While the on-demand beauty space has started making headlines this year, and a host of startups are raising venture capital and scaling quickly, Belita was the first startup to evangelise it. It was the first professional company for any home service segment, besides pest control.
Belita is a Spanish word, meaning ‘little beauty’. The company was founded in late 2010 by Garima Jain because of a personal pain point. The brainchild of husband-wife duo Akshay Jain and Garima, Belita does 1,300 services on a monthly basis. Akshay is an alumnus of IIT and Garmia did her masters from ISB, Hyderabad.
The company was started when the organised home service was not prevalent. Akshay says,
It was then difficult to convince customers to allow third-party beauticians to come home, whereas now customers are fine even to allow third party carpenters and cleaners at home. Customer acceptance has become much better now.
The company went through several phases, including high growth post its first fund raise to a deliberate consolidation, where the idea was to test Belita’s operations and see if this model can become cost-effective. Garima points out,
For more than a year (during 2013-14), we successfully operated Belita as a profitable model doing 800-900 services every month with almost zero marketing spend.
Belita has more than 50 beauticians on its platform and the base is growing. Garima started Belita with the hope to empower women both as consumers and suppliers. With the ready availability of beauticians and the increase in the population of working women, the supply was not a challenge.
The real challenge was to train and uplift them to deliver a much better experience in home beauty service.
(Face of the customer is omitted owing to privacy)
Unlike newly sprung up startups, Belita claims to have a full-stack service provider delivering seamless experience to the customers. She adds,
We learned and evolved from multiple experiments and feedback from thousands of customers. Well-defined procedures for onboarding, training, strict quality control enable Belita to deliver a standard experience to the customer at affordable price.
This confidence and track record helped Belita getting the current fundraising round. The company recently snapped up Rs 2.5 crore angel round from a group of angel investors through LetsVenture and Lead Angels Network. The round was led by India Quotient and Supreet Singh, CEO - Altor Executive Search, with few other investors.
The funding would be mainly utilised in strengthening the operations, building team, stronger tech and expansion to different cities. Prior to this round, the company had secured seed funding from India Quotient in 2012.
Beauty service at home is very different from other services at home as it is much more personal. A customer can, to some extent, experiment in getting a door repaired by third party, but she needs great confidence in getting beauty service done on herself. While product plays a great role, it doesn't end there. Garima says,
The level of standardisation Belita provides is the biggest reason of our high repeat ratio. When a customer calls Belita, she doesn't need to worry about the service provider, as she knows about our stellar consumer experience.
The biggest challenge in the home beauty segment is retaining the supply base. The beauty industry has a very high attrition rate due to various reasons. Garima has worked with several beauticians in depth, understanding their challenges, aspirations.
Most important reason for attrition was the change in social lifestyle of a beautician at certain age. We have had an extensive learning from our team about their lifestyle and challenges, and have created an environment around that.
The beauty industry in India is currently close to Rs 500 billion (according to some credible rough estimate) with services alone contributing Rs 200 billion, and is growing at a rate of 18 per cent CAGR. With the increase in woman working population and the increasing segment of women switching from home-based beauty remedies to professional care, the perception of beauty is changing. It is no more a luxury but a necessity.
Over the past year, on-demand services have become a rage in India and beauty space has witnessed the debut of a slew of startups like Vyomo, Stayglad, GetLook, Bulbul and VanityCube among several others. Interestingly, most of the startups had also raised investment this year. YouWeCan-backed Vyomo recently raised little less than USD 2 million last week while VanityCube secured about USD 3,50,000 from unnamed angels.
With continuously rising consumer expectations on hygiene and professionalism and the increasing spending power of the consumer, the beauty service market size is set for a high growth trajectory.
The on-demand beauty space is a big opportunity and besides above players, we anticipate debut of more startups. Belita undoubtedly has an early-mover advantage; however, it seems like a level-playing field for everyone. Going forward, it would be exciting to watch how this segment shapes up and evolves in overall hyperlocal space.