Homegrown clean beauty brands find a home in Singapore as a beauty e-commerce platform, Aardae takes Indian prestige labels international.
The beauty industry in India is touted to be a $30 billion market by 2025, according to a report by Avendus Capital. The organic and natural sector is said to occupy about 10-15% of the market, firmly establishing its place in the market. Homegrown beauty brands are achieving quick, exponential growth both within the country and outside. Earlier this year, one of India’s prestige beauty brands, Forest Essentials made its international foray by launching on Lookfantastic.com in UK. Meanwhile, homegrown beauty brands like Mamaearth, Plum Goodness, WOW Skin Sciences and Juicy Chemistry have already crossed the Rs 100 crore revenue mark, according to reports.
This phenomenal growth isn’t simply enticing customers from tier-II and III cities but also the international markets. Indian beauty products are rooted in ancient sciences and use locally sourced ingredients that have piqued the interest of a larger audience. Tapping in on this trend is Aardae, a Singapore based beauty e-commerce that is taking Indian beauty brands to the South Eastern market.
Aardae, meaning earth in Dutch, was founded by Chennai-based entrepreneurs, Shweta Gupta and Darshana Balagopal. A carefully curated platform that handpicks conscious and clean beauty products to promote the idea of sustainable living. The brands are divided by clean, organic and Ayurvedic to ensure transparency. Indian clean beauty labels like Dot & Key, Juicy Chemistry, OCEGLOW, Purearth, Earth Rhythm and Omorfee are currently on their growing rooster. We catch up with the founders of Aardae on taking Indian clean beauty brands international.
Aardae brings Indian clean beauty brands to Singapore
Tell us about the concept behind Aardae?
The clean beauty movement began worldwide around five years ago but has achieved major visibility ever since the pandemic began. Search engines reported a 41% increase in searches for the term “clean beauty”, TikTok recorded over 500 million views on related content, and there are 4.4 million posts using the hashtag on Instagram. This revolution was personal. It happened not because people had more time on their hands, as some surmised, but because people began to take better care of themselves and to consider more deeply what they invested in on every level.
As entrepreneurs, we noticed that there was a huge international demand for clean beauty, but that dedicated destinations for these were few and far between. We recognised that the online space had the most potential as well. Most importantly, we discovered for ourselves that homegrown, nature-based Indian brands had efficacies on par with chemical-based international brands. Knowing this, why would we want to put toxins into our systems? When we saw the shift in our own homes and lifestyles, we also saw the business potential.
Singapore is an eye to the world and has a highly educated and knowledgeable consumer population. It is also a country that is renowned for stringent quality control, and this ensures that a presence there can open doors everywhere else too.
The international beauty market is already saturated with brands. What differentiates these Indian brands from others?
What many consumers have increasingly become aware of is that a lack of regulations means that the market is flooded with products of spurious quality: whether that means hidden ingredients, false promises or unethical processes. What differentiates every brand in our catalogue from the myriad brands out there is that not only are they built on an ethos of clean and conscious beauty, but they have also undergone our own in-house testing to ensure that they live up to their claims. That they have been approved for sale in Singapore, one of the world’s most stringent markets in terms of quality control, also speaks volumes about how these brands are truly the best ones being manufactured in India today.
What were the challenges of taking Indian clean beauty brands international?
For us, the logistical and travel-related challenges that the pandemic posed were the major hurdles that we had to overcome in launching Aardae. Whether that meant remote work, intelligent delegation, building and managing great teams across locations or tackling the fine details of international distribution, we found new strategies that have served us well in the first few months since Aardae’s inception. We are now ready to grow even further.
Can you tell us what personally drew you to the beauty space?
We have both been consumers of the beauty segment for a long time, and our personal pivots towards conscious beauty took greater importance when the pandemic began. The chief reason for this was a heightened awareness of everything we put onto or into our systems, an awareness which the requisite hygiene vigilance created. This was true of many people around us as well. Similarly, not being able to source certain brands from abroad easily due to supply chain issues meant that we reached out for products made in India, and were impressed by the efficacy, diversity and ethical quotient of so many of them. These different factors, which were reflected both personally as well as among many people we connected with, showed us that there was a business niche that we were uniquely poised to fill. Thus, Aardae was born.
What’s next for the brand?
Aardae plans to remain bootstrapped for at least the first six months following the launch, during which we willactivate our plans to expand to other markets in the region including Malaysia and Indonesia. We have our sightsset on the Middle East, Europe and Australia, and are likely to open up to venture capital funding at that stage.
All Images: Courtesey Aardae.