Millennial’s beauty startup Social Bella raised over $225 million

How Indonesia's fake problem spurred a multi-million dollar beauty business

When the Covid pandemic was raging in 2020, much of the world was in lockdown and more turned to online shopping.

But Chrisanti Indiana did the unexpected: she expanded her e-commerce business – offline.

Her beauty and personal care e-commerce startup, Sociolla, had only two brick-and-mortar stores in Indonesia in 2019. By the end of 2021, the number has grown “10 times” more, she said.

“A lot of people actually told us that it’s a very bold move to actually open an offline presence, while everyone else was closing their offline stores. [during the pandemic]”, she added.

But it was a “well-calculated” move for Social Bella, which operates Sociolla.

We know that this is the time for us to prepare… to make sure that after the pandemic, we can serve more and more consumers.

Christianity Indiana

Co-founder and CMO, Sociolla

“We know that this is the time for us to prepare … to make sure that after the pandemic, we can serve more and more consumers,” she added.

Looking far ahead was the right move for the 31-year-old. Her online and offline approach turned her e-commerce startup into a multi-million dollar beauty conglomerate.

As of 2018, it has raised around $225 million, attracting an impressive list of investors that include East Ventures, Jungle Ventures, Temasek and Pavilion Capital.

Indiana, the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Social Bella, tells CNBC Make It how she took her Jakarta-based startup to the next level.

Tackling counterfeits

The idea for Sociolla came in 2015, when Indiana returned home to Jakarta, after studying in Australia.

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The makeup junkie realized that in Australia, she had easy access to a wide range of beauty products from international brands. This was a stark contrast to Indonesia.

“There were a lot of options for me, but then I came back and there was basically none,” Indiana said.

“There wasn’t a platform that had it all – I had to find specific sellers on social media, ask friends who can help buy the product for you [when they are] Abroad.”

What was worse for her was the online proliferation of fake makeup products that were sometimes selling at “a fraction” of the original price.

I still remember vividly in my mind that there are many like sellers online, especially on social media, who claim that their products are 99% authentic. What does that mean, 99% authentic?

Christianity Indiana

Co-founder and CMO, Sociolla

“I still remember vividly in my mind that there are many like sellers online, especially on social media, who claim that their products are 99% authentic. What does that mean, 99% authentic?”

Indeed, locally made counterfeits in Indonesia are rife, thanks to cheap labor costs and materials. According to a local report, Indonesian authorities seized illegal cosmetic products worth 9 million dollars in 2018 – twice the amount of the previous year.

Seeing friends buying the products, Indiana was perplexed.

“It’s skin care, it’s makeup. It’s something you put on your skin. It’s just weird to me,” she said.

Determined to build a place where consumers can get products that are safe and authentic, Indiana together with her brother and friend to launch Social Bella, with a starting capital of $ 13,000.

“Since we started, we ensure that we only work with authorized distributors or brand owners,” said Indiana.

build an ‘ecosystem’

Sociolla may have started as an e-commerce platform, but the trio had bigger dreams.

Social Bella has since gone beyond offline shops – it is also a distributor for beauty and personal care manufacturers worldwide.

“We become a collaborative partner for a lot of global brands in Indonesia. We help them not only to distribute their products to Indonesia, but we also help them understand the market,” said Indiana.

On top of that, the business also operates Soko, which Social Bella says is Indonesia’s largest online review service for beauty products. Soco has amassed more than 2.5 million reviews for around 36,000 products, The company added.

Social Bella was founded in 2015 by Chrisanti Indiana, her brother and president Christopher Madiam (left) and CEO John Rashid (right).

Social Bella

The “beauty journey” for customers goes beyond putting something in their shopping carts and checking out, Indiana said.

“We realized that there are a lot of touch points that are really important… Finding the right products for yourself is not just about going to the store and picking it up. You’re going to make sure you read the reviews, talk to Your friends, or Google first,” she added.

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“Soko makes sure they can access tons of product reviews before they buy products.”

On top of that, Social Bella also runs Beauty Journal – a lifestyle website, and Lilla, Ann Online retailer for mothers and babies.

It’s all part of building the business “ecosystem,” as Indiana calls it.

We want to make sure that we are scaling and reaching more and more consumers. If Social Bella becomes a unicorn, that’s a bonus.

“We want to … to serve more and more women, not only in beauty and personal care, but also in other industries.”

The startup seems to be on the right track – it now boasts more than 30 million users across all its business units, said Social Bella, selling an inventory of 12,000 products from 400 brands worldwide.

Indonesia’s next unicorn?

In the past two years, Social Bella expanded aggressively, growing from just three Sociolla stores in Indonesia in 2020, to 47 stores there and 16 stores in Vietnam today.

While much of the expansion took place during the pandemic, Indiana said it was always part of the plan for the e-commerce platform, lockdowns or not.

“It’s actually about creating a seamless omnichannel experience… because we believe we serve the same customer whether she shops offline or online,” the Forbes’ 30 under 30 Asia honoree.

“They can choose to do click-and-pick or … she can also have the purchases delivered to her home. It makes sure she can shop the way she likes.”

Social Bella aims to serve more female customers.

Social Bella

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