With a total market size exceeding US$6 billion, India is home to one of the world’s largest cosmetic marketplaces. Foreign corporations mainly dominate this sector, with the top ten players accounting for 90% of the market. However, the landscape is changing as e-commerce and direct-to-consumer (D2C) retailing take hold, disrupting the status quo. Companies like Nykaa, Mamaearth, and Sugar Cosmetics have started to challenge the market domination of large cosmetic brands, rapidly becoming the go-to cosmetic options for customers across metro, Tier 1, and Tier 2 cities.
Achieving this success was no easy feat, as new brands need hard work, dedication, and the right business strategies to leave a lasting impression. In this article, we examine the incredible success story of Sugar Cosmetics, from its inception to its rapid rise as a prominent player in the Indian cosmetics industry.
From the Beginning: Sugar Cosmetics’ Foundational Years
Established in 2012, Sugar Cosmetics started with just two products: a black matte eyeliner and a black kohl pencil. Over the past decade, the company has expanded its offerings to around 450 stock-keeping units, making it one of India’s most well-known direct-to-consumer beauty companies.
The Founders: Kaushik Mukherjee and Vineeta Singh
Sugar Cosmetics was co-founded by Kaushik Mukherjee and Vineeta Singh, accomplished individuals with backgrounds in different fields. Kaushik, the CEO, attended BITS Pilani and IIM Ahmedabad and is also a marathon runner and Ironman triathlete. Vineeta, the co-founder and CEO, is an IIT Madras and IIM Ahmedabad graduate, TEDx speaker, triathlon participant, and ultramarathon runner.
With a team of 201-500 employees, they work together to grow Sugar Cosmetics, utilizing their combined skills in technology, product development, and marketing.
Sugar Cosmetics’ Business Model
Sugar has a D2C business model, using an omnichannel approach to sell its products across eCommerce marketplaces such as Nykaa, Amazon, and more. The company also has a presence in more than 10,000 sales outlets across over 130 locations. Sugar Cosmetics’ revenue streams come from its sales in India and exports to countries like Korea, Italy, Germany, and the US.
To strengthen the client-brand relationship, the company is focusing on cutting costs, reorganizing its team, boosting its eCommerce presence, and utilizing social media marketing.
Key Growth Highlights
- Over 2 million unique visitors each month on the company website and app.
- Sales of 200K+ products each month.
- Products available in over 40K retail stores.
- Strong presence on prominent e-commerce platforms such as Myntra, Nykaa, Amazon, Flipkart, and more.
- International sales in countries like Korea, Italy, Germany, and the US.
The Revenue Model
Sugar Cosmetics’ recent success is highlighted by its rapid increase in revenue, with the company achieving 100 crores (over US$13.5 million) in annual revenue within just ten years. This accomplishment can be attributed to its omnichannel selling approach, content marketing efforts, and app development strategies.
During FY20, the company’s operating income increased by 82%, from Rs 57.14 crore (about US$7.7 million) in FY19 to more than Rs 103.71 crore (over US$14 million). In FY21, revenue reached Rs 126.36 crore (US$17.1 million) with a 22% rise in operating income.
Making the Right Moves
Sugar Cosmetics targets millennial customers and projects a brand image that appeals to bold, independent women. The company has distinguished itself with its unique low-poly packaging and popular products spanning Eyes, Lips, Nails, Face, and Skin categories.
FAB BAG is a cosmetic subscription service co-founded by Kaushik Mukherjee and Vineeta Singh. Launched in 2012, the service offers a monthly “surprise” beauty box containing a mix of five products.
Sugar Cosmetics offers unique products that stand out in the market, like a matte eyeliner when the market was dominated by glossy eyeliners.
Leveraging Instagram influencers, Sugar Cosmetics has gained more than 2 million followers on the platform and uses “unwrapping videos” and “before-and-after makeovers” to raise awareness about its new products.
Presence in Online Stores
Starting with Nykaa in 2016, Sugar Cosmetics extended its distribution to other online platforms like Flipkart and Amazon. Today, the brand is a part of a case study at the IIM-A case center, showcasing its success.
Sugar Cosmetics is a company that has shown impressive growth and agility in the ever-evolving cosmetics industry. With a projected revenue target of Rs 300 crore (over US$40 million) in FY22, the company is a shining example of a successful retail brand in the cosmetics space.