Trying to break the myth that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks: Lara Dutta

As Arias expands to launch a sustainable collection for children, Campaign India catches up with the actor, producer and entrepreneur to learn more...

Oct 06, 2022 09:35:00 AM | Article | Raahil Chopra

Earlier this year, in a conversation with Campaign India, actor, producer and entrepreneur, Lara Dutta, announced that her brand Arias was entering the furniture space through a partnership with Nilkamal
 
Now, she's entered the kids fashion space by partnering with the e-commerce platform Firstcry.
 
Dutta chats with Campaign India about this tie-up in the sustainable space, the one OTT platform she's not present on, and more...
 
Edited excerpts:
 
In our last interview you mentioned you were cautiously building brand Arias with tie-ups like Nilkamal. How has the brand grown since then? 
 
Arias was launched as a skin and fragrance brand. We’ve had that brand out for the last three-four years and it has done well for us, especially in the two years of the pandemic. 
 
Since factories had to shut down except for the ones that were manufacturing essentials, we were able to quickly turn our focus to sanitisers. With this brand shift, we almost got into every household and were able to make Arias synonymous across them.
 
In January this year, we launched the furniture range with Nilkamal.
 
Now, we have expanded to launch Arias Kids through a partnership with Firstcry. It’s a sustainable fashion brand for children. For me, considering Arias is the name of my daughter Saira spelt backwards, it’s a natural transition to think of a clothing brand for children. The collaboration with Firstcry made sense, because they’re a great team to work with and match the vision of the brand.
 
How is Arias looking to work outside the range of clothing, with sustainability on the rise? Do we see sustainable packaging for the beauty and furniture range too?
 
We are pushing for sustainability across the range. We are working consciously for the same, especially around the skincare range. When it comes to the skincare category, it’s invariably single-use tubes. We are working to make sure those containers are made out of recycled materials.
 
For the clothing range too, all the plastic we use on the packaging is biodegradable. Even our tags are made of recycled seed paper, buttons from coconut shells, and fabrics are natural too. We are an eco-sustainable brand that’s not just eco-conscious, but sustainable in the long run. The customers are buying something that will last longer.
 
Does the packaging look to educate the children too about sustainability?
 
That’s the entire premise of the Arias Kids. From the conception, to the advertising campaign, it’s all been driven by children. We want to get children involved in the fashion choices they make, very early on in life. Since the tags are made of tulsi seed paper, when kids bring a piece of Arias' clothing home, they have an activity to do at home as well.
 
Today, children want to know and ask questions about products being environmentally-friendly too. The idea with this brand is to give children an opportunity to feel what their style statement is, and also ensure that they understand from a very young age that the choice they make helps reduce the impact on the environment.
 
Some of your products have your image on the packaging and some don't. What's the thought behind this?
 
The positioning for myself across the different brand verticals is slightly different and will evolve.
 
We launched skincare, because I’ve been in the glamour industry for more than 20 years. Since I’m a walking-talking advertisement, it made sense to add my face to the packaging. I’m in my 40s, and touchwood, I’ve got great skin because of the way I’ve taken care of it.
 
Because Nilkamal is a celebrity-driven brand, which is aspirational and affordable, we have the celebrity element that comes onto it.
 
How are you promoting this new range for children?
 
At the moment, we are looking at digital. This is also because Firstcry is an e-commerce site and most of its advertising is on the digital medium. We have a wonderful campaign going on which is about planting a tree. 
 
We are seeing more and more celebrities enter the brand space, with more than one celebrity promoting the same category. Do you think consumers pick these products based on the quality of the product, or is it about the connect they see with the celebrity?
 
The large and big difference lies in the back-end team in the collaborations that are made. For me, I ventured into the kids' care range with a partner that is the largest e-commerce site in India.
 
I’m not looking to build a boutique brand which is for the elite. I want to be in every household over the next 5-10 years. I want the brand to be worth at least INR 50 crore in the next five years.
 
I’m fortunate that Mahesh (Mahesh Bhupati, her husband) also has an incredible business mind. He’s gone on himself to build companies that are leaders in their space and he’s backing me up. This makes a huge difference for the brand. It’s not run by an agent or outsiders, we’re completely hands-on and there’s a 100% investment in it across all funds.
 
What else are you doing outside of the brand space that’s keeping you busy?
 
I’m always doing something or the other. Exploring different facets of what I do keeps me excited. I love that I am part of the entertainment space and love the fact that I’m an actor and a producer. My production house has been shooting ads. I've been shooting OTT projects for Voot and Lionsgate Play.
 
Over the next year, I will be entering new projects too.
 
You mentioned that you’re working with a couple of different OTTs. When you sign these deals, does the OTT platform you’re streaming on hold importance too?
 
Not at all. In the last two years, I’ve been fortunate to have a show on Disney+ Hotstar, a movie release on Amazon’s Prime Video, and a show on the likes of Netflix, Voot, Lionsgate and Zee5. I’ve shot with all of them. I’m not biased towards any OTT platform in particular. What’s important is the content that they’re creating.
 
However, I’m waiting for SonyLiv to call me. They’re the only OTT platform that I’ve not been associated with!
 
Entrepreneur or actor - the more difficult role for you now?
 
I’ve been an actor for far longer than my entrepreneurial journey. I’ve had to learn this from the ground up and it’s been challenging. It’s said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I’m hoping to break that myth.