#Retrace2021: Influencer-led buying played a big role in driving growth: SUGAR CEO Vineeta Singh

#Retrace2021: Influencer-led buying played a big role in driving growth: SUGAR CEO Vineeta Singh

A well-established name in the Indian beauty and personal care market, SUGAR Cosmetics was among the first to move into the D2C (direct-to-consumer) space as a digital cosmetics brand. Sponsored by Vineeta Singh, an IIT and IIM graduate who co-founded the beauty startup in 2015 with her husband, the brand today boasts more than 2 million app downloads on iOS and Android and 1.8 million followers on Instagram. Not only that, it has established retail touch points in more than 35,000 outlets in over 130 cities and raised $21 million in Series C funding in early 2021.

The diligent entrepreneur was lucky a third time after her first two companies hadn’t taken off. However, her second startup, Fab Bag, a subscription company that offers women a variety of beauty products every month for a small fee — gave her enough data and insights to launch her third business. Singh realized that the makeup brands available – foreign or domestic – did not cater to Indian skin tones or the Indian way of life, and poured her academic learning and newly learned consumer insights into SUGAR. Unlike most of the first digital brands, SUGAR was early on to develop a multi-channel presence. The adventure paid off and today the seven-year-old startup had an annual run rate of Rs 500 crore as of November 2021, having closed FY 21 at around Rs 130 crore revenue.

The massive boost to the digital economy offered by the pandemic has also proven to be a boon and has given the brand ample opportunity to connect directly with consumers. The multi-faceted entrepreneur who describes herself as “CEO @ SUGAR Cosmetics. Umm. Running, cycling, swimming – in that order” believes that “women make the best in all respects.”

Indian Sajit Anupama with the trapped Vineeta Singh – CEO and Co-founder of SUGAR Cosmetics– for an exclusive chat about the major innovations the Beauty brand brought to its portfolio last year and its expansion plans in 2022. She shares her thoughts on the trends in the beauty industry last year while also delving into the new year.

Edited excerpts:

About the major changes / innovations introduced by the brand in 2021

Despite the difficulties all brands faced during the second wave of the epidemic in 2021, SUGAR Cosmetics launched more than 30 new products. Taking into account market scenarios, we have also expanded our skincare category by launching a skincare range based on coffee and citrus. SUGAR Cosmetics has also built conversational and educational content using powerful videos and infographics, exploring experimental retail marketing tactics and publishing even stronger content on the brand’s owned app.

As we continue to grow stronger building strong content, we have also made sure to strengthen our content distribution channels from digital and OOH to television. Broadcast on major TV channels in eight languages, our SUGAR x Taapsee TV commercial campaign has seen over 50 million views.

About Brand Relationship to Reality Shark Tank India on Sony

I am so grateful to be invited to ‘Shark tank’ As one of the sharks. Since this was not some kind of cooperation with the brand, I agreed to this offer Shark Tank India It was purely personal interest to fuel the country’s entrepreneurial boom. It gives me great pleasure to be a part of such an iconic show that has helped create many multi-million dollar businesses across geographies, over the years, along with a unique viewing experience for the audience, not only educating them but entertaining them at the same time.

About Leveraging Influencer Marketing to Connect With Consumers

For SUGAR, influencer marketing has played a huge role in creating online and offline popularity for the brand. Not only in terms of our increased levels of engagement, but also the direct response from consumers through sales conversions saw a sharp rise when we engaged in influencer marketing strategies. In the near future, we plan to take our association to the next level, by creating an exclusive community of mini brand ambassadors and introducing an exclusive program for them.

To broaden the current consumer demographic of the brand

As a brand, we continue to focus on lasers and loyalty to the 18-25 year target group. However, with the rapid expansion of the retail business to become an important part of our business over the past 3 years, the brand has also attracted a slightly larger target group from 25 to 34 years old. What’s common with both groups is that they are digitally savvy, peer-led and influencers more than celebrity-led and know what good lipstick looks like. We are definitely going into tier 2 – 3 cities and are already available in over 500 cities through our retail channels only.

About the major trends in the beauty industry in 2021

We are witnessing the dominance of peer/influencer-led purchases over celebrity-promoted purchases. Traditional retail, of course, still dominates the lion’s share of color cosmetics sales in India, but with the democratization of data and low-cost internet access, a massive tier 2 / tier 3 city audience is waiting to consume beauty brands like never before. not before. In terms of new product trends, aside from non-transferable lipsticks and mask-protective makeup, hybrid products are a new rage. These products have gained sugar sales with their illuminating balms, lip primers, lip balms, hydrating primers, and more.

About the major trends that may dominate the industry in 2022

2022 will see more integration of technology into the cosmetic field. I definitely see more experiences happening on these lines as consumers and brands explore the blurred boundaries between the digital world and the real world. Also with the growing community of GenZs joining early adopters of makeup – I see a huge impact their buying behavior has skewed on brands that focus on sustainability, and who explore themes around beauty realism and inclusivity. Adopting an omnichannel approach and focusing on conversational commerce will also gain popularity among a lot of brands.

on the USP brand amid stiff competition from the emerging players in the D2C cosmetic space

The three main brands of the brand – highly desirable colours, the right pigments that compliment all skin tones, and makeup made with long-wearing formulas – have helped the brand build a following in a short amount of time. Our products are more valuable for the price we ask – it would be hard to find products that are more pigmented, long lasting, and more suitable for Indian skin tone.

SUGAR, as a brand, has always been driven more by creators than celebrities in a crowded market, where brands spend more time talking about discounts than strength or beauty and cosmetics. Ensuring that all SUGAR Cosmetics products are manufactured in regions around the world that excel in providing superior quality for that specific product – has also been a major contributor to maintaining quality. With a mess-breaking personality, distinctive low-poly packaging and chart-topping products – SUGAR will continue to provide more value and better quality than any other competitor in our price range. We will also continue to be a brand focused on the millennium.

Looking Ahead: Goals and Plans for 2022

We will strengthen our core pillars – distribution, product, content and community. We aim to be in more than one store in 2022 and make SUGAR one of the top three brands of India in the overall color cosmetics category with sales of over Rs 500 crore. We currently employ over 2,000 women and we also aim to bring that number to 3,000 so that the brand is truly built by women for women.

About the personal information you will take in the new year

Covid-19 has changed the way the world behaves. For Sugar, we came out stronger with so much gratitude in our hearts. Firstly, towards our customers who have continued to provide support endlessly, and secondly towards our retail, warehouse and key personnel who have been nothing short of front line workers. Another learning is that no matter what challenge we face, agility is important. We’ve come to realize that growth isn’t about how quickly you get to it, but how well you maintain it once you get there. Finally, we learned not to stop making bold and courageous decisions, as we always have!


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