MASCARA : Creating Confident Customers with Innovative Cosmetic Offerings

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MASCARA : Creating Confident Customers with Innovative Cosmetic Offerings

In Conversation with Ratheesh Rajan

Founder, MASCARA

Business by Chance

Ratheesh Rajan may have spent the first six years of his career working for some of the biggest tech companies in Bengaluru but it was after a few years of working with a renowned bank in UAE that the entrepreneurship bug bit him. His banking job entailed interacting with small and medium business owners routinely which gave him the push to start something of his own. He remembers thinking, “Everyday, I see business. Everyday, I meet entrepreneurs. I hear their stories of their experience and how they built businesses. I thought to myself- Why don’t I start a business?”

Owing to changes in his personal life, he relocated back to India. His initial plan was to get into the perfume business and his priority was on finding a production unit. Over the course of understanding the perfume industry, one of his acquaintances (Mr Vinod Kumar, the CEO of Superclean) introduced him to the Beauty Salon industry which had untapped potential when it came to professional salon circulation. Together, they set up a company labelled Instant Mirage Cosmetics Pvt Ltd. He stepped into his destined industry by chance- and he embraced it with open arms.

On the Becoming of MASCARA India

He recalls interacting with several salon professionals, gathering an idea of their needs as he conducted Instant Mirage Cosmetics’ business. Ratheesh eventually took the decision to branch out into something of his own, thus birthing the concept for MASCARA India.

He approached a production unit in Kerala, responsible for some of the biggest cosmetic brands in the country, to become a third-party manufacturer for MASCARA India. At the time, Ratheesh had only set up the first channel of the brand focused on salon professional products. However, an intention of starting something exclusively for men was always on the back of his mind. While the pandemic affected his salon professional products business direly, it lent the spark of an idea for his second (UNDERWORLD, a lifestyle & hygiene product for men) and third (Colour Cosmetics for men) channels under the MASCARA India umbrella. He says, “If the pandemic was a curse for someone else, it was a blessing for me.”

The Three Pillars of MASCARA India

The three pillars of MASCARA India are all Ratheesh Rajan’s very own brainchildren, stemming from what he believes to be a need in the market today.

“If I have a good concept, then I have a good audience,” Ratheesh says, affirming his confidence in the strength of the concept behind each one of MASCARA India’s parallels. Let’s take a closer look at the three pillars on which MASCARA India stands.

- MASCARA

MASCARA salon cosmetics were introduced in December 2018 and by April 2019, it became well-known within the circle. MASCARA’s shampoos, conditioners and hair serums are currently in circulation in over 300 salons across 3 South Indian states and this number continues to rise. They follow a primarily offline distribution model to cater to the salon professionals’ needs.

- UNDERWORLD

Men’s personal hygiene products, so far, have only recently enveloped care for the intimate zones and this still remains a largely unexplored market in India. It’s time to shun the hush-hush and open up our minds to pubic hygiene for men! He believes that the online sale of these products allows people the privacy of purchasing these products from the comfort of their home at their discretion rather than having to deal with others’ judgement and taboo when purchased from a shop.

With UNDERWORLD’s Downtown series, it is Ratheesh’s intention to transform this sector. He believes that men’s privates are in need of the occasional pampering too with a luxurious wash, deo cream and a toner to seal the freshness in. The effect of the products would be the same as they would for any other part of the body, but they would be of a different chemistry which are compatible with and sensitive to the pH of a man’s intimate areas. They are also in the works of launching an organic range of products, which may be of a more premium range. In the pipeline over the course of 2021, UNDERWORLD intends on introducing an Uptown series dealing with men’s lifestyle products too.

- COLOUR COSMETICS

Women have been using colour cosmetics for a long time now but with more urban men choosing to enhance their appearance, they’re left with no option but to infringe on products made for women’s skin and preferences. Ratheesh plans on creating a colour cosmetics brand catering exclusively to men, suited to their skin and focusing on their needs- a truly revolutionary concept and approach. He speaks of a study conducted in 2015 that postulated that the men’s cosmetics segment in India will boom by over 80% within the following five years. Therefore, he sees an unbridled opportunity in the untapped potential of men’s cosmetics.

Another thing Ratheesh highlights is how most of these niche products in the Indian market today emerge from North Indian states.“If others can do it, why not us? We have the best people in the industry. We need a cosmetic product of high standards that we can say is from Kerala.”

All the products launched by MASCARA India are crafted by expert-led teams, tested and granted licences from the Government to assure users of the quality and safety.

Challenges and Achievements

Over the past two years since MASCARA’s inception, one challenge that Ratheesh seems to often face is related to the offline distribution channels in South India. There is a myth regarding offline marketing- people believe that going to a salon and showcasing your product is all that needs to be done. However, there are so many layers to the interaction which caused him large-scale losses, leaning his interest towards an online distribution model. He intends on saving a lot of money, effort and time by reaching the customer directly with his products. Ratheesh also believes that the salon industry is very impermeable to newcomers and only a truly stand-out product can make a breakthrough.

Speaking of which, a breakthrough and a true achievement for MASCARA has been its widespread use in salons across South India, especially Kerala. He narrates the story of one of Kerala’s top salons ordering a mammothian volume of MASCARA’s shampoos and conditioners to wash their users’ hair. However, his products are refilled into bottles of name brands in the cosmetics industry. This is, in a bittersweet manner, an assurance of the superior quality of his product at an albeit affordable price. He looks at this very positively and this has just strengthened Ratheesh’s resolve to grow the Mascara brand name to that level where it needn’t be refilled into other bottles. This even constitutes his five-year plan. “I will do it one day,” Ratheesh confidently says. Another aspect of his future plan is to establish a distribution channel in the Middle East too, which he recognises as a big market for all the products under the MASCARA India banner.

Ratheesh is very optimistic on how the company will perform in time to come saying, “This is going to be crazy. It’s not a small thing- it’s huge! This is not just a product but it is a concept.”

Advice for Aspiring Women Entrepreneurs

Ratheesh says, “When people think of a business, they think of production or other aspects of it. It’s not necessary to have all that. All you need is an idea- develop this idea and outsource the responsibilities to professionals. Business is a collaboration, it’s teamwork. You just need to coordinate and make sure that everything works together well.”

After the business is set up, the next important thing Ratheesh asks aspiring entrepreneurs to consider how you will sell your products. “If you don’t know how to sell it and don’t have the best team by your side, then even a big concept or idea will not work out.”

If there’s one thing that can be said with certainty, it’s this- Ratheesh Rajan is a man with an idea (or a few of them)- and a plan.

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