To pursue her Startup Journey, Vineeta Singh, an IIM alumna, turned down a ₹1 Crore Placement Offer
Vineeta’s Early Days
She was born in Delhi and attended the Delhi Public School and Rama Krishna Puran in Delhi for her education. Vineeta Singh graduated from IIT Madras with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering and an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad.
Vineeta had always been a hardworking and bright student, and even her teachers had encouraged her to pursue her desire of becoming an entrepreneur.
After completing her education, she moved to Mumbai and turned down all potential job offers. She even turned down a crore-rupee offer from an investment bank when she was still in her twenties to start her own business.
Vineeta was under a lot of pressure to accept the offer. It was a difficult decision for her to make. She turned down that offer in 2007. Startup culture was non-existent at the time. Nobody would urge someone to turn down such a fantastic deal. She was the one who pulled it off. She was a role model for her classmates, generation, and, of course, women.
Aside from his family and friends, well-known media outlets were startled that a lady, at the age of 23, turned down an offer from a worldwide investment firm. The news was so huge that she was featured on the cover of the WEEK magazine. She was the youngest B-school graduate to decline a Rs 1 crore offer. She was aware that she was taking the biggest risk of her life. Such thoughts did not change her thinking.
Finally, in 2012, she co-founded SUGAR Cosmetics with her husband Kaushik Mukherjee, the company’s co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer. The startup made a massive Rs 100 crore in revenue in FY2019-20. It all happened when the cosmetics market was dominated by large corporations like Lakme and Loreal. SUGAR made items with Indian skin tones in mind. The company’s hallmark goods are lipsticks and eyeliner.
The Path to Success
Her relocation to Mumbai was a difficult time in her life. She claims that when she was 23, she was living in a bit of cottage that flooded during the monsoon. Her hardships did not dampen her enthusiasm, and she continued to try one thing after another to build her own business. She even began running and began competing in marathons.
“After almost a year, I felt brave enough to try my hand at entrepreneurship again with Fab Bag, a cosmetics subscription brand,” she stated in an interview with Humans of Bombay. However, after doing some study, I discovered a need for high-quality cosmetics for Indian ladies, and Sugar Cosmetics was formed.”
“I was practically bootstrapping a business with no outside funding.” “That whole hand-to-mouth existence where you’re making significantly less than if you had taken up a job was a terrible reality to come to grips with,” she said, adding that this period “truly defined who she was as a person” and helped her stay grounded.
Veena Singh has been selected as a judge on India’s first business reality show, Shark Tank. On December 20, 2021, the reality show (Shark Tank India), in which she is a judge, premiered for the first time on Sony TV. The promo for the show was released on November 24, and it will air Monday to Friday at 9:00 p.m. on Sony TV.
Vineeta Singh is not only the host of the show, but she is also one of the seven judges. Ashneer Grover, Peyush Bansal, Namita Thapar, Anupam Mittal, Ghazal Alagh, and Aman Gupta are the other six judges.
About her famous Indian cosmetic brand’ Sugar
For decades, the Indian beauty industry has been dominated by cosmetics giants before the advent of e-commerce and direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales. Direct-to-consumer brands like Nykaa, Mamaearth, WOW Skin, Plum, and Sugar Cosmetics, which are swiftly becoming customers’ go-to options in metros and Tier 1 and 2 cities, are impossible to ignore in the beauty market.
SUGAR cosmetics’ success can be attributed to the company’s philosophy of creating products that, unlike any foreign brand, understand the Indian skin tone and weather.
Sugar Cosmetics was founded in 2015 with only two products: a black matte eyeliner and a black kohl pencil. It has grown to 450 stock-keeping units since then. So, how did Sugar become one of India’s most well-known beauty chains in just five years?
Sugar Cosmetics has a loyal following among millennials and is one of India’s fastest-growing luxury cosmetic brands. With its clutter-breaking attitude, distinctive low-poly packaging, and chart-topping goods, Sugar is the go-to makeup for daring, self-assured women who refuse to fit into stereotypes. The brand’s best-selling Lips, Eyes, Face, Nails & Skin products are shipped globally from state-of-the-art facilities in Germany, Italy, India, the United States, and Korea.
With a cruelty-free range high on design and high on performance, the brand is dedicated to developing products that are an excellent fit for every Indian skin tone throughout the seasons and across the calendar. Sugar Cosmetics is actively increasing its strong presence with 10,000+ retail stores across 130+ cities by 2021, with the goal of reaching every cosmetics consumer in the country, supported by the trust of marquee investors and the enthusiasm of millions of beauty fans.
Sugar Cosmetics – Latest News
Sugar Cosmetics, a direct-to-consumer brand, has named Suchit Sikaria its new chief business officer, effective July 2021. Sikaria joins the organisation as the managing partner of Performics India, a digital marketing agency.
Sikaria, a graduate of IIM-Ahmedabad, has worked with Performics India and Nokia India for over 14 years in sales, marketing, and business operations management. He has four years of startup experience from his own food-tech business, which he is expected to put to good use.
“I’m looking forward to putting my industry knowledge to bear and growing the brand into a much greater D2C player, not just in India, but globally,” Sikaria said.
Also, Sugar Cosmetics parent acquires ENN Beauty: Vellvette Lifestyle Pvt. Ltd., Sugar Cosmetics’ parent business, has acquired a 51 per cent share in natural skin and hair care brand ENN Beauty, a step that would further consolidate the country’s beauty and personal care industry.
Sugar Cosmetics – Industry overview
The Indian beauty e-commerce market, which is still in its early stages, may see a flurry of acquisitions in the next three to four years as smaller, direct-to-consumer (D2C) businesses expand, following the US model.
According to a Harvard Business Review survey, women’s annual consumer spending is valued at $20 trillion and is expected to rise to $28 trillion in the next five years.
By 2022, the global cosmetics market, for example, is expected to reach $428.9 billion. By 2025, the Indian cosmetics sector is estimated to reach $20 billion, with a CAGR of 25%.
One of the reasons beauty is moving toward e-commerce is that customers want to have digital experiences. People can now have nearly the same “real-life” experience online as they can in stores, making the transition from online content to an online shop easier, or at least less time-demanding (personal preferences, samples, etc.).
It’s not as if people started buying cosmetics on the internet just because they could. The firms were the ones who recognised the internet’s potential and the necessity to cater to technology users. Aside from that, e-commerce is growing at a double-digit rate every year. As a result, businesses must adapt to new terrain to stay competitive.
Sugar Cosmetics – Name, Logo, and Tagline
The company began as an internet retailer of natural, paraben-free cosmetics and has gained a global following. The visual identity of an Indian cosmetics company is beautiful and sophisticated while yet appearing bold and confident, thanks to the use of the black and white colour combination.
Logo: The company’s logo is made up of a wordmark on the left and an emblem on the right that serves as the brand’s signifier and is found on all of the company’s cosmetics.
Tagline: “Rule The World, One Look At A Time!!!”
This cosmetic brand was founded by Kaushik Mukherjee and Vineeta Singh in 2012.
Kaushik Mukherjee, the Co-Founder and CEO of SUGAR Cosmetics, is a TEDx speaker and a BITS Pilani and IIM Ahmedabad alumni. He is also an Ironman triathlete and a marathon runner.
SUGAR Cosmetics, India’s fastest-growing cosmetics company, is co-founded and led by Vineeta Singh. Vineeta Singh is a TEDx speaker and an IIT Madras and IIM Ahmedabad graduate. She competes in triathlons and ultramarathons.
Sugar Cosmetics – Startup Story
Before the two of them formed this firm, Vineeta’s husband and business partner, Kaushik, worked at McKinsey while striving to improve and expand her talents at another firm. They had never considered working together before, but they had a great deal of respect for one another’s abilities. Soon after, they discovered that they had interests in various areas, including Kaushik’s interest in technology and hers in product creation and marketing.
As a result, they decided to work together on an eCommerce project, with Kaushik working on an e-Commerce project and starting a women’s business. They felt a strong connection that could handle their common interests.
“We still have a long way to go and big ambitions to meet!” To me, success means having the freedom and ability to do whatever I want without fear of failure. To be honest, I had my doubts when I turned down the job offer at 23. But, in keeping with my philosophy of having no regrets, I went for my goals. I was pretty excited about the prospect of being an entrepreneur and establishing a firm. “I simply felt that if I didn’t do it now, I would regret it for the rest of my life,” Vineeta Singh explained.
Mission & Vision of Sugar Cosmetics
“We believe in every expression of beauty,” reads Sugar Cosmetics’ mission statement. Every day to glam diva, from bold to restrained, quirky to insane! We want to celebrate every aspect of you, regardless of your style. So go ahead and vote for your favourites.”
Sugar Cosmetics’ Revenue and Business Model
The company, which runs on a hybrid basis, presently has over 10,000 retail units in 130 locations. Its earnings have soared by approximately sixfold in the last two years. After the epidemic took a devastating toll, the corporation adopted unique ways to reinforce the trust relationship between its brand and its clientele. SUGAR Cosmetics carved out a niche in the fast-growing beauty industry.
It weathered the storm by cutting costs, reorganising the team, and relying on social media marketing and e-commerce drive.
In barely two and a half years, the team increased from 87 to over 1,750 retail touchpoints. By January 2020, the team had made a net profit of Rs 105 crore, with a target of Rs 200 crore. The outbreak, on the other hand, hindered their expansion plans.
Sugar Cosmetics – Growth
In FY20, Sugar Cosmetics grew at a dizzying pace. Its activities grew by 5.6X in the preceding two fiscal years because of its hybrid online-offline sales. Sugar Cosmetics’ operating income climbed by 82 per cent in FY20, from Rs 57.14 crore to over Rs 104 crore, up from Rs 57.14 crore in FY19. Overseas buyers contributed 15.4 per cent of the company’s revenue, or Rs 16 crore. It produced an additional Rs 1.4 crore from its financial assets in FY20.
The purchase of stock in trade was the main cost centre for the Mumbai-based Direct-to-Consumer brand in the last fiscal year, accounting for 38.45 per cent of total expenditure. Due to economies of scale, the firm’s procuring prices were reduced, and payments grew by only 29.2 per cent to Rs 48.35 crore, compared to an 82 per cent growth in sales.
SUGAR employed social media as one of its most potent strategies. According to Singh, customers were spending more time on their cellphones and engaged with their material on social media, who saw this early on. The corporation took advantage of the opportunity to increase its social media presence.
“Before lockdown, we received roughly 100 million monthly impressions, but that number has now climbed to around 240 million. We recently reached one million Instagram followers, and our app has been downloaded over 800,000 times. “
What did SUGAR get right this time?
SUGAR intends to complete Fiscal Year 21 with a power-play of over Rs. 150 crores after five years, including one during which a pandemic occurred. Anyone establishing a retail brand in India can benefit greatly from their experience.
- The “FAB BAG”
Kaushik Mukherjee and Vineeta Singh founded the “FAB BAG,” a cosmetic subscription service, in 2012. Users would receive a “surprise” beauty box every month for Rs. 599, which would include a combination of 5 items from the categories of cosmetics, bath & body, skincare, haircare, and fragrances.
These were mostly new and unknown brands that were imported from other countries. The FAB BAG experience provided the team with the time, space, and data required to identify their target market. Because the company’s success rested on persuading mass consumers to upgrade or luxury clients to try something less expensive, SUGAR wanted to present itself as a premium brand.
- Products of Superior Quality
Despite its limited budget, the team could get their launch items from a reputed German manufacturer: an eyeliner and a kohl pencil. The ‘Made in Germany’ emblem was reassuring to customers, and it helped SUGAR get off to a solid start. At the time, the industry was dominated by gloss eyeliners, but SUGAR chose to create a matte version, assuming that its customers would prefer an everyday item. The eyeliner was the first of several product wagers made by SUGAR, and it paid out handsomely.
- Importance of Instagram influencers
Their Instagram profile has millions of followers, and their app has over one million downloads. They operate offline retail outlets in more than 130 Indian cities.
The company generated Rs 130 crore in sales in 2020-21 and raised $21 million (Rs 160 crore) in venture capital, valuing it at Rs 750 crore.
Instagram influencers are well-known for their role in beauty brand promotion. SUGAR hopped on the ‘unwrapping videos’ and ‘before and after’ makeover trend to raise awareness. The Instagram influencer strategy for the brand is well-balanced. One of their most well-known videos is acid assault survivor Anmol Rodriguez. The brand now has 1 million Instagram followers, outnumbering competitors like Colorbar.
- Packaging is unique
SUGAR, like many other startups, started with a digital-only approach. On the opposite, the design partner was tasked with developing “thumb-stopping packaging.” Opposite came up with a bold, visual approach that includes low-poly illustrations, knowing that the challenger brand needed to stand out from the rest of the minimal, primarily black design.
- Shopify Store
SUGAR launched a Shopify store in 2015, which it continues to run. In November 2019, the company released an app for Android and iOS that has over 800,000 downloads and a 4.6-star rating. The majority of internet acquisition efforts are still focused on social media ads.
SUGAR launched on Nykaa, the beauty website, in 2016, when there were fewer firms than there are now. Nykaa accounted for almost 80% of the brand’s revenue by 2017, and the team confesses they weren’t sure if to be “happy or scared.” It was clear that the distribution had to be scaled up in any event. Going from Nykaa to other e-commerce platforms like Flipkart and Amazon was a breeze. Mukherjee admits that breaking the code offline was the real issue.
Purplle, Lakme, Maybelline, Lotus Herbals, Blue Heaven Cosmetics, Nykaa, Plum, Marico, NewU, and Emami are the top ten SUGAR Cosmetics’ competitive rivals group.
Sugar Cosmetics – Challenges Faced
“We broke the 100 crore net revenue barrier in FY20.” It was more psychological for us to be unable to fall below Rs. 100 crores. But there was a period when we were unsure, as April and May had been very difficult. We have always been close to breakeven as a firm and have been extremely careful of our bottom line, but we witnessed a deficit of 5 crores in the first quarter of FY21, and we knew we had to come back,” Vineeta Singh said.
The damage was exacerbated as retail outlets accounted for 60% of their revenue. And during unlock 1.0, the team rallied to reach a net revenue objective of at least five crores. According to Vineeta Singh, the team had to go through wage cuts and reshuffles to deal with the problem. Despite the challenging circumstances, the company was profitable by the third quarter of FY20.
SUGAR grew its number of outlets when most businesses were cutting their physical footprint. Their store footprint has grown from 1000 last year to 2500 this year. Singh couldn’t afford to miss out on this strategic play. They realised that their investment needed to be increased. Since they enlarged their region before the holiday season, they could attract seasonal clients.
The company anticipates a 40% rise in net revenues by the end of FY21. Singh has lofty ambitions for the next five to six years, aiming for a net profit of 500 crores.
Sugar Cosmetics – Future Plans
Outside of India, SUGAR Cosmetics has a physical location in Russia and an internet presence in the United States. It plans to expand its offline standalone shops in FY22. The brand, founded in 2015, already operates 70 stores on its own, with plans to expand to 100 by the end of the year.
Due to ongoing sales growth and the Christmas season rush, the D2C brand expects to end this year (2021) with over two and a half times net revenue compared to the last year.
According to some estimates, 95% of India’s trading is offline. SUGAR plans to use this to grow and diversify its retail base and improve its retail marketing and visual merchandising.
SUGAR Cosmetics launched five additional brand-owned retail outlets throughout the outbreak, prioritising hygiene and safety for its retail customers. To improve its direct-to-consumer channels, the company focuses on increasing its mobile app, which has received 800,000 downloads in less than a year. Content marketing, strong collaborations, and the introduction of new products will all be on the table in 2021.
The real reason for SUGAR cosmetics success could be credited to the company’s ideology of making products that understand the Indian skin tone and the Indian weather, unlike any foreign brand.
Edited and published by Ashlyn Joy