Why a marketing executive and a finance professional started a D2C clean makeup brand

Gurugram and Paris based Belora Cosmetics is a D2C makeup brand that focuses on clean, cruelty-free, vegan products. Founded in 2019, it saw good traction amid the pandemic and is poised to grow further as demand surges.
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Ainara Kaur and Akaljyot Kaur had one thing in common: they were introduced to a clean, healthy lifestyle five years ago.

Ainara learnt about clean and natural makeup during a backpacking trip across Europe; Akaljyot, on the other hand, came to know about this possible switch due to thyroid and skin issues. 

The duo, always keen to start a product company, looked at the available options and launched clean beauty brand Belora Cosmetics in 2019 in Gurugram and Paris. 

“We were clear about two things: the company had to be in a consumer category and we wanted to solve a problem with the health lens. The more we researched beauty, we found a white space for a makeup brand that can offer high performance yet have clean/non-toxic formulations,” Ainara says.

Creating the products 

As makeup consumers, the founders love high impact makeup but used it very restrictively due to the presence of toxins. 

“In fact, the world over, toxins are liberally used in makeup. That’s the problem we have decided to solve by launching Belora, which is high quality makeup that marries good skincare formulations to deliver high colour payoff and long staying power,” Ainara says. 

Ainara had earlier founded Canavalicious, a creative tech agency, and has been a senior marketing executive for the likes of Myntra. On the other hand, Akaljyot held key roles at the likes of American Express and MetLife. Today, Akaljot is a certified fitness instructor apart from being a champion for safe cosmetics. 

Ainara explains that their product ethos is based on EU guidelines, adding that they don’t use close to 1,500 ingredients that are deemed not safe for usage. 

“We follow the same and have a list of another 500 ingredients that we promise to never use – we term this the BS or Bad Stuff list. In fact, we are the first makeup brand across Europe and Asia to receive MADE SAFE™ certification, which literally means our products are made with safe ingredients that are disclosed honestly,” Ainara says.  

R&D for non-toxic formulations

Belora Cosmetics offers lipsticks, eye makeup, and face makeup. Ainara says it took the team of close to 10 peopel over one and half years to develop and launch the products, as they wanted a combination of high performance and non-toxic formulations in mass premium category, which weren't easily available. 

“Therefore, we invested in R&D and continue to do so. We utilised this time to also deeply understand what the consumer wants and the needs not being met currently. The combination of deeply understanding the consumer need and a strong R&D base has empowered us to quickly launch across all sub-categories at speed,” she says.

The products are currently manufactured and sourced from different parts of Europe. The team has tied up with third-party manufacturers and distributors. They are priced from Rs 299 to Rs 1,599, and the average order value is between Rs 500 and Rs 800. The cosmetics are available on their website, and on other ecommerce platforms. 

“We are already getting repeat purchases. We are getting feedback that women love our Leave No Evidence liquid lipsticks and Natural Face collection. This has been possible as we have removed all harmful chemicals, and added natural oils and vitamins. This reinforces our belief that it might be difficult to crack formulations that are high impact and yet non-toxic, but it is absolutely worth it,” Ainara says.

The pandemic, which initially caused issues in the transport and supply chain, has led to an increase in the user base. The founders say the number of people looking to purchase cruelty-free products is increasing. 

The market and the future 

According to Research and Markets, the global vegan cosmetics market size is projected to reach $20.8 billion by 2025, progressing at a CAGR of 6.3 percent during the forecast period. There are several startups looking closely at the cruelty free segment, including Disguise, Ruby Cosmetics, and My Glamm. 

The Harvard Business Review says the segment for women’s products is fast growing, adding that globally women control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, and that figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years.

"What sets us apart is our deep focus on both parameters that impact consideration of makeup purchase: high performance and clean/good-for-your skin ingredients. The idea is that the products should look good on your face and work on improving your skin,” Ainara says. 

In the future, Ainara says Belora Cosmetics plans to launch more products and expand to new markets “though we have started from India, which will always continue to be a key focus. We feel there is a deep need for healthier and good-for-you products and this interest has only been fuelled by the pandemic”. 

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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