentials for an international brand entering the country, in order to survive the market?
I think that the single thing for any company who wants to enter Indian market is to have the promise of quality. If you have quality, you have consumers and if you don’t, you are nowhere.
How would you describe the current status of beauty and personal care industry?
It’s a fantastic space to be in. According to our internal estimates, the entire personal care market is worth about Rs.75,000 crores growing at about 16 percent CAGR. And the skincare market is worth about Rs.10,000 crores. By 2025, it is almost going to double or triple, according to industry sources. What else can one ask for!?
Will Malu Wilz expand to tier-II and tier-III towns as well? What kind of strategies will be enforced for the same?
Yes, if I have to quote few examples, we have nice BeYu store in cities like Banaras, Nasik and Gangtok and that’s how diverse we are in terms of our reach. So, the idea of Kaunis is to reach out to consumers through the best possible store in that particular city. We are not constrained by geography. If there is a store, there is a consumer base, we will go to them in that particular town and similarly for Malu Wilz, we will not be constrained by geography.
Do you think franchise is a viable model for expansion? What are your plans to expand through this model?
Yes, definitely. We have taken the first step towards that because for BeYu, we have already got 16 company operated kiosks and for Malu Wilz, we are going to have 6 exclusive company operated kiosks. Once we have built the brand, I am sure there will be lots of companies wanting to take up franchisees and we would be open for the same. At this point of time, we would never say no to any investment.