Innovations in the beauty space

The second edition of the Beauty & You awards has thrown up some interesting set of winners with innovative products which should stand out in an already crowded beauty space.

New Update

Winners of the Beauty & You 2023 Awards.

When Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) and Nykaa launched the Beauty & You awards in 2022 with an aim to discover, spotlight, and propel the next generation of Indian-focused beauty founders, innovators, and creatives, the response was quite good. For the second year, the response was even more than they could have imagined. With over 600 entries from 150 cities (compared to last year’s 300 entries from 50 cities), the 2023 application pool included a multitude of beauty brands across categories – skin care, hair care, fragrance, and colour cosmetics. “This year’s winners represent an exciting mix of entrepreneurs, creative visionaries, innovative scientists, and impact-focused founders — a true representation of the larger beauty ecosystem with the qualities required for long-term success,” said Shana Randhava, senior VP, New Incubation Ventures (NIV), The Estée Lauder Companies. “We are excited about the opportunity to mentor and provide support to the winners so they can share their vision with a broader, more global community.”

"This year's winners represent an exciting mix of of entrepreneurs, creative
visionaries, innovative scientists and impact-focused founders," Shana Randhava.

Created by ELC’s New Incubation Ventures (NIV) and launched in partnership with Nykaa, Beauty & You India is an awards program launched in July 2022. Of the 600 entries, 27 finalists presented to a jury of industry experts. Similar to last year, there were four categories under which companies in skin care, make up, hair care, personal fragrance, and home fragrance applied - (1) Imagine – pre-launch beauty concepts, (2) Grow – in-market beauty concepts, (3) Breakthrough - innovation in active ingredients that address key issue areas for the Indian consumer, and (4) Create - the next generation of creative talent (eg., photographers, filmmakers etc.) submitting work around the theme of ‘Experiential Beauty in India.’ In addition, two new jury prizes were awarded to the brand with the most community support, and the brand demonstrating the most innovative Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programming. Winners for the Breakthrough, Create, Grow, Imagine, and Impact categories were independently chosen by our panel of judges through a competitive judging process. Winners for the Community category were determined via an independent voting process on and an analysis of social engagement. 

Biome Laboratories and Keva Fragrances were awarded $50,000 each in the Breakthrough category for innovation in active ingredients that address key areas for the Indian consumer. Beautywise and Havah were awarded $10,000 for the best community engagement and support. Creative director Priya Minhas was awarded $50,000 in the Create category for the next generation of creative talent submitting work around the theme of ‘Experiential Beauty in India.’ Call of the Valley was awarded $150,000 in the Grow category for in-market businesses. Baboski was awarded $75,000 in the Imagine category for pre-launch concepts. Sohrai and C16 Biosciences were awarded $50,000 each in the Impact category for the most innovative corporate social responsibility (CSR) programming. "This year's winners represent the best in innovative, consumer-first thinking that India has to offer, and we are thrilled to support the founders on their journey of building high quality brands for the Indian consumer,” said Anchit Nayar, executive director and CEO, Beauty, Nykaa. The award winners will get financial support, continued mentorship, increased awareness, and distribution support from both ELC and Nykaa.

What is interesting about this set of winners is the amount of innovation they have put into making their products unique in a crowded beauty market. The idea to create probiotics for the face came to Biome Laboratories’ Rhea Goenka while she was doing an internship at Vichy L’Oreal in Paris. Vichy had developed a science called micro-biome science where they use bacteria to create probiotics for the face. As this was something that she had studied and experimented with in high school, she was very excited with the prospect of doing something similar to it. “If you think about our Indian roots, we have a lot of fermentation in India. It comes through a lot of our food, it’s not a new concept to us. When we look at the big global beauty trends and why Korean beauty is doing so well, a lot of their ingredients are actually fermented ingredients which come from their cuisine or otherwise,” says Rhea Goenka, founder Biome Laboratories.

So after moving back to Mumbai in 2023 Goenka decided to do what she always wanted to - build Indian beauty brand that was authentically Indian. Goenka is going about it in two ways, one is with her ingredients. “I am working to develop fermented ingredients and testing them on Indian skin. If you have heard of the gut micro biome or the probiotics of the gut you have something very similar to that with your face. This is a very evolving and new tech field. So our research in terms of ingredients is primarily fermenting Indian ingredients and using Indian micro-organisms that might be native to India,” she says. “So if you look at any of the Lactobacillus strains that are used to ferment dahi, or some yeast that is used to ferment idli, we are using these strains specifically and fermenting Indian super foods to develop ingredients that are good for the Indian skin micro-biome so they help us rebalance our bacteria and target specific Indian skin concerns,” she adds. This is one part of the process for which Goenka won the award for the research she and her company have conducted so far and how they intend to bring it to life. According to Goenka, her primary consumer target is people with sensitive skin.

And the second part of her Indian beauty brand plan is using the D2C platform. She is launching a brand called Poshan (the trademark is still underway for the brand name), which essentially means nutrition in Hindi. The idea is that nutrition for your skin is also derived from nutritious foods that are traditionally thought as nutrition for your body. “The idea is to bring to a global stage what Indian beauty means. It’s not just the old natural way, but it may be very effective and very new age and still very Indian,” says Rhea Goenka.

Hetali Kamdar’s Baboski’s new product idea is a bathe-on sunscreen - a sunscreen which is used similar to how you would use a shower gel. “As you use it, it cleanses your body and builds an invisible layer of sun filter which sticks onto your body,” says Hetali Kamdar, founder, Baboski. With the sunscreen sector quite saturated, Kamdar thought about creating a new category with a bathe-on sunscreen with the safest sun filters in the market. Through her research, Kamdar found that though people know the importance of sun filters and sunscreens, they don’t want to apply them because of the inconvenience of the texture. “I thought let’s come up with a product which has the safest sun filters and people can incorporate daily into their lives,” she says.

Rupesh Pawar is from the Nanded district in Maharashtra. When he returned to his village during the covid pandemic, he realized that there are a lot of uses for the mohua tree seeds and flowers which grew abundantly in his village. However, due to restrictions on its use during the British Raj, which were still implemented till date, the flowers of this plant were under-utilised. Yet, he went on to make ethanol from the flowers during the pandemic. While working on this, Rupesh found that the oil from the mohua seed has great moisturising properties for the skin (Rupesh is a BIRAC scholar and researcher. He has specialised in oils and cosmetics studies). So he thought why not make an Indian alternative to shea butter or palm oil, the basis for any cosmetics. While there are many products that can be made from the mohua seeds in the alcohol sector, it is not a common raw material for the beauty industry. “We are trying to create that base through an Indian alternative by creating a belt of supply chain,” says Khanak Gupta, co-founder of Sohrai. Sohrai’s product line will include serums and moisturisers.

According to Sohrai’s Gupta, the $50,000 that has been awarded to the company will initially be used towards marketing and branding. Kamdar plans to use the $ 75,000 from Beauty & You for Baboski’s initial launch. As there is no market as such for a bathe-on sunscreen, it will take some time to see how the consumer responds to it. Hence, “we are planning to launch initially online from our website and other online marketplaces,” she adds.

Biome’s Goenka plans to use the $ 50,000 towards setting up a laboratory for research and procuring certain lab equipment. “When you are starting something all funds are necessary then this investment would be a huge push,” says Goenka. With such innovative products coming to the Indian beauty space, the competition is only getting tougher.