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The Sugary Shark The key is to keep up with relevant messaging and engaging with the current needs of your consumers, stick to acing the quality of your product as you scale and being visible where your consumers are: Vineeta Singh

By Punita Sabharwal

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Sugar
Vineeta Singh, co-founder and CEO, Sugar

Vineeta Singh has always felt strongly about building a brand with women as the core audience. "As a naive new B-school graduate, I remember making many women-centric business plans - lingerie, athleisure, beauty - on paper. But it was only in 2012 when the idea of beauty subscriptions actually got us all excited - the beauty industry was expanding and moving towards a younger demographic that engaged on digital media to authentic products and content - the perfect direct-to-consumer recipe. Of course, it took us years to find the elusive "product-market-fit" but every hit and miss has shaped SUGAR Cosmetics to what it is today," shares the Shark Tank Judge.

Nobody gives a new kid on the block a chance with a guarantee of revenue. Shelf space is super precious in India and the only way for SUGAR to prove product-market fit and demand was to do the job in the first two years of the brand. So direct was not only the chosen way - it was the only way. "Today, when I look back I know that it helps us control the brand narrative more tightly and be closer to the consumer for feedback during the initial phases of the inception - both priceless," says Singh.

Since 2012, SUGAR has been running a Direct-To-Consumer beauty subscription venture that served a young 18-30 demographic. Their close proximity to this TG, a closed-loop feedback gathering system and ability to send 200+ products each year to 100,000+ women gave them a very unique vantage point in the industry. This is when it first hit the founders that there was a shift underway in the beauty industry and a white space that nobody was serving. "Our Eureka moment was when we plotted all the lipsticks available in the market on a price ladder and realized that the market was pretty polarized," states Singh. At one end, there were extremely popular mass-market products at the Rs. 225-299 range, hardly a few in the Rs. 450-500 range and then there was a direct price jump to Rs. 1000+. This seemed wrong - to them, there seemed space for an Rs. 600-700 lipstick that had a high colour payoff, lasting power and in shades specially crafted for the Indian skin tone. The need for self-expression and the availability of peer reviews opened up the market for new themes - matte lipsticks, colour payoff, lasting power and shade-suitability to the Indian skin tone and no other brand was simply doing enough to address these. That was all we needed to know and believe, which then led them to launch SUGAR Cosmetics.

Talking about challenges in an over-crowded market, Singh mentions, "The key is to keep up with relevant messaging and engaging with the current needs of your consumers, stick to acing the quality of your product as you scale and being visible where your consumers are."

On future plans, Singh says, "As our next step, we plan on expanding our core pillars; Product, Distribution & Community Building. We intend to go stronger on our omnichannel approach to be able to grow the brand on an even larger scale and expand our product ranges extensively. Increasing our distribution channels in India and internationally (Being already present in the US, Russia, Middle East and Nepal), along with creating an even stronger base on our D2C platforms, online & offline will be key."

Factsheet

  • Total SKUs: 550+
  • Team size: 2500+
  • Repeat customer ratio: 25%+
  • Online platform resulting in maximum revenue: the brand owned website & app
  • Split between offline and online sales: Post Pandemic they are back to almost a 50% split between both online and offline channels
Punita Sabharwal

Entrepreneur Staff

Managing Editor, Entrepreneur India

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