Vineeta Singh: The Beauty Geek

SUGAR Cosmetics was launched in 2015 by Singh and her husband Kaushik Mukherjee

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Ignorance truly turned out to be bliss for Vineeta Singh, CEO and co-founder, SUGAR Cosmetics. If she had known how demanding the first ten years of an entrepreneurial journey could be, she says, she would have never ventured into it. However, not knowing that and having the sheer passion and confidence to take up entrepreneurship pushed this IITian to let go of a 1 crore investment bank job offer and create one of India's fast-growing beauty brands.

Backed by marquee investors including Elevation Capital, A91 Partners, India Quotient and Stride Ventures, today, SUGAR Cosmetics is surely a cult-favorite amongst Gen Z and millennials. The D2C brand is rapidly scaling its physical presence with more than 35,000 retail touchpoints as of 2021 across 500+ cities. Last year, the Mumbai-based startup raised about $21 million in its Series C funding round.

"When you are in your 20s, you are so idealistic that you sometimes don't understand that succeeding in business is very different from succeeding in college. And I was also very overconfident, but I'm very glad today that I did take up entrepreneurship. Although the journey was very painful in the beginning, now that I have been an entrepreneur for almost 15 years, I'm glad I have built something that is right," she told Entrepreneur India.

Talking about how she wanted to build a woman-centric brand, she said, "As somebody who's not a very ardent makeup user growing up, fashion was never on the mind. However, I always knew that I wanted to create something where women are the consumers because I just felt that the world was changing fast, but for women, it was changing even faster. For instance, women were beginning to work or study and had access to their own income and access to the internet."

When SUGAR Cosmetics was launched in 2015, less than 10 per cent of the online shoppers were women and today the numbers are 43 per cent. "So what I was very clear about is the fact that women were becoming more confident and independent in their decision making was going to change many industries that revolve around them. And I really wanted to be a part of that," she said.

According to Statista, the revenue in the Indian beauty and personal care market is projected to reach $26.8 billion in 2021, with a CAGR of 8.5 per cent by 2025. How did Singh and her co-founder Kaushik Mukherjee identify this potential for a D2C brand back in 2015?

Well, SUGAR is not the co-founders' first business venture. In 2012, they launched a subscription-based beauty brand which got shut within three years. However, since the startup also targeted the same age group, that is 18-30, the experience helped Singh make use of one important feedback, that is, there were hardly a few beauty brands in the INR 450-INR 500 price. This is when they found a huge opportunity. "If you're looking at a young woman as your core customer, how much in the next 10-20 years she will evolve," she said.

Based on the feedback, they started SUGAR with just two products and today the D2C brand is focusing on offline expansion. "Offline for us has turned out to be one of the best decisions as 94 per cent of India still shops offline. And when scaling entire business online, beyond a point what happens is that the dependence on Facebook or Google, or just you know, paid media campaigns becomes so high that your profitability is impacted. And as a brand, we have been very clear from day one, that we will never acquire a customer by losing money. Your online sales actually benefit from offline because there's a trust factor. And, the discovery for a brand is happening online, but consumption is still happening where she is used to consuming, which is offline," she said.

SUGAR's journey went on an exponential trajectory when it launched offline and this omnichannel presence has been beneficial for the brand ever since.