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Purplle’s Small-Town Beauty Merchants

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Manish Taneja, Rahul Dash, Suyash Katyayani, 

Co-founders, Purplle
age: 37, 36, 36
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Two ambitious youngsters from small-town India met by chance in city of dreams, Mumbai, in 2011. Manish Taneja, co-founder of beauty platform Purplle.com, talks about his meeting with co-founder Rahul Dash. “I was supposed to share a flat with Rahul’s senior from IIM-Ahmedabad. He had to leave Mumbai due to health reasons and introduced me to Rahul.”
Taneja, an investment banker at Fidelity, was part of conversations at the company about start-up ideas. Dash was part of the launch of Tata Group’s consumer initiatives such as Tata Sampann. Their first idea was a branded furniture retail platform. “We realised it needed a lot of capital. Beauty seemed a better bet as it was a much larger market,” says Taneja.
Purplle.com was launched in 2011. The duo got their first seed cheque from Taneja’s seniors at Fidelity. Their third co-founder, Suyash Katyayani, joined in 2012.
Purplle was launched two years before the country’s most popular beauty platform Nykaa.com. Nykaa’s success did put Purplle founders at the edge of their seat but the trio believed they had a unique understanding of consumers in smaller towns. “Manish is from Faridabad, I am from Bhubaneswar and Suyash is from Durg. We know women there are aspirational but don’t have the spending power to afford a Clinique or a M.A.C. We can service that aspiration,” explains Dash. Over 60% of Purplle’s revenue comes from Tier-II/III India.
While Nykaa has private brands such as Nykaa Naturals, Nykaa Cosmetics, Purplle has a wider array of brands such as Stay Quirky, Good Vibes, NY Bae, Alp Goodness, Carmesi, FACES Canada and Thank You Farmer, made in India by contract manufacturers. Taneja claims these are on a par with leading international brands but cost 20-30% less. These generate 25-30% margins compared to 12-15% from established brands. Private brands contribute 40% to revenue.
Unlike Nykaa, which has set up physical stores, Purplle has stuck to the traditional distributor route. Since 2020, the platform has succeeded in attracting big investments. “Till 2019, we were drip feeding the company with investments of ₹5-10 crore. In 2020, we raised institutional capital of ₹250 crore from the likes of Goldman Sachs and Verlinvest,” says Taneja. Last year, the company raised another $45 million (from Sequoia Capital, Bloom Ventures and JSW Ventures) at a valuation of ₹2,200 crore. The co-founders’ ambition is to build a large omnichannel beauty business of ₹40,000-50,000 crore.