With almost 30 years of experience in one of the biggest and most rapidly evolving retail sectors, Piyush Jain, chief executive officer of the beauty incubator Maesa, understands the cosmetics and fragrance industry on a deeper level than most. Here, Jain speaks with Inside Retail about his long-running passion for the beauty industry, the factors that set up a brand for success, and his advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. Inside Retail: You have been in the beauty and fragrance industry for ove
or over 26 years. What initially drew you into this industry and kept you? Piyush Jain: Beauty is one of the most fast-paced and dynamic industries. I have always enjoyed the creativity and consumer-centricity that is so critical for success here. I also value the opportunity for brand and business leaders to have an impact on the lives of consumers, by enabling them to look and feel their most confident selves. As society and norms change, brands must constantly evolve to stay relevant and in tune with current beauty paradigms. I love the challenge that this brings for business leaders. IR: You were with Unilever for almost 24 years of your professional life. What were some of your personal biggest achievements within the company? PJ: I can never say enough good things about Unilever. It is a great company to learn how to be an effective leader, not only in business but in the world at large. Many of my highlights at Unilever are around the people I got a chance to work with – people I learned from across my 20-plus years there and the people I got a chance to mentor and see flourish. At Unilever, I had the opportunity to work on many of the most loved, most iconic consumer brands in the world. Leading Dove Hair globally, building the purpose behind India’s most loved Clinic Plus brand, creating and launching Love Beauty & Planet, and leading the transformation of the hair portfolio in North America for Unilever were certainly some special moments. I also got to live and work across three different continents, learn about multiple cultures, and become a global citizen. IR: Having been with Unilever for several decades, what prompted the switch from Unilever to Maesa? PJ: Maesa is an incredible company, at the forefront of disrupting the beauty industry by creating new and meaningful brands that meet unmet consumer needs. From the outside, I admired the entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and agility of Maesa, and I was humbled by the opportunity to lead this dynamic and forward-thinking organization in its next phase of growth. Maesa’s commitment to innovation in beauty and personal care, coupled with its nimble approach to market trends, resonated with my vision for the future of the industry. As CEO, I am energized to create future plans for Maesa to drive profitable and sustainable growth and make our current and new brands a truly integral part of our consumers’ lives. IR: Since joining Maesa in 2022, can you list some of your key accomplishments? PJ: The last 18 months have been special. We’ve continued Maesa’s journey to delivering high double-digit growth while significantly enhancing our brand portfolio. When I came on board, my first priority was to ensure that in addition to our large and successful core brands such as Kristin Ess Hair and Hairitage by Mindy McKnight, we established a pipeline of new brands that will fuel our future growth. In this time, we’ve launched multiple new and already successful brands. Some of these are Fine’ry – a brand that makes fine fragrances accessible to all, ITK Skincare- a community co-created skincare line with Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight and Being Frenshe – a brand that helps consumers meet their every wellness rituals launched with Ashley Tisdale. I am proud to say that in a competitive beauty industry where less than one out of 10 beauty launches succeed, Maesa’s success rate is better than two out of three. I am very proud of the diverse and dynamic leadership team that I have managed to bring together at Maesa. It is a team with varied backgrounds, deep industry experience and an unwavering passion for success. At this point in Maesa’s journey, it is crucial to blend the entrepreneurial spirit and inherent creativity that marked its inception with the discipline required to deliver the next phase of growth and profitability. I cannot think of a more well-rounded and skilled leadership team to deliver this transformation. We live in a world where consumers and employees choose brands and companies based not only on the products but also the company ethos. Companies that help make the world better are the companies that will succeed and thrive in the future. Maesa has been on a 26-year-long entrepreneurial journey, and Maesa’s purpose now is to pay it forward to future entrepreneurs, particularly to those from underserved communities. One of the highlights of my time here is the launch of the #MaesaMagicIncubator. The aim of the #MaesaMagicIncubator is to create a community of empowered beauty founders. It was born out of the need to bridge the entrepreneurial access gap in the beauty and wellness sectors. By uplifting voices from underserved communities, Maesa is paving the way for a broader spectrum of perspectives, experiences, and ideas that can better cater to the diverse needs of consumers. Simultaneously, the #MaesaMagicIncubator contributes to economic growth and community development while also fulfilling entrepreneurial dreams. IR: What is a piece of advice you would give an aspiring entrepreneur trying to enter this industry? PJ: Always raise your hand for new and different experiences. The more differentiated your experiences are, the better you are set up for success. Seek out mentors and advisors beyond the obvious mentors and advisors who may happen to be your boss in your functional expertise. Diverse advisors and mentors will help to broaden your perspective, providing unique insights and alternative approaches to challenges. They bring a wealth of varied experiences, backgrounds, and expertise, fostering a more well-rounded understanding of different industries, cultures, and disciplines. Incubation is a hard business: be prepared to iterate, modify and move on if your idea is not working. Finally, life is too short. If you find that joy is missing from your work, consider making a change. We do our best when we are having fun at what we are doing. As a CEO, I believe that fostering a work environment where enjoyment is integral not only enhances productivity but also contributes to a more vibrant and successful workplace. Therefore, I encourage individuals to do things that align with their passions, ensuring that their professional journey is both rewarding and meaningful.