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The Secret of K-Beauty: Doyoul Lee, MD, Innisfree India Opens up about Innisfree story of success

South Korean cosmetics have taken the world by storm. It has become everybody’s go-to product. It has opened up a whole new perspective on the skincare regime. Undoubtedly, India is also not untouched by its beauty spell. Innisfree, I would say is skincare poetry. The brand derives its name from Irish poet W.B Yeats’ poem,  ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree‘. But apart from the ingredients the product imbibes, the leadership also plays a crucial role in positioning and popularity of the products in diverse markets such as India. The credit of which goes to Mr Doyoul Lee, Managing Director, Innisfree India & General Manager, Amorepacific India, who has led the strategy and operations for Innisfree India since 2015. Under his supervision, Innisfree India has expanded from one store to twenty today with a vast online retail presence.  Innisfree currently retails in Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, and online channels Nykaa.com, Amazon.com, Myntra.com, Flipkart.com, Purplle.com, Boddess.com etc. Innisfree today is one of the popular K- beauty products in India. Mr Lee has also played a key role in studying the Indian Market, which has helped Innisfree introduce India-specific products, further widening the brand’s offerings for its customer base in the country and creating awareness about K-beauty in the Indian market with his expertise.  Mr Lee interacted with Sociotab for his vision to introduce Innisfree to tier 2 &  tier 3 cities and the future of skincare in India. Excerpts:

How did the brand tweak its products to suit Indian skin, weather conditions, and the market?

Most of our product ranges are suitable for all skin types and can be used universally. However, the brand has introduced country-specific products keeping the Indian skin type in mind. Innisfree has launched foundations lipstick colours to match all skin shades, followed by products made specifically for Indian customers such as hair oil, kohl, and so on. We are still doing a lot of research so that we can add new products to our portfolio.

You have majored in Business Administration and Hindi, was doing business in India always a plan?

 India has extremely high potential, it is one of the world’s largest populations and offers an excellent combination of a thriving domestic market opportunity, highly skilled labour, and an increasingly open regulatory environment. All of this makes India a popular destination for global corporations looking to expand their footprint and achieve long-term business success. Furthermore, Korean brands fit in well because there is a high acceptance level among Indians, particularly Millennials, and people in parts of Mumbai, Delhi, and the North-Eastern cities.

In India, we worked with Bain & Company to conduct research for us in 2010, and we continued to research the Indian market and cater to its needs. Our goal at Innisfree is to provide our customers with the magical powers of Jeju Island and touch the lives of millions of customers. Therefore, we are constantly researching and thinking about new ideas. In 2013, Innisfree opened its doors in New Delhi’s Khan Market, which served as our real-life research store for two years. We wanted to study our customers’ behaviour and find out how they liked our products and what gaps we needed to fill. After two years, we have opened Innisfree stores across the country and collaborated with Lifestyle and Nykaa Luxe to reach Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in India. Innisfree is also available through various e-commerce channels such as Amazon, Nykaa, Flipkart, Myntra, and others.

With some established South Korean brands also competing in the market, what positions Innisfree differently in the market?

There is no doubt that beauty brands face stiff competition in India. Indians are well-travelled and well-versed in Lifestyle and Beauty brands. As a result, it is easier for international brands to carve out a niche for themselves. We distinguish ourselves from other beauty retailers by devoting time and resources to research and development and obtaining the best products for our valued customers in India. Innisfree has also created a few products that have only been released in India, such as Hair Oil, Bold Kohl Kajal, Lipstick shades, and foundation shades. We are constantly introducing new products to our customers and changing our offerings. Innisfree follows trends faster than any other brand, and we have a policy of charging 30 per cent in and out every year to provide our customers with newness. A few of our stores offer a unique Jeju experience through virtual reality technology. Innisfree’s VR project aims to provide a real-life experience of clean and pure energy in Jeju, the source of natural benefit. The programme has a 360-degree viewing angle and 3D technology and a user-interactive system that supports reaction to user sight and action. Under VR, the brand has three series: Jeju Flying Bike, Someday in Jeju (with Lee Minho), and Innisfree Wonderland. The interior of the store includes a vertical garden, which provides customers with a fresh feeling of nature and allows them to experience and breathe clean air, resulting in an eco-friendly atmosphere.

What are the challenges in expanding the business in a diverse market such as India?

There are many challenges in expanding the business because India is a huge country and there are so many languages. Also, I personally feel that there are many procedures and processes which one has to go through.

What are the few strategies you seek to build a relationship with the customers and promote loyalty factor?

We try to maintain a connection with our customers through digital platforms these days under covid times. Due to the pandemic, many customers couldn’t visit our stores and due to that, we started doing masterclasses with our customers and even gave them hampers/ samples to try. Also additionally we keep a lot of engagement with our viewers/ customers through our social media platforms. Now our stores are open, customers have started to visit us.

How do you plan to change the attitude to the importance of skincare rather than the use of make-up?

By showcasing the benefits of using a skincare regime which we do show during our masterclasses and LIVE sessions. Skincare is definitely very important for the person to hydrate, moisturize their skin. Also, many Indians now follow Korean Glass skin, double cleansing, sheet masks, sleeping masks and they have got results for the same. Hence it’s always good to pamper your skin with the best of the products available.

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