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November 29, 1999
Berkeley Grad Provides 'Real Cosmetics' for South Asians
R S Shankar
When Lubna Khalid hears so often from her Indian and Pakistani friends that it is not easy for them to find suitable makeup for their complexion, she isn't surprised.
Khalid, who has modeling for the likes of Calvin Klein for more than eight years, says she too has experienced the problem. Most agencies have white people in mind in creating their fashions -- and makeup products, she feels.
She had also heard similar complaints from her South American and Hispanic friends. So the 25-year-old University of California-Berkeley graduate founded her own cosmetics company about 10 months ago.
"This is a new market," Khalid said in an interview, discussing the birth of Real Cosmetics about 10 months ago. "I saw the need and I saw the void and I had the entrepreneurial energy."
Though the super stores and big names in cosmetics do have products for some minorities, Khalid feels, they are missing the upscale market.
"Not all women of color are in the low-income demographic," she says. "We're targeting a high-end women of the color niche."
Her company charges $ 28 for both liquid foundation and pressed power, while lipstick costs $ 12.
Real Cosmetics's current product line includes lipstick, foundation and powder have been available since July, and will expand to blush and eye shadow next year.
The products are named after such cities as Delhi, depending on which part of south Asia they come from.
Khalid, who grew up in America of Pakistani parents, considers herself Asian American.
The lipsticks are named after herself.
Khalid said: "We are embracing our heritage." She plans to expand the business for African American and Middle-Eastern women. She is targeting San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and Houston, New York and Chicago where women of color are concentrated.
"These are subsegments that the other companies don't even think about," she continued. The big cosmetic firms have not realized the potential of upscale ethnic markets, she adds. She reckons it is a $ 5 million annual market by conservative estimates.
She thought prudent to enroll the services of her fellow schoolmate and friend Anna Hernandez when launching the company. While Hernandez supervises marketing and advertising, Khalid oversees product development.
People used to reading overnight success stories may not be impressed by the fact that she has sold about 500 units of her products.
But she told a Berkeley publication that the numbers are encouraging, given the limited distribution. The products are currently only available through online ordering and at industry conventions.
Khalid says she has got positive response from many young Indian Americans, including 25-year-old Neha Vora who she started purchasing products from Real Cosmetics after seeing a flyer about the company in an Indian store.
"I was really stoked because I can't ever find makeup for myself," says Vora, who works a project manager in the very upscale Sausalito. "I'm lucky that I fell into it. It's really filled a void."
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