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In a first of its kind deal, a multinational cosmetic group has acquired a minority stake in a boutique, luxury personal care maker Forest Essentials. The financial details of the deal are not known. A report says that the $7.6-billion Estee Lauder Group has acquired 10 to 15 per cent stake in the Delhi-based cosmetics company which has a range of ayurvedic skin, body and haircare products.

This is the first such deal by an international cosmetics maker in Indian market. Forest Essentials is not a mass brand, but retails through outlets in upscale places like Delhi’s Khan Market, besides supplying spa items to five star hotels like Taj, Grand Intercontinental, The Hyatt Regency, Radisson and ITC hotels.

Forest Essentials has seven stores in India, which it plans to take to 35-40 more by 2010. The company has a production unit in Haridwar, Uttaranchal, and is planning another manufacturing set up there. It plans to invest about Rs 15-20 crore in the business. Forest Essentials was founded in 2000 by Mira Kulkarni.

Another interesting company in this space is Lotus Herbals, which has captured shelf space in major drug and retail stores in the metros. Lotus has attracted acquisition interest from larger companies like Dabur. Biotique is another large player in this segment.

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