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Hina Nagarajan

Country Manager | 14 Jul 2010

Our marketing strategy is all about understanding Indian consumer needs and offering them the best value for their money. We will expand our product lines based on this in the future. We also periodically launch exciting campaigns to connect with our consumers… The consumers also interact with our brand through some innovative and exciting tools like the Mary Kay Kissologist and the Mary Kay Virtual Makeover on our website… So, a good mix of below the line initiatives and word of mouth is what we focus on. This is further enhanced with some advertising and PR.

Hina Nagarajan has over two decades of experience in marketing, brand management and business strategy. Previously, she has worked with ICI Paints and Nestlé India Ltd. She had played a key role in crafting growth strategies as well as creating long term sustainability and positioning of the major brands of both the companies. Nagarajan exemplifies the Mary Kay corporate philosophy of ‘God first, family second and career third’ and she strongly believes that maintaining this balance of priorities has been critical to her professional success.

Mary Kay Inc is one of the largest direct sellers of skincare and colour cosmetics in the world with $2.4 billion in wholesale sales. Worldwide, more than 2 million independent beauty consultants currently own their own Mary Kay businesses in more than 35 global markets spread across five continents. Mary Kay develops, tests, manufactures and packages the majority of its own products at its state-of-the-art plants in Dallas and China. During a typical year, Mary Kay performs more than 300,000 tests to ensure the safety and efficacy of its products.

The cosmetic giant has forayed into Indian cosmetic industry and anticipates investing approximately $20 million in India over the next five years.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Ashish Pratap Singh, Nagarajan speaks about Mary Kay’s corporate philosophy, the various brands under its umbrella, and the direct selling proposition.

Q. Please tell us about the various cosmetic ranges that Mary Kay is known for and has brought to India.

We have launched some of our key global flagship brands in India for our consumers. Mary Kay is one of the largest direct sellers of skincare and colour cosmetics. In 2009, Mary Kay achieved $2.5 billion in wholesale sales worldwide. Mary Kay products are sold in more than 35 markets around the world, and the global Mary Kay independent sales force exceeds 2 million.

Skincare is at the heart of Mary Kay, and the collection includes benefit-driven, customised formulae for women of all ages and skin types like the Customised Botanical Skincare. The skincare portfolio lines include the TimeWise collection of age-fighting products, featuring the Miracle Set, a powerhouse regimen that delivers proven results. We have also launched the MelaCEP Whitening Regime that has the power of nature that targets the multiple reasons for uneven skin tone and the Acne regime that has powerful claims.

Mary Kay’s Color Collection is always up to date on trends and packed with benefits, with shades that capture the beauty of women worldwide. From mineral-based formulas to fabulous foundations, lipsticks that captivate, there is no end to the ways a woman can make the most of her individual style. And no matter what each day brings, our customisable, eco-chic refillable compacts make it easy to be beautiful on the go.

Whether the feeling is exuberant or relaxed, there’s a Mary Kay fragrance to fit a woman’s many moods. And for men, Mary Kay has distinctive scents that are perfect for him and popular with her.

TimeWise Body products deliver age-fighting benefits to every inch of you, while the Satin Hands Collection pampers and soothes.

Too much sun can cause premature aging and skin cancer, which is why Mary Kay believes that sunscreen products should be an essential part of a daily routine. From TimeWise to MKMen to the Mary Kay Sun Care Collection, there’s a wide range of products and formulae that will give your skin the UV protection it needs.

Q. Since Mary Kay is only into direct selling, how does it plan to enrol direct sellers? What will its USP be to differentiate it from its competition? Who are the direct competitors?

Being a direct selling brand, we grow through the efforts of our sales force. Mary Kay independent sales force members give one-on-one consultancy to their customers, and while doing so they also present the Mary Kay opportunity to them. If the customer likes the opportunity, they join. As a company, Mary Kay has a very unique culture – perhaps one that will never be duplicated. Founder Mary Kay Ash set the tone for the company’s culture – and it is as strong today as it was when she was at the helm. Mary Kay actively encouraged her corporate employees and independent sales force to live by the golden rule: “Do unto others that you would have them do unto you”, and to keep their priorities in order, which she believed to be: “God first, family second and career third.” She often said, “When you live by the Golden Rule and keep life’s priorities in their proper order, everything else seems to fall into place.” Mary Kay also nurtured what she referred to as the ‘Go-Give Spirit’, encouraging both corporate employees and independent sales force members to actively look for ways to offer support, encouragement and education to others. She believed that when we focus on helping others, we actually end up strengthening ourselves in the process. These are just some of the qualities that make the Mary Kay culture so unique – and so relevant – in today’s business world. This also helps us tremendously in expanding our sales force.

Q. How are your products positioned compared to the competition?

The Mary Kay brand stands for high-quality and customised products, combined with a knowledgeable, Golden Rule Service-oriented independent sales force to deliver simplified, personalised beauty.

Our USP is also our product quality. In a typical year, Mary Kay spends millions of dollars and conducts more than 300,000 tests to ensure that Mary Kay products meet the highest standards of quality, safety and performance. Mary Kay Inc does not conduct animal testing of its products.

The great quality products are also combined with personalised one-on-one consultation by Mary Kay Consultants to their customers at the convenience of their home. The consultant will help the customer understand their personal skincare and beauty needs and also offer the customer the opportunity to actually try the product before she makes her decision to purchase the product. The company is so confident of our products that they are backed by a 100 per cent money back satisfaction guarantee. The personalised ‘customised to me’ service makes shopping easy and fun with a Mary Kay beauty consultant.

Q. How has the journey been so far?

We are very pleased with the great response that we’ve had so far. Unlike other cosmetics brands, which are present in the retail stores, we only sell directly through our independent beauty consultants. And this offers us a chance to connect with our customers directly. Mary Kay’s corporate objective is not only to create a market selling cosmetics, it is all about enriching women’s lives by helping women reach their full potential, find their inner beauty, and discover how truly great they are. We anticipate generating the same success in India that we are experiencing in other Asia-Pacific markets and around the world in meeting this objective.

Few years from now, I hope to see Mary Kay enriching the lives of millions of Indian women. As our founder Mary Kay Ash often said, “Of course, I’m concerned about profits and losses. I just don’t give them top priority. That’s why I say, P&L means people and love.” Our measure of success will be the number of lives we have touched and enriched.

Q. What is your advertising budget and plans for India?

Being a direct selling organisation with a mission to ‘enrich women’s lives’, our entire focus is on empowering women to reach their potential. We do this by offering them a lifetime career opportunity and providing them education and training so that they can bloom into professional businesswomen as well as become Mary Kay brand ambassadors. In this scenario, advertising has a limited role to play. Even so, we will be investing $20 million in the next five years on brand building , infrastructure/ supply chain, sales force training and to support our independent beauty consultants and customers.

Q. What new products are on the anvil?

We plan to add many more innovative powerhouse skincare products as well as captivating on-trend colours in 2011 for our consumers. We will continue to offer periodic limited edition products in the Body Care and Fragrance categories that make great gifts during festive seasons.

Q. Please tell us more about your marketing initiatives. What do you use more – mass media, below the line or word of mouth?

Our marketing strategy is all about understanding Indian consumer needs and offering them the best value for their money. We will expand our product lines based on this in the future. We also periodically launch exciting campaigns to connect with our consumers. For example, in 2008, we conducted the Model of Beauty search, where we recognised and celebrated the extraordinary inner beauty of ordinary women. We were very excited with the entries received through this campaign. This below the line activity created a lot of excitement amongst our independent sales force members as well as our customers.

The consumers also interact with our brand through some innovative and exciting tools like the Mary Kay Kissologist and the Mary Kay Virtual Makeover on our website (www.marykay.co.in). Tools like the Kissologist and Virtual Makeover are fun and exciting just like our brand and the personalised service offered by our beauty consultants. We will continue to offer such exciting tools and programmes to keep our consumer connected to our brand.

So, a good mix of below the line initiatives and word of mouth is what we focus on. This is further enhanced with some advertising and PR.

Q. Are there any individual brands under the Mary Kay umbrella?

Mary Kay is our mother brand. It stands for high-quality, customised products, combined with a knowledgeable, Golden Rule Service-oriented independent sales force to deliver simplified, personalised beauty. Under the umbrella brand of Mary Kay, we also have strong global skincare brands like the TimeWise Miracle Set, our powerful anti-ageing regime; MelaCEP Whitening Regime; and Satin Hands, to name a few.

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