Beauty start-up receives Unilever funding to accelerate domestic growth

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Beauty start-up receives Unilever funding to accelerate domestic growth
India-based vegan beauty brand Plum is gearing up for expansion in “multiple directions” domestically, says its founder and director Shankar Prasad, after receiving funding from Unilever Ventures

The start-up raised an undisclosed amount to further accelerate its growth in India and scale up its operations both online and offline.

“We have thankfully seen growth and are continuing to grow at a healthy pace. Initially the venture was bootstrapped by me, but it reached a point today with the opportunities that the market has to offer, I don’t think we can continue in a bootstrap fashion,” ​commented Prasad.

Opportunities at home

Currently, the brand is present on Amazon, Flipkart, Nykaa, Myntra, as well as beauty chain Health & Glow.

While Prasad sees opportunities in the international market, he feels that there is still work to be done in the domestic beauty market. “We are looking to expand in India. There’s a lot to do in terms of products or retail distribution.”

Prasad told CosmeticsDesign Asia ​that the company has a very tight product pipeline. Today, Plum has around 40 SKUs, but by the end of 2019, he estimates that it will have close to 75. “It’s tough to pull off honestly,” ​said Prasad.

Plum recently launched its hair care range in September 2018, and expanded into a men’s grooming line under the name PHY in November 2018 to cater to the burgeoning male grooming market in India.

Less than three months old, PHY is already seeing repeat customers, revealed Prasad.  “The potential of the men’s grooming and skin care space, particularly in India, is immense. Men do have the same concerns as women, it’s just expressed very differently. But having said that, if they like the product, they will come back to the brand and come back for more products.”

In addition to products, Prasad is focused on strengthening its retail channels and digital presence.  “Despite being fairly strong online, we know there’s a lot of unaddressed areas, like YouTube. In terms of retail distribution, we are still really very small, I don’t think we’ve cracked even 3% of what India has to offer. Even the large companies cannot say they have cracked distribution in India.”

Conscious consumption

One area you will never see Plum expanding into is the massive skin whitening market in India, which goes against the values of Plum, expressed Prasad.

“Even though there is a huge demand for skin whitening in this part of the market, from the beginning we founded the brand with four values in mind… This stems from a respect for diversity. Trying to be somebody you are not is not respectful of who you are.”

Prasad added: “From a functional perspective, we believe that trying to alter the natural biochemistry of the skin is not going to do your skin a whole lot of good.”

As beauty consumers in India continue to consume consciously and seek out refined and genuine beauty experiences, these strong values and authenticity, are reasons why customers keep coming back to Plum.

“We deliver what we promise on and we make promise we can come through on. We practice, not just preach. We are a genuine brand they can make a part of their lives and they are happy associating with our brand.”

One way the company goes the extra mile is picking up empty jars and bottles from their customers for recycling. “They just shoot us an email and we take care of the rest. The logistics is on our account, they don’t have to spend a penny. It’s even packed by the people who pick it up. These are real things that people identify with.”

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