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Launched by JRD Tata on the request of Nehru, Lakmé was India’s first made-in-India makeup brand that found its genesis in aftermath of our Independence from the British Raj.

The year was 1971 and Pakistan had just surrendered the liberation war, giving birth to a new country — Bangladesh. Banking on the patriotic fervour that was all around her, a 19-year-old Meeta Shah from Bhavnagar, Gujarat, made a case to purchase a homegrown make-up item for her own by asking her father to give her Rs 5 (a big amount back in the day).“Papa, I want to purchase a compact made by a swadeshi brand called Lakmé….. Did you know the inspiration behind the brand was Chacha Nehru?” she asked.

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After about a minute of contemplation, her father willingly agreed to her request.

She added it to her piggy bank, the total amount of which had reached Rs 30, just enough to get Meeta the compact. It took her several months, numerous oil messages to her granny (one massage was equal to 25 paise) and an unimaginable dedication just for a cosmetic product.

How do I know the story you ask?

Well, she happens to be my maternal aunt who is now in her 70s. Reminiscing about her first step to buying a make-up item of her own, she tells me that she was one of the few girls in her colony who took a bold step to invest money in make-up — something that was frowned upon in the past.

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At a time when make-up was considered taboo in India, as only women with a ‘tainted character’ had kohl-rimmed eyes and ruby red lips, the burgeoning brand needed a strategy that would help the products make inroads across all types of households.

This is when Simone Naval Tata stepped in. The Swiss-born wife of Naval H. Tata took on the Herculean task of redefining beauty in the 1960s. Her inherent passion for elegant attires and exotic make-up brands did help in scaling the process.

Simone was instrumental in introducing most of the Lakmé products, like mascara, face powder, lipstick, foundation creams, compacts, nail enamel, toners, and more.

Besides being affordable, the company also focussed on creating a brand image via its aggressive marketing strategies.

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In fact, their very first advertisement was an amalgamation of modernity and Indianness. The brand’s first face was supermodel Shyamoli Verma, a heartthrob in the ’80s. The company wanted a familiar face in their educational campaign, which aimed at breaking the social taboo around cosmetics.

Adorned with Lakmé make-up, she played Indian musical instruments like the sitar and flute, and a tagline read — ‘If colour be to beauty what music is to mood, play on’.

After this, they leveraged India’s fandom for Bollywood beauties and roped in actresses like the ever graceful Rekha, and later, the 1994 Miss World, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, to be brand ambassadors. #KhabarLive #hydnews

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