Mehrbano Sethi, the creator of Luscious Cosmetics has taken the market share in the cosmetic world with her makeup brand and has achieved that level of success which her male counterparts have failed to reach. This businesswoman of substance talks exclusively to IBEX about her success in the industry and of course her brand, Luscious.
Please tell us yourself and your educational background?
I did my A- levels from Lahore Grammar School (L.G.S), then went to LCAS. After that I went toAmericafor further studies in International Relations fromBostonUniversity. I am the only child of my parents. Our family has been in the business industry for 4 decades. I am the third generation contributing in the legacy.
Tell us about the brand “Luscious”?
Luscious Cosmetics is a makeup brand which offers high quality cosmetic products at affordable prices. The products that my brand offers are especially formulated for the South Asian skin tone. All the products are manufactured inUnited Stateswith unique formulas and innovative packaging .They are at par with the international standards and are developed in accordance with the latest fashion trends abroad. The only difference is the prices are not exorbitant.
When and how did you start this brand?
Being a woman, I have always been a fanatic about makeup. In Pakistan, the market for cosmetics is huge but unfortunately there was no national makeup brand suitable for Pakistani skin tone. When I was studying abroad, all my Indian friends used Lakme, an Indian cosmetics brand even though they could afford buying high end cosmetics. Reason being that this Indian brand was specifically developed keeping in view the Indian skin tone. I guess that is where I initially got the idea but it was seven years of constant research and development on learning what makes a good consumer product, the needs and wants of Pakistani women that led to the creation of Luscious Cosmetics in May 2008. Luscious Cosmetics is based in Lahore and is a division of Innovative Technologies Ltd. The best feature about Luscious Cosmetics is that none of the products are tasted on animals and are manufactured with Halal ingredients.
What is the present situation of the cosmetics business in Pakistan?
Well, as I have mentioned earlier the market for this business is extremely large. Very few local brands are present. There are a number of international makeup brands available in the big departmental stores but due to their high prices they become out of reach for the normal consumer. Secondly, looking at the global industry of cosmetics, there are so many ambiguities to fool the consumer. In lipsticks, for instance Beeswax is being replaced by Beef fat. It lowers the quality of the product not to mention is unhygienic. There are so many other examples of cheap replacements. Using cheap substitutes only makes the products cause skin reactions and allergies.
What is your target audience and how do you market your products/brand?
Our target audience is basically any female from age 18 to 56 more specifically speaking; it is for young urban females. As far as the marketing is concerned we are too small for electronic media but we have excessively used print media as a widespread marketing tool. In addition, the online social networking sites like facebook have also been helpful in marketing our brand. Luscious has an interactive brand policy. I am always in touch with the consumer through the internet.
Which local and international cosmetic brands are your competitors?
Locally speaking, Luscious has taken everyone’s market share. There was a time when investors used to pick consignments up usually from China of low quality makeup or at times even expired products thinking that the Pakistani consumer is dull enough to purchase it. Times have now changed and I am happy to say that Luscious has brought about that change in awareness. Our consumers are now intelligent and know when they see a good product. Since the start of Luscious 32 cosmetics companies have appeared and vanished into thin air. Internationally speaking, however we do have a few competitors.
In which cities your brand is present and how do you compare different cities in terms of sales, culture and priorities in cosmetic products? Which cities have demand for your cosmetics products?
Our brand is present in 14 different cities including Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. We have 7 offices all over Pakistan and 272 shops in the country that stock our products. In addition, we also have initiated the trend of ordering Luscious products online with free home delivery. The consumer does not even have to pay in advance but pays cash on delivery. This is something which has never been employed in Pakistan. We get almost 1000 orders every single day even from remote areas like Haripur, Hazara and Toba Tek Singh etc. We also get orders from women residing in United Kingdom and Middle East. It is safe to say that Luscious is not confined to big cities but is available everywhere. As far as the comparison of cities in terms of sales and culture is concerned, there is no set behavior or pattern. Bigger cities obviously, do have more sales due to awareness but overall there isn’t much difference. We don’t intend to have Luscious outlets so basically Luscious is available in big stores countrywide and by ordering online.
What opportunity you see in the cosmetics business inPakistan? Is there a potential to invest in? Do you think more competition is required in the market?
Never underestimate this market as it has immense potential to succeed provided that the investor has researched well and knows the consumer’s taste and preference. Healthy competition is always welcomed.
If a women wants to start or join the cosmetics industry; which are the best areas for investment or to work in?
In my opinion, distribution is the best area for any female to work in.
What advice would you like to give to the existing companies in the cosmetics business and to the new investors who want to invest in this business?
The first thing which I always stress upon is never to take your consumer to be stupid or having lack of intelligence. The consumer knows what kind of quality they are purchasing. Cosmetics companies need to improve quality. Gone are the days when expired products were sold to Pakistani consumers. Quality makeup products can be manufactured without comprising the price factor. For new investors, I would suggest to research before they enter this market.
What are your future plans?
Currently, we are working on making Luscious available in other countries like U.A.E. We will also be launching a Luscious skin care line for men. I also have plans for opening Luscious studios but that would occur somewhere in the future.