From selling sindoor to a cosmetic brand for the masses, Insight Cosmetics now clocks Rs 73 Cr in annual turnover
Dinesh Jain was just a child when his father Bastimal Jain started a small cosmetic manufacturing unit making products like sindoor, nail polish, talcum powder, etc. in the late 1970s. Bastimal, an MBBS doctor, set up the business in Borivali, Mumbai, in partnership with a chemist friend, to try his luck in entrepreneurship.
Dinesh often visited the unit after school, keenly observing the daily operations. And many years later, in the late 80s, while still in college, he got involved in the business full time.
Now, over thirty-five years later, the small manufacturing unit has scaled up to become Insight Cosmetics, a makeup brand for the masses with more than 350 stock keeping units (SKUs) and a presence in over 7,500 stores pan India.
In an interaction with SMBStory, Dinesh talks about how he took the reins of the business to help it thrive in a cosmetic industry that’s valued at over $20 billion, competing with the likes of Blue Heaven, Elle 18, Coloressence, Lotus Herbals, and more.
“Being brought up in an environment where my father was a doctor and ran a part-time cosmetics business, it didn’t take long for me to get a knack for running the business and understanding the cosmetics industry. For my part, I tried to bring some structure into the way the business was being run,” he says.
Today, Insight Cosmetics is present in more than 20 states in the country, and clocked Rs 73 crore turnover in FY 2019-20, Dinesh claims.
Range of colour cosmetics
In 1994, Dinesh launched Insight Cosmetics with just one product — the sindoor. The product was sold under the brand name Mayuri Kumkum. At that time sindoor (or kumkum) was widely in demand, says the entrepreneur and the trend of using it in different shades was picking up.
Sensing the demand, Dinesh put in all his efforts into manufacturing kumkum in 11 shades, from his small factory setup.
“The product became an instant hit, and the demand grew so much in Mumbai and the surrounding areas that we used to develop 10,000 pieces per day. This obviously helped financially, and ignited the confidence in me to expand the business,” Dinesh says.
The company soon started manufacturing nail polishes and launched them in the late 90s. According to him, all colour cosmetics under the brand’s kitty are FDA approved.
Dinesh labelled his products under VOV International first, and in 2012, launched Insight Cosmetics as a separate brand; VOV International discontinued operations in April 2021.
Today, Insight Cosmetics has around 350 SKUs of colour cosmetics — nail polish, lipstick, mascara, eyeliners, eyeshadows, foundations, concealers, lip gloss, highlighter, and more.
After gaining customer traction in Mumbai and its surrounding areas for a decade through offline channels, the company also launched in Gujrat, Rajasthan, and Delhi.
“We also started exports in 2000, but at that time China was disrupting the market, and we could not think of competing, so we backed out,” says Dinesh.
Like many small and medium businesses that went digital during the pandemic, Insight Cosmetics also took the direct-to-consumer (D2C) route during the pandemic, and is now available on ecommerce platforms Flipkart, Amazon, Nykaa, Purplle, and others. The company also launched its own website in 2019.
Insight Cosmetics products are now manufactured in three units located in Boisar, Waliv, and Vasai in Maharashtra, and employs more than 400 people in total.
The cosmetic industry in India is one of the fastest-growing, dominated mainly by big players like Hindustan Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive India, and L'Oréal India. Brands like Revlon, Maybelline, Faces, and Avon have existed in the market for decades, and have a loyal customer base. However, their price points are not embraced by the masses.
According to Dinesh, for a product to be pocket-friendly, its sources need to be local.
“To reduce costs, we did backward integration and set up an in-house packaging unit. Usually, brands outsource packaging locally or import packaging that adds up to the cost of the final product. We reversed this, and so our price remains competitive always. We have very limited products that go beyond Rs 295 without compromising on quality,” he adds.
Dinesh also believes that while getting into large format stores lends to scale, it also piles up costs.
He says he has never visualised Insight Cosmetics owning standalone big stores, and would rather work in a multi-brand outlet format that is also accessible to the masses.
Challenges and competition
One of the major challenges Dinesh mentions is competition from China, considering their sheer ability to produce and compete in the global markets. “While market leaders survive and dominate the industry, brands who cater to the masses fall vulnerable to price fluctuations and demands,” says Dinesh.
Citing other sources of competition, he takes the example of many brands in the market that are not manufacturing, but sourcing products from other countries, and re-selling them under their label.
Insight Cosmetics’ growth strategy is based on multiple pillars, with the production of diverse makeup range being at the forefront. Dinesh says he will strengthen the brand’s lip care category by launching a non-transferable lipstick range soon.
He also plans to add more shades in the eye shadow range, and launch new shades in highlighters.
“We are expanding our product portfolio distribution and are exploring new age channels of sales that are digital and ecommerce. We are also looking at leveraging the D2C business model fully,” Dinesh adds.
The brand also aims to expand its production capacity by 40 percent in the coming year.