When the covid pandemic was raging in 2020, most of the world was in quarantine and more people turned to online shopping.
But Indiana’s Crisanti did something unexpected: It expanded its 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, that number will increase “10-fold,” he said.
“A lot of people actually told us that it’s a very bold move to open an offline presence when everyone is closing their offline stores. [during the pandemic]” he added.
But it was a “well calculated” move for Social Bella, who runs Sociolla.
We know now is the time to really prepare … to make sure we can serve more and more consumers post-pandemic.
Co-founder and CEO, Sociolla
“We know now is the time for us to really prepare … to make sure that after the pandemic, we can serve more and more consumers,” he added.
Looking to the future 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 company.
As of 2018, it has raised around $225 million and has secured an impressive list of investors including East Ventures, Jungle Ventures, Temasek and Pavilion Capital.
Indiana, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Social Bella, tells CNBC Make It how she took the Jakarta-based startup to the next level.
Dealing with counterfeits
The idea for Sociolla was born in 2015, when Indiana returned home to Jakarta after studying in Australia.
The make-up addict found that in Australia, she had easy access to a wide range of beauty products from international brands. This was in stark contrast to Indonesia.
“There were a lot of options for me, but then I came back and basically there were none,” Indiana said.
“There was no platform that had everything – I had to find specific sellers on social media, ask friends who could help buy the product for you. [when they are] Abroad.”
What made matters worse for her was the proliferation of counterfeit cosmetics online, sometimes sold at a “fraction” of the original price.
I still remember vividly in my mind that there are many similar sellers online, especially on social media, who claim that their products are 99% authentic. What does that mean, 99% valid?
Co-founder and CEO, Sociolla
“I still remember vividly in my mind that there are many similar sellers online, especially on social media, who claim that their products are 99% authentic. What does that mean, 99% authentic?”
In fact, locally made fakes in Indonesia are plentiful thanks to cheap labor and materials. According to a local report, Indonesian authorities seized $9 million worth of illegal cosmetics in 2018 – double the amount from the previous year.
Indiana was amazed to see friends buying these products.
“It’s skin care, it’s makeup. It’s what you put on your skin. It’s weird to me,” she said.
Determined to create a space where customers can receive safe and authentic products, Indiana teamed up with his brother and friend to start Social Bella with a seed capital of $13,000.
“Since we started, we’ve made sure to only work with authorized distributors or brand owners,” Indiana said.
Building an “ecosystem”
Sociolla may have started as an e-commerce platform, but the trio had bigger dreams.
Social Bella has since gone beyond offline stores – it’s also a distributor for beauty and personal care manufacturers around the world.
“We are partners of many global brands in Indonesia. We help them not only distribute their products in Indonesia, but also help them understand the market,” Indiana said.
In addition, the business also operates Soco, which Social Bella says is Indonesia’s largest online beauty product review service. Soco has collected more than 2.5 million reviews for about 36,000 products. The company added.
According to Indiana, the “beauty journey” for customers is more than just putting something in a cart and checking it out.
“We found that there are a lot of touch points that are really important… Finding the right products for you isn’t just going to the store and picking it up. You’ll make sure to read reviews, talk to your friends, or,” he added. First Google.
Soco makes sure to have access to a large number of product reviews before purchasing the products.
In addition, Social Bella also runs Beauty Journal – a lifestyle website, and Lilla, a Online retail for mothers and babies.
It’s all part of creating a business “ecosystem,” as Indiana calls it.
We want to make sure that we are growing and reaching more and more consumers. If Social Bella turns into a unicorn, that’s a bonus.
“We want to… serve more and more women, not only in beauty and personal care, but in other industries as well.”
Selling an inventory of 12,000 products from 400 brands worldwide, Social Bella said the startup appears to be on the right track — it now has more than 30 million users across all its business units.
Indonesia’s next unicorn?
Over the past two years, Social Bella has expanded exponentially, 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 occurred during the pandemic, Indiana said it has always been part of the e-commerce platform’s plan, locked down or not.
“It’s really about creating a seamless omnichannel experience… because we believe we serve the same customer, whether they shop offline or online,” said the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia Award winner.
“They can choose to click and collect or … she can also have purchases delivered to her home. This ensures that she can shop however she likes.”