[The Turning Point] A ‘business call’ led this trio to start beauty e-tailer Purplle a decade ago

The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focus on the moment when an entrepreneur hits upon their winning idea. Today, we look at Mumbai-based online beauty e-tailer Purplle.
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Nykaa’s bumper IPO has put the focus strongly on the online beauty segment, and one of the early startups to seize this opportunity is Purplle, which recently closed a $140 million Series D funding round, adding PremjiInvest to Cap Table.  

Purplle was launched in 2011 as an online platform for cosmetics and beauty products, a virgin vertical in ecommerce at the time, and a “pure business call” as the three founders had explored other segments before zeroing down on beauty owing to the high margins and growth prospects. 

For Manish Taneja, Founder and CEO, Purplle was his second attempt at entrepreneurship. The first one, which he started when he was 24 years old, had fizzled out in less than two years. Having worked at Avendus Capital earlier, he returned to the other side of the ecosystem and joined Fidelity Partners.

At 27, Manish, an alumnus of IIT Delhi, started up again with Rahul Dash (from IIT Kharagpur, IIM Ahmedabad; then working with Tata Group), and Suyash Katyayani (IIT Kharagpur), now Purplle CTO.

It was purely a business call to enter the beauty segment, Manish said earlier to YourStory

Manish Taneja, Founder and CEO, Purplle

The trio flitted between furniture and fashion, before settling on beauty. Furniture needed a very high initial investment, and Myntra and Jabong, which had an early start in fashion, were rocking the party. 

Manish said at that time cosmetics was “the highest repeat category”, thanks to women with increasing disposable income and exposure to trends. The category also gave the best margins – about 90 percent in luxury brands and 75-80 percent in the budget category, Manish said earlier.  

The growth

Manish says there was no Sephora in India in 2011. “There were hardly 100 beauty stores, even in Mumbai, and about 10 big beauty centres where salons did B2B transactions.” 

Starting with Rs 40 lakh from their savings, Purplle saw just Rs 45,000 in sales in the first month – that too from family and friends. But four months later, Purplle started gaining momentum, with a monthly scale of 30 percent. 

It had added salon and spa services booking as well, but these were rolled back eventually as the founders decided to focus on the beauty products category.

In the last 10 years, Purplle has built a community-led platform backed by a great quality and affordable beauty products. It has grown its Gross Merchandising Value (GMV) by 6X in the last three years and is currently at Rs 1,200 crore run rate.  The online beauty startup plans to deliver 6-8X growth in the next five years.

Purplle now claims to have seven million monthly active users. In the last year, the company has grown its brands to 1,000+ with over 50,000 products across categories like makeup, skincare, haircare, personal care, fragrances, and grooming appliances. 

With a strong focus on new customer acquisition, the company grew its marketing investments by 2X to build brand Purplle. While doubling new customer acquisition, Purplle has very strong retention with 65-70 percent of revenue coming from returning users. Elite, Purplle’s loyalty programme, contributes to 25 percent of the platform’s revenue.

At the time of the latest funding, Manish said the company plans to rapidly scale its private brands business and continue to build differentiated beauty brands with entrepreneurs. 

Technology has been a significant growth driver and Purplle will continue to invest aggressively in advancements. “This, through building customised beauty profiles, virtual try-ons and recommendations through virtual beauty advisors, enabling personalisation of the online beauty journey,” a company statement said.

The company investors include Kedaara, Premji Invest, Sequoia Capital India, Goldman Sachs, Verlinvest, Blume Ventures, and JSW Ventures.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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