Ishita Sharma

KALI: Colorism in India

How might we shift and rebrand the beauty landscape in India, one that capitalizes on Colorism? 

In 1975, Hindustan Unilever launched Fair & Lovely, a product that currently holds a 70% share of the skin whitening market in India, a market that is valued at over $200m according to The Drum. My project explores how colorism was historically propagated through colonization, then post-colonial influences such as advertisements and media that promote fair skin as the norm. My thesis introduces an inclusive product and supports a movement to empower brown skin in order to ultimately shift the beauty landscape propagated among Indians.

Challenge

After the initial secondary research, I realized that there were differing viewpoints on colorism depending on the generation. To answer this I conducted two focus groups, one with younger Millennial/Gen Z Indians, and one with older generation Indians. The insights I gained from this helped shape my target market and branding. While all generations faced Colorism, older generations weren't as open to change. I struggled to gather insights into why existing movements that challenged Colorism in India failed to gain momentum.

Outcome

The first wave of Colorism was colonization, proceeded by the post-colonial wave of insecurity from growing equality, traditionalism, misogyny, and propagation through media. Change needs to trickle down from Indians living abroad who are more open to social impact. The three methods I used to approach a solution: Inform, Create, Evoke. Inform through a collaborative social media effort, sharing the work of artists, activists, illustrators, and others who already challenge Colorism in India. Create a product that challenges existing brand efforts to change brown skin, by empowering Indians to embrace their skin. Evoke a powerful response that will instigate acceptance through the social media impact and product solution.

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