This US-returned couple’s men’s grooming startup is creating a Pink Woolf pack
Subodh Sharma, 49, returned to India in 2015 with his wife, Stuti Sharma, 41, after 22 years in ITES leadership positions in the UK and the US. He soon realised that the men’s grooming sector had grown significantly.
“However, the gap in quality shaving products still existed and there wasn’t anything that gave high quality moisturisation. At a get-together with friends, we were talking and they said we should do something about it,” Subodh says.
The founders add that from day one, the idea was to 'Make in India', formulate products with natural ingredients and international standards, and have a traditional flavour in a modern avatar.
In 2018, the couple launched Pink Woolf, a men’s grooming brand that offers barber-grade shaving and skincare products. Currently selling online, the products are formulated for different skin types, water, and climate conditions.
Why Pink Woolf? The founders says the pink represents rebellion, and busts the myth that men and pink don’t go together. The Woolf stands for the wolf, the animal that lives in packs that function like the human joint family.
The Greater Noida-based grooming startup aims to “bring back the gentleman” with its products that promote the time-tested wet shaving regimen.
The products and challenges
The founders began by researching and gradually tested products with real customers in different cities to check their effectiveness on different skin types, water, and climate.
“The feedback was overwhelming and proved that our hypotheses was correct,” Subodh says. Soon, the duo began working on more products.
The Pink Woolf range now offers pre-shave oil, lather, brushes, razors, aftershaves, and skin care options.
“We launched our best-selling Oudh and Sandalwood shaving soap refill (without the jar). Our aftershaves are differentiated by skin type, like non-alcoholic balm for normal skin, gel for oily skin, and lotion for dry skin,” Subodh says.
The shaving brushes on offer vary in knot size, enabling people to create the best shaving lather.
“We offer close and open comb safety razors in various handles; this allows people a lot of choice in customising their personal care products. We now also offer shaving brush and razor stands.”
One of the biggest challenges was getting the quality right, and the founders worked on different formulations for that. The next challenge was the quantities; no one wanted to work with small quantities.
So Subodh and Stuti went back to the drawing board and reworked their packaging requirements. They decided on standard boxes that would work for several products.
The market research also helped them discover a set of partners and players they could team up and work with.
To make the product more user-friendly and educate the average consumer, Pink Woolf launched a seven-step MANCare solution for 24 hours to ensure a complete grooming and skincare experience.
“Our products in tandem help maintain and improve a gentleman’s skin by focusing on pre-protect, protect, and recovery,” Subodh says.
Pink Woolf has also started a fragrance line. It began with earthy tones like Oudh and Sandalwood and has now introduced fresh notes like Oceanic Blue and Seabuckthorn.
The idea is to introduce unique fragrances that complement the highly differentiated products and make the shaving experience more enjoyable.
Pricing and the market
The products are sold on the startup’s website and online aggregators. The average order size is Rs 500, and the team claims to have seen a 40 percent growth per month.
The men’s grooming market is fast growing. A 2019 Assocham report states that India's male grooming industry is set to grow at an annual growth rate of about 45 percent.
A Nielsen report data revealed that sales of men’s face creams have more than doubled, while the use of face-cleansing products among men in India jumped a massive 60 times between 2009 and 2016.
Apart from established FMCG players like P&G and HUL, several startups such as the Bombay Shaving Company, The Man Company, and LetsShave are operating in the space. Unilever acquired US-based startup Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion while Marico took over men’s grooming startup Beardo.
Differentiator and future plans
Subodh believes that their differentiator will help them create a “Woolf pack”.
“We are the only one to have faced a problem with the available shaving products, experimented on self, and then found a solution,” he says.
He adds that he realised that he needed to share his experience with everyone and make the journey “much more believable”.
“We are obsessed with quality and testing with real customers across India to ensure customer acceptance and regular feedback. We educate people with blogs and videos on FB, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn, creating a loyal brand following.”
The products will be available at selected brand outlets and lifestyle stores by Q1 2020. The team is currently in the middle of a fund-raise.
“We successfully completed several customisation requests from institutions in various industries with changes to our products. These steps have helped win the customer as there is a personalisation and uniqueness angle,” Subodh says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)