From 2014 to 2019 the Indian homegrown cosmetics brand SUGAR came a long way. In an exclusive conversation with Vineeta Singh, CEO, SUGAR Cosmetics, she talks about the brand's journey, vision, marketing strategy and many more.
How did SUGAR Cosmetics come to being and the idea behind the brand?
The Indian Beauty Industry back in 2014 had its own constraints - being dominated by the multinationals, very few of whom actually had a range suited for the Indian complexion. This is why the audience either preferred to source makeup and beauty products from other countries or ended up with incorrect shades that wouldn’t pair with Indian skin tones. At that time, I was clear that I wanted to enable women to explore, crack the code and relish the matchless beauty products that are exclusively recommended for them by beauty connoisseurs. SUGAR Cosmetics entered the India market in mid-2015 with premium beauty products that were designed to be high on style and higher on performance. With striking shades that perfectly suited every Indian skin tone, the brand led the industry movement towards “mattes” with its cult-favourite range of Matte Liquid Lipsticks and equally popular Matte Eyeliners.
The hurdles faced initially and how did the brand overcome the same
Hurdles are definitely a part and parcel of any new business and ours were no different. My challenges are similar to what every other brand faces in this industry – whether it’s our e-commerce business or Retail – managing the credit cycle is key to keeping the working capital cycle to a bare minimum to ensure efficient capital use and rotation. We have set up a separate unit that not only monitors this on a daily basis but proactively intervenes to help our general trade partners manage their finances more efficiently.
What did the brand offer when they entered the market vs. their current offerings?
The brand began with the introduction of a range of matte crayon lipsticks and matte liquid eyeliner and slowly moved to expanding the product range by adding more high pigment, long-lasting and matte finish lipsticks and kajal in the first year of inception. SUGAR Cosmetics was born from a desire to bridge the gap between providing world-class quality of colour cosmetics and makeup pigments that suit Indian skin tones. It was not just about selling colour cosmetics but building a distinct individuality for the brand. We imagined building the makeup of choice for bold, independent women who refuse to be stereotyped into roles.
With a clear commitment towards building cruelty-free products, our obsession of crafting the perfect match for every Indian skin tone across seasons and around the calendar and providing exactly what the customer wants (trendy, richly pigmented, high colour payoff and long-lasting products) has been the recipe for finding such a strong acceptance in the market in such a short while. Keeping this bit constant from the initial stages to now, the SUGAR’s range of products now includes basic and advanced level makeup products for face, eyes and lips, an exciting skincare range, a range of ultra-luxe lipsticks, in different textures, variants and finishes. Some of our upcoming launches to look out for are Lip Glosses, Crème Crayon Lipsticks and Jelly Highlighters.
Vision for 2020 - Strategy behind foraying into skincare and what’s in store for 2020
We are already in track to cross 110-115CR revenue by financial year-end 2019-20 and will be only looking at scaling bigger from there. On the retail front the brand visions to reach100+ Exclusive Brand Outlets across the country. Apart from India, SUGAR has already ventured in foreign lands with their retail presence in Russia and online presence in the US, and will further expand their retail presence globally. On the product front we will continue to aggressively develop new, innovative and in-trend products catering to consumer needs.
The increase in knowledge among consumers about skincare and skin prep up before applying their makeup, the skin care category has become the perfect avenue for the brand SUGAR to extend too. With the “sheet mask selfie” trend gaining traction, our research showed that sheet masks would be a great start and the kind of response that we have seen to even our initial PR kits before the launch pretty much validated our plan! All of us at Team SUGAR are overjoyed with the positive response we have been getting around this launch by consumers, beauty bloggers, and media and the beauty fraternity and hope to continue delighting with many such new launches in the future. We forayed into skincare with our sheet masks and have soon expanded our skincare range through innovative and different formulations and products that have still not hit the Indian market like our revolutionary Aquaholic Range, 3-minute Pore Cleansing Mask and Peel Off Mask and Bling Leader Illuminating Moisturizer as well.
Marketing Strategy for FY 2020
Keeping up with the Omni-channel approach – 2020 marketing strategies will see OOH, and other innovative forms of advertising in traditional media. Also, many more collaborations with like-minded celebrities/ brands/entities like ours is something you can look out for from SUGAR. Digital advertising, social media marketing and influencer marketing will be an ongoing activity for the brand. Relating to BTL activities, SUGAR plans to go bigger and better in their events presence and develop their own IPs. Retail Marketing and Visual Merchandising, along with building quirky and exciting merchandise is also a part of the plan.
Impact of global trends behind SUGAR products
Indian consumers have always tracked international makeup trends and products, and tried to adopt them in their daily makeup routines. However, consumers have faced the struggle to find their right shade from international makeup brands. Understanding the want of the consumers to find their correct shade to help them ace that international makeup trend they have been eyeing, SUGAR Cosmetics has continuously launched new products that would cater to these needs. Some of the most popular products that have been launched keeping this in mind are:
- Eyebrow definer in shades that correctly suit Indian akin and hair. This is a first-of-its-kind brow definer with a unique triangular-edge tip that has an attached spoolie at the other end for easy shaping and filling of brows on-the-go.
- A cleverly-designed foundation stick with an attached premium brush that is a viral hit amongst customers due to how easy blending with it while on the move. Also providing this top-selling face product in 22 different shades to suit all Indian skin tones and undertones. This is a testimony to how inclusive SUGAR is and believes the entire industry should be.
- The longest-lasting lip colour range in the country that sports high-payoff matte pigments in over 52 shades.
- A range of lipstick minis that were sold in exclusive limited-edition sets.
- - The distinct shift in preference for matte eyeliners, where the market only had glossy products on offer - This is why SUGAR’s Eye Warned You So! Double Matte Eyeliner was a success in the market and cut through the clutter of products that were already present
SUGAR has 1000+ retail touchpoints which have been built over the last 2 years coverage more than 100 cities in the country. These include exclusive brand stores, self-operated kiosks, general trade stores and shops-in-shop in channel partners like Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop, Health & Glow, Project Eve and more.