Netizens often say that skincare is the ultimate form of selfcare. And social media today is dominated by such ‘selfcare’ products — bubble baths, face sheets, masks and creams — promising the best way to unwind after a long day. The sheer number of products and brands sprawled over the ecommerce landscape and beyond can eve be a bit overwhelming.
But what influences the booming $28.9 Bn Indian cosmetics industry? A report by FMCG giant Hindustan Unilever suggests that today’s consumers are looking beyond brand names, seeking “meaning over material’ as young buyers demand more transparency and authenticity from brands. And this is exactly what Vipul Gupta thought before he bootstrapped his own venture in 2018.
As a teenager Gupta struggled with hair loss. From prescription drugs, OTC products, to a hair transplant, he tried everything but to no avail. “I noticed how brands would leverage the users’ desperation for visible results to market their products,” said Gupta whose pavlovian response was to build a brand that was “deeply rooted in formulations, in understanding the customers, and in helping them win”.
So began the journey of Re’equil!
“Skincare and haircare need commitment, not miracles. At Re’equil, we are consumers first and we understand the hope, time and money our customers invest in us,” added Gupta.
Challenging The Industry Trends
“We use clinically proven ingredients that have scientific data backing them for their claims. Also, now about 1/3rd of our portfolio contains in vivo clinically proven formulations,” explained Gupta.
When Re’equil began in 2018, the Indian cosmetics industry was already flooded with a fleet of homegrown beauty brands. Brands such as MamaEarth, SoulTree and KamaAyurveda largely fulfilled the demand for natural skincare with the benefits of organic, herbal and ayurvedic ingredients.
However, the boom in ecommerce and the consumer’s ever-evolving buying behaviour, gave Gupta a lucrative opportunity to bring a new value proposition — cosmeceutical skin and hair care solutions
The cosmeceutical industry has witnessed tremendous growth in recent years, owing to its unique standing between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Cosmeceutical products are made from carefully selected biologically active ingredients promising to have drug-like or medical benefits.
To achieve this, Re’equil built its own team of in-house researchers, scientists and chemists, and consulted a team of experts, Gupta told Inc42. Further he explained that the brand’s products are made from science-backed formulations that seek to show results with honesty and transparency.
“People would call us a medicated brand and that is exactly how we wanted to position ourselves,” said Gupta.
In fact, that is how the startup started gaining traction, he added. In recent years, the demand for skincare has only increased, especially during the pandemic. And Gupta is confident that science-backed formulations are the next in-thing for the cosmetics industry.
“The fact that more and more brands are entering this space is a testimony of the growing consumer acceptance of science-based products. It shows the depth of the market and it’s a healthy, healthy sign,” said Gupta.
The Journey Of A Re’equil Product
Many steps go into making a Re’equil product. For starters, Gupta said that they first identify the consumers’ problems and what solutions they can offer. Next, the formulations are devised by the R&D team, which then go to labs for multiple testing purposes.
The startup closely works with clinical research centres, such as Mumbai-based clinical research centre Mascot Spincontrol, where the formulations go for testing. Dermatologists at the labs patch-test the formulations on subjects — products are tested against skin allergies, reactions, redness, irritation etc.
Once the product gets a green light from the labs, it is ready to be manufactured. As a bootstrapped startup with a lean organisational structure, Re’equil does not manufacture the products itself, rather outsources it. “All our products are manufactured at a WHO-GMP certified manufacturing facility in Himachal Pradesh,” Gupta told Inc42.
To keep up with the competitive cosmetics market, Re’equil follows an omnichannel sales strategy with its products available in more than 19K pincodes. Its own website is responsible for 30% of sales. However, leading ecommerce marketplaces have been crucial. Nykaa and Amazon account for 30% sales each, while the remaining 10% come from Flipkart, Myntra, Purplle among others. In addition to this, the brand is also available in Nykka’s offline stores in eight cities across the country.
Its acne and hyperpigmentation categories are the most preferred from the range of solutions and products, constituting 60% of the brand’s total sales.
Today, the startup engages with more than 5 Lakh customers, is now at an annual revenue rate (ARR) of INR 65 Cr, and clocked 140% YoY growth in FY’21, Gupta added.
Boosting Customer Experience Through A Logistics Enabler
Since its inception, Re’equil has worked with 3PL player Shiprocket to facilitate its shipping needs. Like many D2C brands it recognised the importance of logistics in business operation and growth. According to Gupta, the ecommerce enabler has been especially helpful in not only managing logistics, but also pumping sales through a smooth post-purchase experience
“Logistics can make or break any D2C ecommerce brand. The cost, the delivery time, shipment tracking, merchant support all make a huge difference and Shiprocket excels in all these areas,” Gupta explained.
However, building and maintaining smooth customer experience (CX) requires brands to go over and beyond. Identifying this need, Re’equil partnered with Shiprocket’s Fulfilment centres to get closer to its customers in April 2021. These Fulfillments centres, available across major cities, offer warehouse facilities to brands — to store its inventory and in turn cut down the overall shipping cost and transit time.
For Re’equil, the model has been very rewarding. The solutions from the logistics giant have also helped Re’equil improve post shopping experience, along with customer retention and RTO rates.
Commenting on the same, Gupta added, “We are now stocking in all the four corners of the country. The lead time to deliver orders has drastically reduced and we are able to make same-day deliveries in major metropolitans like Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi. That really raised the post purchase experience.”
Big Plans Lay Ahead
Describing Re’equil’s core principles, Gupta said, “offering effective and honest solutions that solve our customers’ skin and hair problems is the most important strategy that we focus on.”
The startup is also optimistic about its growth and is eyeing to spread its sales channels. “In future, we would like to have an offline distribution channel as well.” Gupta told Inc42 that the brand is already working on some exciting new formulations in suncare and moisturisers.
The cosmetics industry is ever-evolving. Changing lifestyle and consumer attitudes towards constructs like beauty demand brands to keep reinventing themselves. While natural products remain the prevalent choice of consumers today, startups like Re’equil too have found competition-worthy footing in the industry, projected to grow at a CAGR of 4.23% — between 2020 – 2025. Ultimately, it depends on the consumer’s choices, and the options they have are aplenty.