Purplle’s Manish Taneja on riding high with online beauty space

The beauty industry is now growing in India. And Purplle is making the most of this trend – a company founded in 2012 by Manish Taneja and Rahul Dash.

Purplle covers almost every postcode including Leh Ladakh in north east India. And today, Purplle is a company with a turnover of Rs 1,200 crore and a value of US$1.1 billion.

In this week’s 100x Entrepreneur Podcast with Siddhartha Ahluwalia, Manish shares his journey, which has been through many rocks and floors.

Start Purple

An aspiring entrepreneur at heart, Manish attended IIT Delhi and majored in Electrical Engineering. After graduating in 2007, he entered the financial services world. He then worked at Avendus Capital and at Fidelity Growth Partners India.

Between Avendus and Fidelity, he tried to start a company called Mindxcompany.com with a couple of co-founders. He moved back to Mumbai with Fidelity after realizing his co-founders couldn’t take the pressure to run a business.

In Mumbai, after work, he and his friend Rahul would often discuss what to do next in life. And entrepreneurship was high on her agenda. With the internet exploding in 2010-11, the pair knew they wanted to do something in the internet space.

“I have two hostel mates from IIT who have emerged as brilliant internet entrepreneurs. One of them is Binny Bansal. He was a year older than me from the same hostel and absolutely an inspiration to all of us. The second, who also became an entrepreneur much earlier than me, was one of the former co-founders of Zomato, Pankaj Chadha. He used to be my junior at the same hostel,” he says.

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“And when I’ve spoken to these people in the past, I’ve always felt like, wow, there’s some growth month-on-month that I wasn’t used to in other industries. And I used to have the feeling that something was fundamentally changing here. And I didn’t want to miss the bus,” explains Manish.

And with the internet, the duo had two categories in mind that they thought they could look for that had less competition. One of them was furniture. The other was beauty.

Manish explains why he chose the latter: “We chose beauty. From my point of view it was a process of rejection, I think furniture needed a lot of initial capital so that we didn’t start with furniture in the end. And so we decided to get into the beauty space because we recognized that there are many unmet consumer needs. It’s a big category that will only get bigger as our GDP per capita increases.”

As a first process, Manish and Rahul visited shops in and around Mumbai. They used to frequent single-brand stores, convenience stores, and wholesale and multi-brand stores such as department stores.

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“We were 27 at the time, we used to look like students and we visited the shops and did our surveys before we decided to get in. But I’m glad we did that basic due diligence before stepping in. So that’s the story behind Purplle,” Manish recalled.

dealing with competition

Manish believes that competition is only in the minds of founders and management teams, not in the minds of consumers.

“I don’t think competition between platforms plays that big a role in their lives. They don’t care where they shop. As long as they get the right service and as long as they get the right product they want. That’s what they play for. Consumers are not as tied to this category as we are probably,” says the entrepreneur.

He adds that he is trying to create consumer differentiation with Purplle by targeting India’s middle class.

“It also comes because we founders lived our lives and come from Tier 2 cities. Therefore, we understand these consumers much better than the top end consumer. I think the second part of our differentiation was that instead of just selling what everyone else is selling, we created our own products and brands based on data. Every time we’ve followed that process, we’ve done really well.”

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Manish says believing in the process and creating their own products to differentiate has helped them attract capital from investors.

To learn more, listen to the podcast here:

04:57 – What inspired Manish from finance to start his second online beauty business?

10:32 – Challenges in vertical e-commerce in 2012

12:29 – Challenges related to delivery, cash flow and more in the first 5-6 years

17:30 – Two distinctive traits in their fundraising journey

21:52 – Zoho Sponsored – Prashant Ganti on Where are founders having payroll issues and how to solve the problem?

10:55 p.m – Learnings during his exit from Avendus Capital

24:18 – Big changes in the 2nd part of her journey from 2016-17

28:34 – Introduction of own brands with a gross margin of over 65%

31:08 – How did he develop as a founder during Purplle’s journey?

33:21 – Shaped the culture of Purple over the years

38:34 – “MOATs are not as relevant to consumers as they are to founders versus the competition.”

42:23 – Opportunity to build $20-30 billion FMCG company from India

45:26 – Do not give in to external pressure for growth

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti

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