The woman behind the SUGAR rush Vineeta Singh, Co-founder and CEO, SUGAR Cosmetics
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Vineeta Singh has always felt strongly about building a brand with women as the core audience. "As a naive new B-school grad, I remember making many women-centric business plans - lingerie, athleisure, beauty - on paper," shares Singh. But it was only in 2012 when the idea of beauty subscriptions actually got her 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.
Since 2012, Vineeta along with her husband and business partner Kaushik Mukherjee had been running a Direct-To-Consumer beauty subscription venture called Fab Bag that served a young 18-30 demographic. Her close proximity to this TG, a closed-loop feedback gathering system, and ability to send 200+ products each year to 100,000+ women gave her a very unique vantage point in the industry. This is when it first hit her 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. At one end, there were extremely popular mass-market products in 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 us, there seemed space for a Rs. 600-700 lipstick that had a high colour payoff, lasting power, and in shades specially crafted for the Indian skin tone," adds Singh.
SUGAR Cosmetics entered the Indian market in mid-2015 to enable women to explore, crack the code of and relish the matchless beauty products that are exclusively recommended for them by beauty connoisseurs. With premium beauty products that were designed to be high on style and higher on performance, SUGAR stood for striking shades that perfectly suited every Indian skin tone and almost single-handedly led the industry movement towards "mattes" with its cult-favourite range of Matte as Hell Lipsticks and equally popular Matte Eye Told You So! Smudgeproof Eyeliner.
Singh's vision for the organization is to grow into a large beauty and personal care conglomerate over the next few decades and fortunately, this is something that her investors are also extremely excited about. Last year, the brand raised a series D round of funding, which was led by L Catterton and now the idea is one more year of massive growth and then pushing for profitability, and IPO in the coming three years.
The brand has been quite bullish on offline expansion in the past two years even during the pandemic and that has given them an edge over other digitally-native brands that are only now going for offline expansion. Their products are currently available in over 45,000+ retail outlets across 550+ cities and the plan is to ramp this up to 1,00,000 outlets by FY24. "We also aim to further expand to international markets such as the USA, Russia, GCC, and Nepal. While we currently have an employee count of ~3000, we look forward to doubling our team size over the next three years to approximately 10,000 with over 75% of them being women," states Singh.
- Online platform resulting in maximum revenue: Nykaa
- Split between offline and online sales: 40%:60%
- Year of Inception: SUGAR (2015), Parent Company (2012)
- Team size: ~3,000
- Customer Repeat ratio: 51%
- Amount of external funding raised: $87.5M
(This article first appeared in the May 2023 Makers Co edition of Entrepreneur India Magazine.)