The rise of D2C as a model has inspired India’s top creators and social media influencers to launch their own brands and private labels
Creators such as Bhuvan Bam, Madhura Bachal, Faisal Khan, Prajakta Koli among others have launched their independent ecommerce platforms in recent years
The D2C model has enabled influencers to create parallel streams of revenue and capitalise on their social media following
If cheap mobile data, access to smartphones and internet penetration have ushered in the age of ecommerce in India, they have also contributed to the rise of the creator economy, fuelled by social media and short video platforms.
The burgeoning internet ecosystem has given impetus to D2C models and even creators and influencers are taking full advantage of this. Creators and social media influencers are now turning into D2C brands thanks to millions of prospective customers from their Instagram and YouTube follower base. And it’s not about having millions of followers, but rather about having a significant base of highly-engaged and quality users.
Leveraging the technology that is being used by hordes of D2C startups, influencers are opening up a parallel stream of revenue built on top of their social media popularity. While earlier celebrities and noted public personalities turned to private labels and merchandise platforms, these days, it is influencers walking the same road. As they say, ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’.
Besides the rising prominence for the D2C model,India’s live commerce space is booming and fast becoming a battleground for social media unicorns, ecommerce giants and new brands. Creators and influencers associated with D2C brands are now spoilt for choice when it comes to platforms to reach new audiences and experimenting with formats.
This wave of content creators creating D2C brands seems to have become the norm in India. But, only time will tell whether this will last or end up being a fad. Here are the creators and influencers making waves on the D2C circuit with their own brands.
Meet The 23 Indian Creators & Influencers Building Social-First D2C Brands
From a small-time YouTube creator to enacting quirky characters on BB Ki Vines, Bhuvan Bam has come a long way. Along the ride, he has captured the imagination of the Indian internet. He has grown to become one of the most popular content creators in the country, amassing as much as 25.1 Mn subscribers on YouTube and 14.1 Mn followers on Instagram.
Bam forayed into the D2C model way back in 2017 with the launch of Youthiapa, which he founded along with his friend, Arvin Bhandari. Youthiapa began as a merchandise-based store with products revolving around the comedian’s popular one liners, but later transitioned into everyday fashion that appeals to a wider audience.
Better known by his alias ‘Mumbiker Nikhil’, Sharma started off in 2013 and is said to be one of the first Indian YouTubers that made automobile content popular for casual viewers. These vlogs made him an overnight star and he has close to 3.88 Mn subscribers on YouTube and 1.3 Mn followers on Instagram.
Sharma later forayed into the world of D2C with the launch of his clothing brand called ‘Label MN.’ The website-only apparel brand sells products ranging from hoodies to even masks.
Prajakta Koli is one of the few Indian female YouTubers who has seen a meteoric rise to the top. Marking her entry into the showbiz world with the observational comedy channel MostlySane in 2015, Koli went on to have her own Netflix show, Mismatched.
She also had her own YouTube Originals alongside other acting gigs in a slew of digital productions. She will next be seen in Karan Johar’s ‘Jug Jug Jeeyo’ starring Varun Dhawan, Neetu Kapoor, Anil Kapoor and Kiara Advani. She also turned a producer with her short film, Khayali Pulao, which won a Daytime Emmy Nomination last year. A youth icon, Prajakta Koli was recently named as UNDP India’s first youth climate champion for supporting certain causes.
Koli jumped on the D2C bandwagon in 2020 after she launched her merchandise on the MerchBay platform. The line of clothing features products like hoodies, sweatshirts, sippers, masks, phone covers, among other things.
Sejal Kumar began her journey in the world of content creation back in 2012. She mostly covers fashion, beauty, makeup, and life hacks on her YouTube channel. Kumar has amassed close to 846K followers on Instagram and 1.38 Mn subscribers on YouTube.
She has tied up with MerchBay to launch her own merchandise on the platform. Her line of clothing includes masks, t-shirts, mugs and other accessories.
Bachal runs one of the most popular Marathi-language cooking channels on YouTube. Bachal started off as a food blogger in 2009 and, subsequently, switched to Facebook to reach a wider audience. Currently, she has more than 6.05 Mn subscribers on YouTube.
Bachal took the plunge into the business side of things with the launch of her own cookery books. She followed it up with the launch of a range of spices under the Madhura’s Recipe Masalas brand.
Siva is an entrepreneur and an ‘activist’ who has a substantial presence on social media platforms. Her content revolves around issues like divorce and removing the social stigma around it. Siva has 11.8K followers on Instagram.
After quitting her career in advertising, Shasvathi Siva began her entrepreneurial journey by offering vegan products. Her startup, Cowvathi, manufactures cheeses and dips for those looking for dairy alternatives.
Back in 2010, a fashion blog by the name of Miss Style Fiesta made waves on the internet. The blog soon catapulted to fame and with it began Masoom Minawala Mehta’s tryst with fame. Since then, she has grown to acquire 1.2 Mn followers on Instagram and has collaborated with more than 500 global brands.
In 2012, Minawala expanded her blog to a full-fledged ecommerce store that sold trend-driven fashion jewellery and accessories. She later had to shut shop as the business failed to scale up amid rising competition. Lately, she has incubated a whole bunch of D2C homegrown ventures focusing on the Indian fashion market.
An MBA gold medallist, Debasree’s rendezvous with content creation, in her own words, began back in 2012. After saving up to buy a camera, Banerjee quit her well-paying job to take the plunge in the content creation space.
The Assam-born beauty blogger primarily creates content that appeals to Generation Z audiences and primarily revolves around seasonal looks, trends and hacks. Banerjee has so far raked in over 307K followers on Instagram and 264K subscribers on YouTube and expanded to the D2C segment.
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In 2020, Banerjee launched a makeup brand by the name of #debasreee. Her label’s products consist of different shades of makeup pigments targeted primarily at young Indian women.
A Canada-based influencer of Indian origin, Bhuva became an overnight sensation, particularly among women of South Asian descent in the US and Cana, after her tutorials on various saree-draping styles skyrocketed in popularity. She has over 832K followers on Instagram.
Bhuva reportedly invented the Sari Silhouette – a yoga pants-like petticoat for Sarees. In addition to this, Tia also created the ‘Cancan Skirt’ which is a modern twist to the traditional Indian lehenga (skirt). In a bid to leverage these ideas, Tia entered the D2C apparel and accessories market. She has already launched two labels under the name of ‘Tia Bhuva’ and ‘Amehum’ to reach out to customers globally.
Deeksha Khurana is a lifestyle and fashion influencer with close to 601K followers on Instagram. Khurana has collaborated with brands like L’Oreal, H&M and also has had associations with global companies like Anastasia and Fendi.
In 2020, Khurana forayed into the D2C segment with the launch of her unisex clothing brand – Dee Clothing. The brand sells hoodies, tees, crop tops and other clothing items.
Vijaya gained national recognition after her stint as an anchor for cricket match broadcasts over the past decade after previously tasting success as a model and a VJ. She has over 508K followers on Instagram and is leveraging this reach with her own brands.
Eventually, Archana Vijaya embarked on the entrepreneurial journey with the launch of her label ‘Kiss’ in 2016. The fashion brand offers a range of products for both men and women that include jewellery, sunglasses, scarves, among others.
Juhi Godambe is a fashion and lifestyle content creator and an alumnus of the London School of Fashion. The daughter of famed Bollywood makeup artists Bharat and Dorris Godambe, she took the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship and launched ‘Arabellaa’ in 2015 after returning to India.
With 508K followers on Instagram, Godambe uses the D2C platform to popularise and sell high fashion products which include loungewear, partywear and formal attire.
Tulshyan is a social media influencer focused on creating content for categories such as fashion, beauty, lifestyle, travel and food. The Pune-based YouTuber has close to 506K followers on Instagram and 121K subscribers on YouTube.
She already has multiple D2C brands in her kitty. She is the founder of the online fashion brand ‘Label Shaurya Sanadhya’ that offers ethnic wear and western wear for women. The label recently raised an undisclosed amount of money from Bengaluru-based fintech company, Velocity. She also has her own line of herbal skin care products under the brand name ‘Aryam’ and another festive wear brand by the name of ‘Rangnaari.’
Cherry Jain is a New Delhi-based influencer whose content is mostly focused on fashion, lifestyle and travel. Born in Assam, Jain gained popularity after her appearance on a few POPxo videos in 2015. She later left the media startup and began working independently full-time as a content creator.
In a bid to leverage her popularity and astute fashion sense, Jain eventually transitioned to entrepreneurship. Jain launched her own clothing line in early 2021 called Damera. The label is an everyday fashion brand that offers apparel and accessories. She has close to 193K followers on Instagram and another 248K subscribers on YouTube.
Hailing from Madhya Pradesh’s Indore, Simran Bhatia Sharma began her journey as a content creator when she was 18 years old. She started a blog by the name of The Swish Browse, which later evolved into Swish Boss. Bhatia Sharma primarily produces content focused on fashion, lifestyle and travel. She has close to 135K Instagram followers and 82.3K subscribers on YouTube.
The content creator is also an entrepreneur and has her own line of clothing. She is the CEO of the ‘Swish Boss’ brand of clothing. She is also the cofounder of two other apparel and jewellery brands by the name of ‘House of Dolcy’ and ‘swishbydolcyandsimran.’
The idea of starting a blog struck Usaamah when he was reportedly working with a celebrity stylist. Usaamah studied management from a Mumbai college and then branched out as a blogger and started ‘The Dapper Label’ blog. He currently designs and works as a celebrity stylist. He has also been featured in renowned fashion magazines including ELLE, GQ, Cosmopolitan, among others.
He currently has his own line of clothing called the ‘Perlo Studios.’ The startup is a D2C brand that offers limited products – Shirts and Shorts. The brand is focused specifically on new-age consumers. Usaamah has over 92.8K followers on Instagram.
Parul Kakad comes from an affluent business family and has had a history of operating businesses under her belt. She studied design and then forayed into marketing and opened an advertising firm. Later, she gained popularity after she was awarded ‘Miss Congeniality’ at Gladrags Mrs India 2006. These days, she is well-known for her content that revolves around women’s fitness. She also runs an online community of mothers called ‘Mumbai Mummy’ which focuses on the motherhood aspect of a woman’s life.
In addition to this, Kakad also has a D2C apparel brand named ‘Punk House of Couture’, which sells trendy designs to buyers online. She has 19.1K followers on Instagram.
Parul Gulati is a TV and film actress who is renowned for her performance in shows like P.O.W.- Bandi Yuddh Ke. She also has a Netflix production – Selection Day, to her credit and has also acted in TVF’s popular web series, Girls Hostel. She has also acted in many local Punjabi movies like Zorawar and Romeo Ranjha. Hailing from Haryana’s Rohtak, Gulati is also popular on social media and has a following of 1.2 Mn on Instagram.
Gulati turned into a serial entrepreneur with the launch of ‘Nish Hair’ in 2017. The startup offers ready to use hair extensions, which it claims are made using 100% real human hair. According to a report, the global wigs and extensions market is expected to reach the $13.3 Bn mark by 2026. Sensing an opportunity in the segment, Gulati seems to have jumped on the bandwagon.
Alicia Souza is an illustrator who has garnered a huge presence on social media. Born in Abu Dhabi, Souza studied in Australia and then came back to India to start her career. She started out as a freelance illustrator and went on to set up the lifestyle brand, Chumbak.
Since then, she has gone on to accumulate as many as 406K followers on Instagram. Taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, she founded the D2C stationery brand Alicia Souza. The brand is sold on a slew of ecommerce platforms including Flipkart and Amazon; and offers a range of products including notebooks, stamps and calendars. She also has another D2C brand called ‘Auntie Alie’ that offers a range of goodies for kids and babies.
Faisal Ali Khan is a popular name in the world of the Indian automotive content ecosystem. A biker
by passion, Khan has over 1.44 Mn subscribers on YouTube. He is also the founder and editor of the online automotive content platform, MotorBeam.
Khan launched FK-R, his own label of motorcycling gear, in 2019. The startup offers a slew of products in the premium riding gear and apparel segment. Its products include riding jackets, riding gloves and riding pants for motorcycle riders and enthusiasts.
Kapur is a popular ‘mom blogger’ and makes content primarily focused on fitness and travel. She mostly chronicles her journey as a single mom and also posts content about lifestyle and issues like mental health. Kapur has over 210K followers on Instagram.
Following her success as a social media creator, Kapur took on the mantle of entrepreneurship. In 2018, Anupriya Kapur, along with 4 others, cofounded a feminine care startup by the name of Imbue. The Gurugram-based startup offers products segmented across four categories that include sexual wellness, uterine health, intimate care and general wellbeing.
Bhasin is an online influencer whose content primarily focuses on raising awareness about mental health. Trained as a psychologist, Bhasin talks about ‘taboo’ issues and creates short videos revolving around this theme. She has 129K followers on Instagram.
Divija is also a new entrant in the D2C business. She cofounded the ‘This Is Kinda Lit’ store on Instagram with her mother, Meena Bhasin. The products available in the store range from notebooks to sterling silver jewellery.
Saransh Goila is a celebrity chef that first found fame as the creator of ‘Goila Butter Chicken.’ Later, his social media fame exploded in 2018 when he was invited to be a guest on Masterchef Australia. He has a sizable fan following on Instagram where close to 570K people follow him.
With an eye on the D2C segment, Goila too has partnered with MerchBay to sell his line of branded merchandise. Goila’s line of merchandise includes t-shirts, sweatshirts and stickers.