LAKME: Making of India’s First Cosmetic Brand (and the Tata Connection)

Vatsal Jain
2 min readJun 3, 2021

Currently owned by Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), LAKME is India’s first indigenous and successful beauty brand. The brand name “LAKME” is derived from the name of Goddess Lakshmi. Since its inception in 1952, Lakme has been a favorite among beauty and grooming enthusiasts in India.

JRD Tata kicked off Lakme as a 100% subsidiary of Tata Oil Mills in 1952. During one of his meetings with the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, the PM urged to develop cosmetics in India.

Indians used to spend a lot of foreign reserves to import cosmetics. An Indian brand will help the policymakers control efflux of foreign reserves out of India.

Simone Tata (Born in Switzerland), 2nd wife of Ratan Tata’s father Naval Tata, was given the charge of making Lakme a big hit. She joined the cosmetic brand in 1961 and became the chairperson in 1982.

When LAKME was launched, make-up was considered taboo in India. Simone Tata battled hard to quash several taboos and make Lakme a top brass. Her charismatic attire and exotic make-up played a huge role during the early days of LAKME.

When overseas brands entered India after economic liberalization in 1991, Lakme faced fierce competition. However, the affordable price tag of Lakme attracted more middle-class Indians.

Lakme has an assortment of over 300 products in a budget price bracket. Today, its products are exported to over 70 countries. In 2014, LAKME secured the 34th position in India’s most trusted brands list.

In 1996, Tata Group sold Lakme Cosmetics to Hindustan Unilever for Rs. 200 crores. In 2017–18, Lakme hit the thousand-crore revenue mark.

Do you or your family and friends use Lakme products?