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Entrepreneurship

Vineeta Singh

(PGP 2007)

Co-founder and CEO, SUGAR Cosmetics

    1. Firstly, congratulations on receiving the Young Alumni Achievers Award from IIMA. How does it feel to be recognized for your achievements by your alma mater?

      -Receiving the Young Alumni Achievers Award from IIMA is truly an honor and a humbling experience. Being acknowledged for my accomplishments by my alma mater is an incredible feeling. IIMA holds a special place in my heart, and this recognition strengthens my connection to the institution that played a pivotal role in shaping my professional journey. This award is a personal milestone as well as a tribute to the support and encouragement I’ve gotten from the IIMA community.

       

    2. Over a decade ago, you declined a top-dollar investment banking placement offer and decided to start your venture. How did the idea emerge and what inspired you to create a beauty brand specifically catering to the Indian skin tone? How did you identify the gap in the market and successfully address it?

      -Since my youth, I held the ambition to become an entrepreneur, with the only question being when and how. I knew I always wanted to set up my own business and was determined to do it after completing my Business Studies degree at IIM Ahmedabad. Post my declining the offer, I knew that the journey would be arduous. In the initial stages of my entrepreneurial journey, securing venture capital, particularly for female founders, proved challenging. I was only able to raise my first round of funding, an angel round, in 2013.

      With a deep conviction to create something for women by women, in 2012, I decided to establish a cosmetics subscription business, FABBAG with my co-founder Kaushik after our first venture didn’t grow as planned. Beauty is not one size fits all! Roughly ten years ago, multinational brands with products unsuited for the Indian climate and complexion dominated the Indian beauty industry. That was the seed for an idea that became SUGAR Cosmetics. We pivoted SUAGR products with our women subscribers of FABBAG. The inspiration behind SUGAR Cosmetics was the 200,000 women who shared with us their beauty preferences. We launched SUGAR Cosmetics in 2015 and since then we have over 550+ SKUs for various beauty enthusiasts to choose from.

       

    3. SUGAR Cosmetics has a strong emphasis on innovation and a launch-packed calendar. Can you share some insights into your approach to rapid innovation and how it has contributed to the brand’s success? Also, tell us more about the work culture and approach to rapid innovation that you advocate within the company?

      -Every single day, our engagement with customers revolves around delving into their makeup preferences and choices. Our innovation lens focuses on not only emerging global trends but also on customizing them to meet the specific needs of the Indian market. The core essence of our brand has always been centered around consumers, making them the driving force behind every innovation. From the outset, our commitment has been to tailor global trends to resonate seamlessly with the discerning Indian audience, ensuring accessibility and relevance at every step.

      At SUGAR, we celebrate not only achievements but also failures. We have an exclusive in-house book titled ‘Fail Forward’, of which we recently launched volume two. It has the stories of our team’s failures. All the team members share the experiments they did and they failed at and eventually succeeded. I don’t think innovation can exist without a lot of failures. And as an organization, if you can build a culture of celebrating every single failure and still not stop the experimentation, innovation happens.

       

    4. In the midst of the pandemic SUGAR Cosmetics experienced a remarkable 60% growth in sales. What strategies did you employ to navigate the challenges and achieve this impressive growth during such a difficult time?

      -SUGAR achieved a remarkable 60% growth from its pre-lockdown numbers during a period when the majority of retail and e-commerce companies were trying to figure out how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects. We were in the middle of creating plans for FY21 when the lockdown started in March 2020. The onset of the lockdown in March disrupted our ambitious plans for FY21, especially after reaching a net revenue milestone of ₹100 crore in FY20. Faced with uncertainties and a challenging April and May, we have always been very aware of our bottom line and have been almost breaking even as a company, we saw a 5-crore loss in the first quarter of FY21, and we knew we had to turn things around. Given that retail outlets accounted for 60% of our income, the impact was greater. As a result, during unlock 1.0 in June, the team came together to strive for a net income of at least ₹5 crore.
      After that, we generated ₹6 crore in net revenue in June. At that point, we believed we had a chance to win the year back. SUGAR expanded its number of physical storefronts at a time when most retailers were reducing their footprint. We increased our retail footprint from 1000 stores to 2500. From my perspective, this was a strategic decision that we considered essential. Recognizing the need for additional investment, we strategically expanded our footprint before the festive season, enabling us to capture seasonal traffic successfully. Recognizing the surge in social media usage during lockdown, we capitalized on this trend by enhancing our presence on platforms. Monthly impressions surged from 100 million to 240 million, and our Instagram followers reached 1 million. The SUGAR app experienced over 800,000 downloads during the lockdown. This combined effort on social media not only increased our mindshare among consumers but also positively impacted both online interactions and foot traffic at our retail outlets.

       

    5. Well, we all are much known for your role in one of the most successful reality shows in the country, in recent times – As a successful entrepreneur and an investor on Shark Tank India, you have been involved in mentoring and supporting budding entrepreneurs. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own ventures or what qualities or characteristics do you look for in potential investments?

      -Drawing from a decade of entrepreneurial experience, I’ve accumulated numerous insights to share. My advice for those aspiring to become entrepreneurs is to never give up on your dreams. Have faith in yourself and your capabilities, and you will accomplish remarkable things. Having been an entrepreneur for a decade now, I’ve learned numerous lessons. A crucial lesson is the importance of resilience in the face of challenges and setbacks. Often, budding entrepreneurs underestimate their potential and fail to recognize their capabilities fully. It is extremely important to remember that, irrespective of circumstances, you must consistently appreciate your worth, skills, and abilities. Believing in your dreams and actively working towards them is a very gratifying and often underrated experience.

       

    6. How did your association with IIMA help you to pursue your dreams?

      If it weren’t for my time at IIMA, I wouldn’t have the courage to start my own business. I chose IIMA because I had a dream of launching a company, and it was the only b-school offering a program focused on leadership and entrepreneurship. IIMA taught me the importance of taking risks and showed me how aiming high can significantly impact your entire career path.

       

AUTHOR: admin
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