Simone Naval Tata is a Swiss-born Indian Business woman belonging to the Tata family. Simone Tata was born and brought up in Geneva, Switzerland and graduated from Geneva University. Who thought that a normal living girl could make such a difference? In 1953 she visited India as a tourist never knowing that she’ll find her mate on a trip. Simone and Naval Tata got married in 1955 and she permanently shifted to India.
Simone joining the Lakme board was not planned but could be explained as a sudden decision. The story goes back to Geneva where she used to live with her mother, sisters and aunt’s- all the ladies were keen of looking perfect all the time. Her mother was her idol and as she recalls, Simone was first introduced to makeup when she was in school and had a piano competition.
“My mother dressed me up like a doll and I applied make up for the first time in my life.” She said.
But when she was married in India, she was shocked to see the beauty scenario of the country. The only makeup available at that time was talcum powder and cream. The crazier was the fact that, girls who wore makeup at that time was considered as “bad girls” only seeking men’s attention. From kohl-rimmed eyes to glossy red mouths, everything we take for granted today in our kits and on our faces came into existence thanks to Simone Tata. She was the first women to introduce makeup in the Indian markets. Though her entire journey wasn’t as smooth as it seems to be. In a country full of makeup stereotypes it was extremely tough to establish the cosmetic market and the more worst was to find the customers for the same.
In a Vogue post, Simone states that- “Back in the ’60s, beauty in the country certainly didn’t mean any cosmetics. It was old-school—there were natural, herbal products on one side and talcum powder on the other. That was all. Makeup was an absolute taboo. You couldn’t appear in public wearing the tiniest amount of makeup, not even a touch of lipstick. Not unless you wanted to be framed as a bad girl.”
In 1962, when Simone joined the board of Lakmé she was determine to change this stereotype and build an empire above all odds. Her first few years was a rough path and she was often told to drop the idea. In the 80’s, the Indian government declared cosmetics as undesirable commodities and levied 100 per cent excise duty even on products that were made in the country and every year this duty would double. At this rate managing keeping customers was nothing less than impossible and she was faced with a big loss. She was fed up and finally decided to meet the then finance minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh– who told her to bring as many women supporters as she could and when she succeeded bringing so many signatures, much to her surprise the next budget came down. Since then, Simone never stopped. She kept on introducing new and better products one by one. She first started with nail enamels then lipstick to face powders to mascara’s and what not? The first model for Lakme advertisement was Shyamoli Verma where she was made to play Indian musical instruments, like the sitar and flute, wearing elegant makeup, with a catchy tagline- ‘If colour be to beauty what music is to mood, play on.’ Later celebrities like Rekha and Aishwarya Rai also helped her spreading the word. And till today, we have seen numerous big personalities promoting Lakme and its products.
Today Lakme isn’t a brand anymore- it is a synonym for make-up. But achieving all this fame was even tougher task, as Simone introduced makeup for the first time in the market, Indian women didn’t knew how to use it. They would go out putting lots of powder and pink shade on their cheeks, sadly for them fairer was considered as beautiful. That needs to be changes. Simone then introduced various manuals and taught ladies choosing right skin tone products through the commercials.
“My job was not only to handhold them and steer them towards the right products but also to give them the right colours, the ones meant for them.” Said Simone.
Today Simone’s effort of making every Indian women feel beautiful and most importantly feel right being beautiful, has paid off. Today, makeup isn’t a stereotype any more it’s a right of every women.