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The economy of the fairness industry

  • Published at 12:03 am January 26th, 2019
Fairness cream_ Syed Zakir Hossain
According to the Bangladesh Cosmetics and Toiletries Manufacturers Association (BCTMA), in the last 15 years the cosmetic industry market has experienced a compound annual growth rate of 10% in the last 15 years Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

How the fairness industry tapped into Bangladesh's Tk150bn cosmetic industry market

In a country where fairness equates to beauty, the fairness culture is one that drives the cosmetics industry. Fair & Lovely, Tibet Snow and Pond's fairness creams are found everywhere from large malls to small grocery stores in rural areas. Beauty parlours now cater to the fairness trend offering treatments such as “fair polish” and other bleaching techniques that promise brighter, fairer skin. The fairness industry has steadily picked up pace, with multinationals, local companies and even parlours catering to not only women, but also men's fairness needs. 

According to the Bangladesh Cosmetics and Toiletries Manufacturers Association (BCTMA), in the last 15 years the cosmetic industry market has experienced a compound annual growth rate of 10%. Add to that the increasing demands from the burgeoning middle class, and we have a staggering Tk150bn annual turnover, as of 2015.

Consisting of a whole range of cosmetics and toiletries, Bangladesh now has everything from beauty and laundry soaps, shampoo, conditioners, talcum powder, shaving creams, hair oil, sanitary napkins. There are also hair and makeup items, with hair dyes, eyeliners and kohl leading the way. A look into any local corner store and you can both find and buy any number of cosmetics and beauty products. As you walk by a local grocery store, look beyond the large rice sacks and measuring scales, and you can easily find a Parachute coconut hair oil wedged between racks of refined sugar and bottles of rose water. Fair & Lovely fairness cream, Sunsilk conditioner sachets and even locally produced hair dye are all staples at these stores.

In an interview in 2015, BCTMA President Rezaul Karim stated that more than 35m households in the country have made Bangladesh one of the most lucrative consumer markets, with the sector being gifted with around Tk100bn investment in the past two decades alone.

Also Read- The dangers of fairness creams

Interestingly enough, top industry players include both local manufacturers as well as multinational companies, with local companies dominating the market. Around 60%share is held by local companies, in comparison to the only 40%share that was prevalent back in the ‘90s. As far as beauty products are concerned, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, eight major firms dominate the local market: Unilever Bangladesh, Kohinoor, Square, Keya, Kashem Group, Kollol Group, Moushumi Industries and Delta Group hold an accumulated 95% share for local products. Unilever takes the largest slice of the pie at 45%, Kohinoor follows at 20%, while Square and Keya stand at 18% and 13% respectively.

Despite being a lower-middle income country, the rising purchasing power of middle income groups coupled with intense consumerization has allowed this market to foster and grow, with beauty products – namely facial creams and skin lightening products – leading the way into what the market believes to be the way forward to find beautiful“fair” skin. Fair & Lovely's top products include their skin lightening range: the Advanced Multi Vitamin Cream, the Ayurvedic Care cream and the Winter Fairness Cream all priced under Tk100, with some double sachets being sold at as low as Tk24.

According to Euromonitor International, the world’s leading independent provider of strategic market research, Bangladesh's economy is set to grow even further, with growing disposable income and an expanding middle class bolstering sales of non-essential items such as beauty products like fairness creams. Beauty and personal care products, in particular, are also likely to experience positive economic growth, with the market increasing 15% in the years 2009-2013. With the population also set to increase to 170m by 2020 with the average age being 30, it would be folly to make light of the fairness industry.