Since 2018, D2C brand Bella Vita Organic has been offering non-toxic, organic and paraben-free skin and hair care solutions
The startup has 72 SKUs under eight categories and claims a 7-10% MoM revenue growth
In March 2021, the brand partnered with 3PL firm Pickrr to help it establish its presence in Tier 2 and Tier 3 locations by targeting the right audience for its products
Building a business from the ground up is not a cakewalk. But for Aakash Anand, the opportunity fell into his lap, thanks to his mother Anju and sister Ashima.
Prior to 2018, the mother-daughter duo ran a salon chain, headquartered in Gurugram under the brand name Bella Vita Organic. Unlike other names, the chain used organic and homemade hair and skin care products instead of relying on commercial product lines.
The Anands saw good traction as more and more customers opted for their clean beauty solutions. Realising the potential of this transformative collection, Aakash and Aashima decided to build a full-fledged business around it, retaining the old brand name. By 2018, Bella Vita Organic (BVO) pivoted from a salon chain to a D2C (direct to consumer) beauty brand focussing on all things organic and sustainable. Aakash also assumed the role of CEO, determined to make the product line work.
It was an exciting time in other ways. Many brands were venturing into pure-play ecommerce as the business model helped them reduce overhead costs and make products more accessible.
“The ecommerce boom enabled brands like Mamaearth and WOW Skin Science to disrupt the cosmetics market. This certainly opened the door of opportunities for us in the organic skincare space,” the CEO said.
The clean, green tag further helped the product line as self-care, safe and effective organic beauty products became all the rage in the wake of the pandemic. In less than five years, the D2C startup has 72 SKUs under eight categories in its kitty, reached a monthly production capacity of 10 Lakh units and claims a 7-10% MoM revenue growth. Commenting on the startup’s growth in recent years, Aakash said, “In contrast to the run rate in FY21, our GMV (Gross Merchandise Value) was up by INR 100 Cr in FY22”.
A Skincare Journey From ‘Farm To Face’
After seeing a rise in demand early on, the cofounders focussed solely on scaling their brand. “We closed our salons except one in Gurugram because that’s where everything started. It still has a solid clientele, and about 700 customers come in every day,” said Aakash.
The critical components of its success include three things: The quality of the ingredients, the proprietary techniques used to extract these and make end products, and the products’ affordability.
The startup aims to infuse the tenets and practices of traditional ayurveda with modern skincare to increase the efficacy of its products. This means the ingredients must deliver quick and tangible results, and BVO uses non-toxic and paraben-free raw materials to ensure it. Its ingredients include organically grown aloe vera, tea tree, sandalwood, honey, neem and more, procured from pan-India vendors and suppliers with Ecocert certifications (highlights standards for environment-friendly and socially conscious practices). For instance, the Arabica coffee used in Bella Vita Organic exfoliation scrub is sourced from Chikmagalur in Karnataka. All its products are made in the company’s two manufacturing facilities, based in Gurugram and the end products are Ayurveda certified (under the AYUSH Ministry).
In addition to all this, the startup strives to keep its pricing pocket-friendly. On average, some of the brand’s best-selling products like scrubs, creams, face washes and toners cost around INR 200-500.
“Businesses in the cosmetics space try to maintain at least a 10x profit margin. We try to operate within a 3x-4x range by keeping our overheads low,” said Aakash.
Around 45% of this D2C brand’s sales come from the company website, while 40% of sales are generated via ecommerce marketplaces like Flipkart, Amazon, Purplle and Nykaa. Six months ago, it ventured into offline distribution via retail outlets, which contribute to around 15% of its sales.
The Dual Route To Growth Push
Building customer loyalty is a major challenge for any digital-first consumer brand. With options galore at a customer’s disposal, brands have to get creative to build high customer engagement and effective brand recall.
“When you start a D2C brand, your website traffic and transactions are generally low. Although we were growing rapidly on ecommerce marketplaces, we wanted to make our website the primary distribution channel,” said Aakash.
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To increase brand awareness and visibility, Bella Vita Organic implemented a number of strategies such as optimising content on social media handles, using the right hashtags for a good traffic flow and running sponsored ads on ecommerce sites until it saw traffic trickling into its website.
It also claims to launch a new product every few months to ensure a high customer retention rate. It originally started with four products in the face care category and has scaled its offerings in a range of categories including hair and body care, perfumes, essential oils, fragrances and more.
It has partnered with martech platforms such as MoEngage and WebEngage to interact with customers throughout their purchase and post-purchase experiences. “Then there are personalised communications, and we also offer discounts to our customers on special occasions like birthdays via multichannel marketing solutions,” Aakash told Inc42.
Quick Delivery Is The Deal Maker
The teething problems are many for D2C startups but none so challenging as speedy last-mile deliveries. “We noticed that the customers came to our site and added items to the cart, but they didn’t buy those. Instead, the same items were purchased on the ecommerce platforms that provide 24-48 hour deliveries,” recalled the CEO of Bella Vita Organic.
Amazon, the ecommerce behemoth, has undoubtedly set the benchmark for premium shopping experience very high with its same-day ‘Prime’ deliveries. According to McKinsey, about 46% of shoppers abandon their shopping carts if the delivery takes too long. Given this scenario, many online retailers are trying to replicate the Amazon model with the help of third-party logistics (3PL) enablers.
The startup was not too happy with its previous logistics service provider. “We were facing a high TAT (turn around time) on queries raised by customers and had trouble managing our NDRs (non delivery report),” Aakash said.
To resolve this challenge and the impact it was bringing on the business, in March of 2021, Aakash contacted Pickrr and there was no looking back.
The Gurugram-based 3PL firm specialises in ecommerce delivery, and Aakash claimed that the startup could bring down the TAT from seven days to two-four days with the help of its inventory fulfilment centres across the country. It also leveraged Pickrr’s wide range of logistics solutions to counter NDR and RTO-related challenges.
To reduce the TAT on queries and manage NDR, Pickrr assigned a dedicated account manager to BVO. Like most of its partner brands, the 3PL player integrated its dashboard with BVO’s OMS (order management system) to track all management related issues. Additionally, it recommended the startup to add certain parameters on its website such as address check, contact number and OTP-based verification to identify legitimate orders. This further helped the startup bring down the RTO percentage as it could reduce the burden of fraudulent orders and/or orders placed by mistake.
By leveraging these solutions, Aakash claimed that his startup was able to bring down the RTOs to 15%.
“We saw potential in Bella Vita Organic and wanted to help them target the right audience for their products. Our tech capabilities enabled them in their growth journey as they were able to identify specific cities and states where they could push their marketing efforts for better conversion,” said Gaurav Mangla, cofounder and CEO at Pickrr.
This proved to be a significant growth driver for Bella Vita Organic as it found a huge demand for its products in Tier 2 and 3 locations like Zirakpur, Howrah and Jalandhar. Today, nearly 60% of its customers come from non-metro locations.
Interestingly, smaller cities and towns across India have become key drivers of ecommerce sales. Between 2020 and 2021, ecommerce transactions soared by 82% in Tier 2 cities, indicating a massive sales opportunity for online brands.
“Tier 2 and Tier 3 are easier markets to sell to but harder to deliver to. People there have big aspirations and want the same things as their metro counterparts. This is where logistics enablers like Pickrr help with their seamless logistics solutions,” the CEO added.
Will The IDAM Factor Drive Bella Vita Organic Growth?
Last year, BVO raised $10 Mn in Series A, led by Ananta Capital. Aakash utilised the funds to launch the IDAM House of Brands with Saahil Nayar, former Vice President, Business at The Good Glamm Group’s The Mom Co.
IDAM aims to build a portfolio of various D2C FMCG brands catering to health-conscious and eco-friendly consumers. Bella Vita Organic will be the poster boy of this multi-brand venture. The aim is to launch homegrown masstige brands (premium but affordable) across global consumer markets.
This is not a new concept, though. The Good Glamm Group is also on a mission to bring fast-growing D2C brands under its wings to create a digital conglomerate of sorts in the D2C personal care space. Earlier this year, the content to commerce unicorn acquired a majority stake in beauty brand Organic Harvest.
Within three months of its launch in December 2021, IDAM has acquired stakes in niche brands such as jaggery-based coffee cube maker Bevzilla and premium dark chocolate producer MeeSoGood. “IDAM is going to be something like Hindustan Unilever for ecommerce brands,” he added.
Sharing his vision, Aakash said that Bella Vita Organic would continue to scale its operations by introducing new products in the skin and hair care space and other categories. It is also foraying into the U.S. market and setting up an office in New Jersey.
Interestingly, being a part of the IDAM project, on a mission to become an online giant in the natural products sector, can quickly propel its flagship brand Bella Vita. The umbrella organisation’s consistent financial support and wide market reach will boost its sales across local and global markets.
According to a report, the Indian organic personal care market is estimated to reach $1.23 Bn by FY26, growing at a CAGR of 14.69%. And globally, the scenario isn’t much different. A Grand View Research report suggests that the global organic personal care market could be worth $42.19 Bn By 2030. This opens up a new world of opportunities for homegrown brands such as Bella Vita Organic. And with IDAM’s backing, the startup can have a piece of the global market pie in the coming years.