South Korean brands like Samsung, Hyundai and LG are already household names in India, but cars and electronics are not all that the technologically advanced economy is about. Over the past few years, Korean pop stars and films have taken the world by a storm, and the latest addition to the globally trending K-Pop and K-Drama is K-Beauty.
The popularity of K-Beauty is a reflection of the effectiveness of Korean skin care products, or "functional" cosmetics, used to keep the skin healthy and beautiful. From hydrating snail slime face masks to anti-ageing green tea serums -- the range of products is immense.
The industry grew largely due to the demand of the local market. Korean women and men are said to take their skincare very seriously and that involves spending time, energy and money on various treatments and products.
According to hospitality sector employee Soi-Le, her makeup routine is more than just that. It is a lifestyle.
"I spend at least an hour every day on my make-up. It is a skincare regime that many of us follow in Korea, some more than others. There is a pressure to look good but; we don't just go for celebrity endorsed cosmetics. We choose what is good for us," said the 27-year-old.
The growing demand came with a rise in demand for not just variety, but also quality and functionality, pushing Korean companies like Beauty Cosmetic Co to focus on research and development for new and innovative products and treatments.
According to Beauty Cosmetic Co-President Oh Han Sun, "Customers don't want cosmetics just to look good temporarily. They want to have healthy, beautiful skin and they want it to be natural as well. So we are focusing more on organic and natural products to meet the increasing demand."
The success of the "functional" cosmetics sector has widely spread from Korea to the other countries like China and Thailand and then on to Western shores, reaching all the way to Europe and North America and competing with traditional leaders in the cosmetics industry like France and the US.
Korean companies are also eyeing the Indian market, but their entry has, as of now, been a bit limited.
"We have several products in place ready for the Indian market, but the problem is extensive paperwork and finding the right distributors. But we see our products doing very well in India in the future," Oh said.
The situation is slated to change as Indian organisations and individuals take note of this growth opportunity.
Member of Parliament Udit Raj just last year was given the honorary title of Ambassador for Health and Cosmetics by the governor of South Korea's Chungbuk province, a region known for its cosmetics industry. Raj is aiming to make things easier for Korean companies which want to come to India, through his newly-founded trade promotion organisation CPTI.
"India has vast scope for a trading and joint ventures in this sector. I want to encourage it. But the main problem of high pricing of the products and red-tapism need to be addressed. I believe that the South Koreans are one of the best in this sector. Towards this end, I have helped set up a platform to help companies to gain entry into the Indian market," Raj said.
You can already see that 'K-Beauty', with the "Ten-step Korean skincare routine", is beginning to trend online and offline. With new avenues opening up for Korean companies, Indian customers might just have a lot coming at them and it will not be at snail's pace.
(With inputs from agencies.)