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SUGAR Cosmetics: Leading a “matte” revolution for Indian skin tones

By Siddhart Agarwal
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Founder of Sugar Cosmetics Vineeta Singh

Back in 2014, the Indian beauty sector had its limitations, dominated by multinationals, very few of whom had a range suitable for the Indian complexion. That is why customers either preferred to supply other countries with makeup and beauty products or ended up with incorrect shades that would not combine with Indian skin tones. This is the point of pain that SUGAR wanted to address. The start-up aimed to provide a more compatible and affordable option for Indian beauty connoisseurs with its premium beauty products.

And the brand is steering in the right direction if the numbers are an indication. In mid-2015, SUGAR Cosmetics entered the Indian market 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, with its cult-favourite range of Matte Liquid Lipsticks and equally popular Matte Eyeliners, the brand led the industry movement towards 'mattes'.

Highlight - Sugar Cosmetics

Beginning of SUGAR era

SUGAR has developed a Rs 100 Crore business in a short span of seven years. IIM Ahmedabad alumni Vineeta Singh and Kaushik Mukherjee discovered the beauty brand SUGAR in 2012, at a time when big players such as Lakmé, L'Oréal, and MAC Cosmetics dominated the market. On their website and other online sites like Nykaa and Amazon, SUGAR products can be found.

The co-founders, Singh and Mukherjee, are both alumni of Ahmedabad, the renowned Indian Management School. With a clear commitment to building cruelty-free products, our obsession with crafting the perfect match for every Indian skin tone throughout the seasons and around the calendar and providing exactly what the customer wants was the recipe to find such a strong acceptance in the brand. They imagined building the makeup of choice for bold, independent women who refuse to be stereotyped into roles.

Founder - Vineeta Singh

SUGAR Cosmetics: 7 Years, 100 Crore Business 

Right from its start, SUGAR has been known as a challenger brand and has found a sweet spot between cheap drugstore labels and foreign high-end brands. By offering high-quality products with outstanding ingredients, highly pigmented colours, inclusive shades, and luxurious packaging at competitive price points, it opened up a new market. The company used a triangular illustration style to appeal to younger women with the quirkiness in its packaging. SUGAR Cosmetics was born out of a desire to bridge the gap between colour cosmetics offering world-class quality and makeup pigments that suit Indian skin tones.

The social media and online presence of the company soared, and followers rose from 350,000 to 750,000. The startup has over 100,000 downloads of apps and has recorded over 2.5 million sales in one day, in pre-COVID times, on the app.

SUGAR Cosmetics: compatible option to Indian beauty connoisseurs

The success mantra of the company is based on value delivery and investment in business areas that enable them to deliver value. It is a line of cosmetics singularly focused on the specifics of the Indian skin tone. No wonder then that the brand is leading a "matte" revolution in the sector, which has products designed to be high on style and performance. SUGAR Cosmetics has emerged as one of the most successful and important colour cosmetics brands in India, with steady sales growth accelerating by 700 per cent and more than 770 retail touchpoints spread across 92 cities. The company's retail expansion alone represents a large measure of its growth rate. For SUGAR, the initial store count was 87 stores. By February 2019, the number had reached 400+. 

Logo - Sugar Cosmetics

For example, international brands, as their global brand ambassadors, have glamorous celebrities. But by roping in ambassadors, Sugar doesn't believe in promoting the idea of 'ideal beauty.' Alternatively, the company works on campaigns that incorporate the inputs shared by end-users. This is not only a marketing strategy for economics but also an ethical and authentic one.

Funding and Revenue

After raising rs. 70 crore from A91 partners in January 2019, the company opened its first brand outlet in North India in September 2019. Although 45% of revenue is generated online, another 45% comes from retail outlets and the remaining 10% from the global market. As of January 2020, the Mumbai-based startup was making monthly sales of Rs 5 crore to Rs 10 crore and this year was targeting a revenue of Rs 200 crore. SUGAR Cosmetics began its online journey. Given our online and offline reach and our variety of goods, it was no big deal to achieve the Rs 100 crore revenue.

SUGAR Cosmetics has made rapid strides on the retail front in recent years, achieving 700 per cent sales expansion, being present in 92 cities, captivating the international market with an in-store presence in Russia. SUGAR currently meets more than 10 million beauty fans in the world and has created more than 500 jobs in the industry to date, a figure that is projected to double

Setting a benchmark in the world of beauty

SUGAR, with a team of 100-115 staff, has achieved tremendous progress. Yet there's no stoppage for the young fighter. 

The Mumbai-based makeup brand has gained wide recognition among millennials because of the minds behind the business. SUGAR is searching for 200 + more outlets to open, taking the number to 1000. Opening networks in other countries are also on their list. The beauty firm has also plunged its foot into the skincare business with its sheet masks in August 2019.

The area of beauty has expanded, and how! Elitism and exclusivity are no longer fashionable and inclusiveness has been the hottest selling point because millennials value authenticity. For that very cause, the future looks promising for SUGAR Cosmetics, betting on inclusivity, variety, and sustainability.