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These women entrepreneurs in the Indian beauty & skincare industry entered a crowded field – but made it all their own. Let’s see how they did it!
I never dreamed about success. I worked for it – Estée Lauder.
The Indian cosmetics industry is estimated to be worth $13 Billion with a strong growth potential driven by the emergence of online retail and exposure to a wide variety of products. Indian companies have catered to the growing demand and evolved with the consumer over time.
Meanwhile, several global brands have been eyeing the huge opportunity, building and investing in product ranges suited for the Indian consumer. Despite the daunting competition in the space, a few Indian women stepped in boldly and redefined the norms of the market. Their businesses have stemmed from identifying consumer needs for superior products with natural/organic ingredients, a good purchase experience, and a trendy range. Let’s take a look at their success stories!
With the advent of the digital revolution, life changed at an unimaginable pace and consumers went from being skeptical first buyers to seeking retail therapy avidly, within a short time span. Combining this insight with the burgeoning demand for beauty products, some entrepreneurs entered the digital market at the right time.
Falguni Nayar quit her investment banking job at 49 to start an online cosmetics portal with a $2Million seed capital from family savings. Nykaa was born in 2012 and less than a decade later, is getting ready for an IPO which is expected to value it at around $3 Billion.
Nayar’s vision for Nykaa was building an Indian version of Sephora, the international cosmetics chain. Hence, she focused on bringing luxury brands like Clinique and Bobbi Brown to the Indian consumer through authorized channels, providing a wide range of authentic products in a market full of spurious ones. In 2015, Nykaa went a step ahead and launched its vegan and cruelty-free in-house beauty collection.
Nykaa has expanded into multiple ecommerce platforms, 76 offline stores, a host of in-house brands, fashion segments, celebrity partnerships and has been recognised as a unicorn startup in 2020 with a $1.2 B valuation.
Gaining customers, despite competition from big retailers like Shopper’s Stop and Lifestyle as well as e-commerce giants like Amazon also investing heavily, was a challenging task. But Nayar has managed to win consumers’ hearts consistently which has led to Nykaa enjoying strong brand recognition and loyalty.
Beauty is for everyone, but not everyone has the eye to see what exactly the millennials need today – and that is not seeing make-up as just a commodity.
Vineetha Singh co-founded SUGAR Cosmetics in 2015, targeting the new-age millennial woman for whom makeup was part of a regular routine and not just for special occasions. The entire range of products was developed keeping the Indian consumer in mind – to last longer, be weather-proof, and suitable for the tropical climate.
Understanding the consumer, Singh launched SUGAR as a Digital-first brand, and over the years built strong connections using engaging content. Despite the heavy competition from established brands, SUGAR has found its footing in the beauty industry within a span of six years and successfully crossed the Rs.100Cr sales mark in 2020.
The pandemic was a tough phase for SUGAR as sales plummeted during the lockdown period. When the world came to a shocking standstill, continuing the same promotional strategy was not an option. Instead, they focussed on preparing to hit the ground running once the lockdown was lifted. While retailers were curtailing their footprint, SUGAR went with a different approach, increasing their retail presence from being sold at 1000 stores in 2019 to 2500, anticipating the seasonal traffic once lockdowns lifted.
Their bold bet on expanding retail footprint, consistent focus on social media and readiness for the festive season have helped put them back on track. Overcoming the hurdles, they have raised $2 Million debt funding from Stride Ventures in early 2021.
Now there is nothing that can stop this brand, as they continue to take on challenges and turn them into stepping stones!
Increasing awareness of ingredients used in products has resulted in numerous players offering 100% natural, organic and cruelty-free products. A few women entrepreneurs have entered this domain and managed to carve a niche for themselves.
Megha Ashar co-founded Juicy Chemistry in 2014 – a range of certified organic and vegan products for the face, body and hair. The journey began when she realized that most natural and organic brands were full of preservatives, parabens, synthetic colors etc. Hence, the team set out to provide effective skincare with pure and nutrient-rich ingredients from nature. It was a tall order, but they managed to deliver by using organic, certified oils, colors, natural clays, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Though they were bootstrapped till 2019 after which they received angel funding, they expected to touch Rs.25 crores revenue by 2020. In early 2021, Juicy Chemistry has raised $6.3M in a Series A funding round led by Belgium- based investment firm Verlinvest.
Kruthika Kumaran, founder of Vilvah was unhappy to see the products in the market with chemicals and decided to launch a range of sustainable products with full-ingredient disclosure. Kruthika experimented with goat milk to develop a skin-care range which was originally used in a family recipe.
With an initial investment of Rs. 10,000 in 2017, Vilvah reached a turnover of Rs. 15cr. in just two years and is now exporting to more than 20 countries. The brand says that they work with small scale and marginal farmers who follow organic and sustainable practices to source specialised ingredients from their own farm.
Though they continue to be a bootstrapped business, Vilvah’s success story is promising as the brand focuses on bringing sustainable beauty products to consumers.
Upma Kapoor founded Teal & Terra in 2017 with the intent of providing beauty products with only natural ingredients while also maintaining high quality; she felt that Indians products were no match for the ones available abroad. She set up an all-women team of 20 and built the business from an 8 lakh investment to Rs.2 cr. turnover by the third year. Upma has seen her fair share of challenges in life including the loss of loved ones, and has risen to build a business from scratch.
All these entrepreneurs in the beauty segment are fantastic examples for the many more women dreaming of success despite challenges. In a crowded market, they proved their mettle and inspire us that the road ahead is not easy, but there is a joy in the struggle too!
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Electrical engineer turned into Marketer. From heartland of Tamilnadu but almost Mumbaikaar.
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