Although the D2C beauty brand emphasizes online distribution, it is receptive to exploring omnichannel avenues as the brand matures
While basking in the afterglow of bagging the National Film Awards for Best Actress, actor Kriti Sanon is also juggling another pivotal role—that of Chief Consumer Officer (CCO) at Hyphen. As an investor and co-founder of the newly launched D2C beauty brand, she takes this position as seriously as prepping for playing a character in a movie.
This includes reading all product reviews on Instagram and YouTube and answering as many user queries on the social media platforms as possible. This gives her a chance to gauge what customers think and seek when it comes to beauty products.
"I recently conducted an 'Ask Me Anything' session on Instagram, where intriguing questions emerged. For instance, users wondered about the heaviness of our 'All I Need sunscreen' when used with the barrier care cream," she revealed. "I clarified that the cream isn't necessary before the sunscreen, as it's designed to provide hydration."
Launched in July 2023, Hyphen is co-founded by Sanon and the founders of PEP Technologies, which comprises Vaishali Gupta, Tarun Sharma, Vikas Lachhwani, Saurabh Singhal, and Mohit Jain, who are also the founders of D2C skincare brand mCaffiene.
Vaishali states that Kriti's role as CCO at Hyphen is vital as the D2C brand is open to constructive customer feedback, which it hopes to incorporate into its products to improve them.
"We are very keen on connecting with the customers and keeping them happy. We ensure our products work well and talk openly with customers. We also ask customers for advice to make our products even better. In the next 12 months, we want to reach one crore customers," she added.
The D2C company plans to employ a multifaceted approach to attract a broader customer base, leveraging online advertising campaigns and strategic partnerships with influencers. Since its distribution strategy is firmly rooted in a D2C approach, this is prominently initiated through its brand website, which claims to cater to over 18000 pin codes across the country.
"Our current trajectory involves a deliberate expansion onto prominent e-commerce platforms. Although our emphasis lies in online distribution, we're also receptive to exploring omnichannel avenues as our brand matures," Vaishali revealed.
Kriti's interest in skincare products deepened during the pandemic when she realized a gap existed for a holistic development that offered multiple benefits. While there were singular serums based on niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, the idea of layering numerous products ran contrary to her preference for simplicity.
"The gaps I identified revolved around the absence of comprehensive products that effectively combined multiple beneficial ingredients and tackled complex routines. Furthermore, I observed a divide between scientific formulations and natural approaches," she noted.
Harking back to her middle-class upbringing, she was also concerned about the affordability and quality challenges because products were either excessively high-priced or compromised in quality. This led her to seek a middle ground that balanced quality with affordability, providing effective skincare accessible to a broader audience.
The plan took shape on her birthday last year when she entered into a partnership with PEP Technologies. The latter invested Rs 30 crore into the venture, and Kriti pumped in an undisclosed amount.
The brand will use these funds to conduct extensive research, improve its supply chain and logistics and reach more customers. "Right now, we are focused on using this investment wisely to take gradual steps on making Hyphen India's fastest 100 crore D2C brand. We are not looking for any further investments at the moment; our main goal is to use the current investment to make Hyphen a successful and customer-first brand," Vaishali said.
Talking about why she chose to collaborate with PEP Technologies, Kriti said it was because they already possessed a team of skilled researchers dedicated to formulating top-quality products and had access to ingredient sourcing and supply chain management. Incidentally, her own engineering background came as a huge plus during the seven months before Hyphen's official launch, given her extensive knowledge of ingredients, coupled with her strong influence.
Vaishali noted how Kriti's involvement goes beyond endorsement—she contributes to product ideation, design, and marketing strategies, creating a seamless synergy between her vision and Hyphen's brand ethos.
Since PEP Technologies also has another beauty brand, mCaffiene, the founders are ensuring there is no cannibalization by maintaining a clear brand positioning and target audience for each brand. They have tailored the distribution and marketing strategies to resonate with the unique value propositions of both brands, preventing overlap and ensuring their growth trajectories.
"Launching Hyphen alongside mCaffeine was a strategic decision to cater to a broader spectrum of consumers with varying skincare needs. While both brands operate in the skincare space, they address distinct market segments. mCaffeine focuses on caffeine-infused skincare, while Hyphen offers solution-oriented products that combine nature and science," Vaishali stated.
While Hyphen does lean heavily on the popularity of its co-founder, Kriti is not the first actor to back a beauty brand. There are several celebrity-led skincare and beauty brands, including Deepika Padukone's 82°E and Katrina Kaif's Kay Beauty skincare range to Priyanka Chopra's Anamoly hair care products.
This rush is quite understandable since India's burgeoning beauty and personal care (BPC) market was pegged at $15 billion in CY21 and is estimated to grow at a 10 per cent CAGR until CY30, according to Elara Securities. Customer acquisition is faster for celebrity-endorsed entities, given their personal digital reach and social currency.
Celebrities often have a loyal fan base that trusts their choices, making it a natural progression to extend their brand presence into the beauty realm. Furthermore, their involvement adds authenticity and relatability to the products, resonating with consumers who aspire to achieve the same levels of grooming and radiance as their favorite icons.
Conceding to this reality, Vaishali states that the entrance of celebrities into the skincare and beauty industry reflects their influence and personal connection with their audience. However, the company's success will depend on its ability to deliver what it promises.
This is where Kriti believes her role as CCO is critical, where she brings in perspectives like displaying all the ingredients on Hyphen's packaging and not just the key ones. She is also aware that like any individual or brand, mistakes could happen, but learning from consumer feedback and continuously improving is crucial.
She is also confident that a good product will naturally find its audience, just like a compelling film connects with its viewers regardless of the marketing efforts. "Spending heavily on marketing doesn't necessarily equate to success. Ultimately, the product's quality speaks volumes. I have strong faith in the efficacy of Hyphen's products, and I'm heartened by the value they inherently hold for their intended audience," Kriti summed up.