April 26, 2021Why Namrata Kamdar’s Plenaire is about so much more than skincare

How can brands tackle harmful beauty narratives? And why is it crucial for leaders to support open conversations around mental health? In our fireside chat with Plenaire founder Namrata Kamdar, part of our International Women’s Day 2021 programming, Kamdar answers these burning questions and more.

Author
Canvas8

With a consumer insights background working on female personal care products for Unilever in India, to baby care and laundry products in Europe, Namrata Kamdar is a pioneering beauty executive and now, founder of Plenaire. From redefining gender binaries in the beauty category to advocating for an outspoken approach to mental health in the workplace, she represents the next generation of beauty brands.

In March, Kamdar spoke with Canvas8’s Head of product Meera Pathak as part of our International Women’s Day 2021 programming. Here are three lessons we learned from the beauty entrepreneur: why nobody needs more beauty products, how mental health challenges can make you a stronger leader, and how brands can challenge damaging beauty narratives.

Namrata Kamdar

#1 Nobody needs more beauty products

Kamdar told us that there isn’t a need for a million new beauty products. An unusual stance for a beauty entrepreneur, right? Think again. She told us that asking things that make you feel uncomfortable is the founding principle for any disruptive brand: “product innovation is about addressing uncomfortability and making something that’s not interchangeable.”

This process starts with behavioral insights. Talking to people about their beauty routine, and figuring out not a copycat or replacement of what people already have, but thinking of disruptive propositions that users cannot live without.

What did she discover? People didn’t want beauty to be about skincare and makeup. They wanted it to be about life. They wanted new sorts of narratives around female personal care.

Kamdar spotted an opportunity to champion a vision where women weren’t told that they were wrong and inherently needed to change. She drew from her experiences as an executive in the traditional FMCG beauty industry when skin-lightening cream was one of the most profitable platforms for companies in India, and new mothers were being sold the ‘no more tears’ myth.

This went on to form her core product proposition – nobody needs more beauty products. 

#2 Challenge damaging female narratives

On becoming a first-time mother, Namrata comments that her eyes were opened to how people brazenly dismiss women in society.

“Motherhood is a time when you face a lot of judgement. When you become a mother you’re given a lot of friendly advice, as opposed to empathy. The existent narrative has been that you’re most likely going to harm your child unless you’re told what to do ( by authority figures),” she shared.

She took her lived insight and funnelled it into her work; supporting other women to trust their gut and harness their maternal intuition. “Your intuition is always going to be right. It’s never going to let you down.”

Redefining the well-known ‘no more tears’ narrative would take some doing; it meant fighting back against decades of assumptions where tears were associated with an existent narrative around lack of competence or experience in new mothers.

Drawing on her previous corporate experience, Kamdar next set out to surface nuanced narratives around the category of adolescent skincare, where messages of self-harm, sexism, and the toxic male gaze were rampant. Stories that would help women, mothers, and even men redefine the narrative – to one that is more contemporary for its time. Crucially, led by women.

#3 Look after your mental health

Having experienced burn-outs, Kamdar became highly attuned to how leaders, businesses and brands must support people to have open conversations about their mental health.

This comes from a deep-seated belief that “learning to advocate for yourself is the greatest skill you can acquire. {...}“Your mind is very strong. You need to sharpen it to be more active and less passive,” she told us. 

Plenaire was created to enact this ethos – making time for yourself is a priority. Self-care isn’t an afterthought or a face-mask, but a lifestyle and a daily practice.

Researching the topic further, Kamdar recognised that beauty, well-being, and mental health were becoming inextricably linked. She saw that every conversation around beauty seemed to lead back to anxiety and mental health. Physical wellbeing and emotional health were the new currency for “a life well lived” with younger customers and their parents. Something needed to give.

Weaving in all the shifts discovered through her research - the consumer journey, the dated competitor landscape, ingredient transparency, and focus on emotional well being - Plenaire’s brand positioning would centre around celebrating differences as the new markers for beauty.

Josie Colter is a marketing consultant and podcast producer. Interested in equal rights, intersectionality, climate, innovation and entrepreneurship – she’s always on the lookout to document informed views and inspiring ideas to drive positive change. She works with brands to concept, produce and market podcasts which add to the cultural conversation, such as Climate Curious for TEDxLondon and Crazy Smart Asia for Tatler Asia.

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