The Quiet, Quick Rise Of This Indie Clean Beauty Brand

Pilgrim is one of the brands that have gained popularity among millions of Indians over the last couple of years
The Quiet, Quick Rise Of This Indie Clean Beauty Brand
Image credit: Pilgrim

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Still, in its early days, the Indian beauty e-commerce industry could see a slew of acquisitions over the next three-four years as smaller, direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands reach scale, following a pattern established in the US.

Homegrown direct-to-consumer or D2C beauty and personal care brands are fast becoming a darling of investors in India.

D2C brands bypass the conventional method of multiple supply chain partners by marketing and selling products directly to the consumers. Pilgrim is one of the brands that have gained popularity among millions of Indians over the last couple of years. Currently, India has over 80 D2C brands across beauty, personal care, cosmetics, and men’s grooming segments.

According to a recent report by Praxis Global Alliance (PGA) Labs and Knowledge Capital, between 2014 and 2020, investors pumped in $1.4 billion into the D2C brands, of which 54 per cent went into the beauty and fashion segment.

“We at Pilgrim want to empower that consumer with our products,” said Pilgrim co-founder and chief executive officer Anurag Kedia, in a conversation with Entrepreneur India. All of the D2C brand’s products are FDA approved and free from toxins such as parabens, sulfates, and mineral oils, which are otherwise commonly used in clean beauty products. 

Pilgrim has now raised INR 13 crore in Series A from Fireside Ventures and others. The round was led by Fireside Ventures, Rukam Capital, and founding teams of Boat, NoBroker, and the founder and chief executive officer, Bewakoof.com, with Dexter Capital as the transaction advisor. 

“I believe that most startups are designed to withstand dynamic challenges, that’s what makes them unique and scalable. When we started Pilgrim, we knew we had to navigate multiple challenges, of course, the pandemic was completely unprecedented but we had already worked on integrating a strong foundation of principles and systems to navigate any curveball thrown our way.”

“Hence it all goes back to our vision, to build a world-class homegrown brand that makes global personal care offerings accessible. Keeping this in mind, Pilgrim was born to meet the unmet desire of well-traveled and aware millennials. The desire to experience affordable global beauty offerings, at their doorstep. As new-age consumers, these young Indians have experienced global beauty regimes, overseas. However, accessing these experiences in India, at affordable price points, has been difficult. Hence, the company was founded in 2019,” Kedia shared.

He believes that for them and the entire world, the pandemic struck. The company saw an increased inclination towards personal well-being and care. This was a ray of hope for the personal care and beauty industry which proved to be resilient. So, they doubled down on their R&D investment, identifying the best ingredients and curating experiences, and built a strong D2C channel. Once they had everything in place, they decided to officially start sales in May 2020.

Within a year of sales, the platform claimed to have witnessed an ARR of INR 18 crore. The company continued to empower millennials with borderless experiences amidst the second wave and which seems to be paying off. As a D2C (online-first) brand they retail via multiple platforms including their website. Today, the platform touches the lives of around 30,000 users every month and aspire to grow this eight-fold in the next 12 months, Kedia stated.

The personal care industry has seen an influx of online D2C brands. The establishment has said to have retained its edge in this competitive market as a D2C brand catering to millennials and Gen-Z, by staying relevant. However, the bigger incentive for the company is creating a brand that seamlessly integrates into their aspired lifestyle as opposed to a transactional relationship where it comes down to selling/buying.

The definition of beauty in India has changed over the years. Indians are not just looking for healthy skin that is inclusive of different consumer needs. They want to feel confident in the way they look and feel. This has opened up several innovation opportunities for brands in the segment. The beauty retail space has become an exciting space for both the consumers and the brands. What the industry envisioned 3-4 years down the line has been accelerated with the pandemic. The Indian beauty market, as per the Statista report, stands at $27 billion. That is a huge number and the potential is immense. 

He believes that the existing need-gap has been a propeller of growth for the industry. Self-care conversations are seeping into everyday conversations. Technology is further enabling it with AI. AI-powered conversational platforms are driving purchases for skin and hair care concerns. It is making up for personalized offline experiences and offering solutions within the comfort of a consumer’s home. The pandemic has integrated beauty and personal-care tech into people's lives. Hence, D2C brands with multiple digital channels of communication are going to fast-track the segment. 

Conversations have also gone hyper-local with brands realizing the market opportunity in regional markets. Digital influencers across regions are driving these conversations for brands. The desire to pamper oneself with global beauty experiences is another growth enabler. Brands that can identify what will click with the audience and innovate, will continue to drive this segment. 

With the recently received funding, their vision is to disrupt the D2C beauty and personal care industry and want to bring to life accessible and affordable global beauty traditions for the modern millennials. Up until now, well-traveled Indians have had access to international beauty trends. However, there exists an unmet desire to experience global beauty offerings, at their doorstep in an affordable manner. The company enables that. The funding, which takes them a step closer to their vision, will be primarily used for - enhancing R&D capabilities, team expansion, and brand investments. Most importantly they are said to be excited to build a homegrown brand that brings at par global experiences in a localized manner. 

Sustainability is an important virtue to the company, according to the Pilgrim founder.

“Right from our products to packaging, we take proactive measures to ensure no harm is caused to the ecosystem. This includes the environment, customers, employees, and other stakeholders. Pilgrim is ‘Clean Compatible’. We are strictly against Animal Testing, and offer our customers 100 per cent vegan products. We ensure our formulations are bio-compatible and they respect the pH levels of the skin-hair and do not cause any harm. Our packaging is also recyclable. We are committed to creating and introducing such initiatives in the future as well,” he further shared.

The company is said to be betting big on personalization as Kedia comments, “at the core of Pilgrim lies the vision to empower every Indian with a personal care experience. We want to cater to their specific concerns. Hence, personalized and relevant offerings are big differentiating factors for us. We understand that Indians have long been subjected to a one-size-fits-all approach. We are here to break that notion and create effective solutions. To enable this we invest heavily in R&D. Every Pilgrim product has been designed with select ingredients to cater to a targeted concern. All our products are FDA Approved and free from toxins like parabens, sulfates, and mineral oils, which are otherwise commonly used in beauty products. Our AI-powered customer support chat offers personalized suggestions. It also empowers us with insights that can help us constantly innovate our offerings.”

The company confirms that data analytics is key to its growth. For them, it is not just another business function but a solid base to streamline growth strategy. It is an organic and consistent process that empowers them to derive unique consumer insights and take business decisions. These decisions include the next product line, partnerships, and market expansion. It also helps them identify and eliminate inefficiencies in the system which proves to be the company’s next trigger of growth. 

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