Carving out an inspirational journey of SUGAR from the bitter-sweet instances of life

Know the story of Vineeta Singh, Founder and CEO of SUGAR cosmetics in conversation with
Saumya Singh, Womenshine.

Daunting orthodox ideologies, discriminating tropes, pink taxes, and wage gaps are some of the
myriad issues that women face in the society. The situation worsens if a woman decides to
choose the path of becoming independent and self-sufficient. Prioritizing career is still
considered to be a blot on a woman’s character.
However, smashing these stereotypes there are women who have decided to be their own
bosses. And one of them is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SUGAR Cosmetics,
Vineeta Singh. Singh not only gave up the easier walks of life but also chose to empower women
fraternity by establishing a name in the entrepreneurial world. She recently appeared as a jury
member on Shark Tank India where she was seen guiding the contestants by sharing her
experiences from the early days of her journey.
In a candid interview with Women Shine, Singh breaks down her journey and talks extensively
about her successful brainchild SUGAR Cosmetics.

SUGAR is a brand that is synonymous with cosmetics now. So, when did you realize that you
wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I can still recall the moment that I decided I wanted to become an entrepreneur, clear as day.
One of my high school teachers, in what happened to be a life-changing moment for me, asked
me rather casually what I wanted to be when I grew up. While I was still pondering on the
answer to his question, he instantly said that I should become an entrepreneur. At that time, I
didn’t even know what the meaning of the word was, but he believed I would be a good fit for it
and so began my journey. That single statement stayed with me long after but it was only
during my days at B-school that I understood my path and felt confident to pursue it.

Entrepreneur, CEO, and Being Your Own Boss are some words that excite today’s youth to
start their venture, which is a good thing. But what they mostly miss out on is the fact that
being an entrepreneur does not mean that all the days will be of wines and roses. Therefore,
please enlighten us about both such situations that you must have faced in the business.
Challenges are definitely a part and parcel of any new job and entrepreneurship is no different.
With time I have learnt that it all starts with making up our mind that – We are going to do this
really well. Keeping that in mind, when there is so much at stake and so many people
depending on you to make the right decision, one can’t help but feel anxious. However being a
runner & entrepreneur, over the period of time has taught me that no matter what challenge is
thrown at you, agility matters. One of the challenge that I think all new businesses face and so
did we – was working capital. Managing the credit cycle is key to keeping the working capital
cycle to a bare minimum which in turn ensures efficient capital use and rotation. With little
funding when we had started this was really tough – I recall times when we were out-of-stock
and yet couldn’t order a new batch of products because we just didn’t have the money. Today
we have a dedicated team that monitors this daily and proactively intervenes to help our trade
partners ease and improve our cash flows. And now that we’ve overcome the challenge, we are
working towards sustaining it

Do you feel that every woman should be empowered and independent? How does SUGAR
live up to this?

SUGAR Cosmetics was built on the core idea to create something by women and for women,
which is why we ensured that we provided ample opportunity to women in our company.
SUGAR is one of the companies that gladly hires women after a maternity break and
encourages working mothers, which is still a barrier faced by them in the industry.
Makeup has the ability to boost confidence, help de-stress and make people feel more secure
in their skin. Through SUGAR, it’s our constant aim to enable women to feel as confident and
beautiful in their skin as they can.

You were one of the jury members in Shark Tank, India. Do you feel that the show has helped
(if any) in changing the point of view of Indian society regarding entrepreneurship to some

India has had a long vibrant entrepreneurial culture, and the Shark Tank India television show
has further strengthened it. The show not only gave the ‘pitchers’ a great platform to showcase
their products/ brand but it also gave the audience a first-hand experience of demystifying
various nuances of business and the potential that it holds. Post the show, we can also witness
the change in society’s perception of entrepreneurship. Whether it be them supporting
homegrown small businesses or even the kind of love they have shown to our Shark Tank
contestants remains unparalleled!

Make-up is now emerging as a universal necessity for every gender. Do you feel that this
change was imperative? If yes, then does SUGAR want to support such ideology, and how?

While the popular belief is that makeup is solely created for feminine use, we at SUGAR believe
that makeup doesn’t correlate with gender or sexuality. SUGAR Cosmetics’ product line has
always been launched as a unisex line that caters to all sexes. While of course the makeup
consumer market in India is dominated by women, there is a small but growing number of men
using makeup as well, and this also shows in our current sales split. You will also see men
feature in our makeup videos, and a lot of them as our exclusive Beauty Advisors at our stores
as well. We have ensured that across our communication, we consistently deliver SUGAR
product usage for men as well.

Please share some of your favorite experiences as an entrepreneur.

I believe getting the chance to take a concept and convert that into a flourishing business – has
been my most cherished experience, especially with women as my core audience.
I still remember in 2012, my team and I had been running a Direct-To-Consumer beauty
subscription venture that served a young 18-30 year old demographic. Our close proximity to
this TG, a closed-loop feedback gathering system and ability to send 200 products each year to
women gave us a very unique vantage point in the industry. With over 200,000+ women sharing their beauty preferences, it helped us realise that most women didn’t have access to
the right products that were suitable for their skin tones and types, and that’s when we decided
to fill in that gap by launching SUGAR Cosmetics in 2015. The brand was born to address a white
space in the industry that was being overlooked. Through SUGAR Cosmetics our goal was to
make beauty accessible for Indian women with affordable high-quality products, that had a
pigmented colour payoff, lasting power that are specifically curated to complement Indian skin
tone and climate conditions. So, when we launched matte, long lasting makeup with shades for
India, the brand grew virally through women talking about it on Instagram. The product market
fit was evident from more than 2 lakh online reviews with 4 to 5 star ratings. This was an
experience that changed everything for us, it also gave me a chance to motivate those around
me and help them improve, implement, and contribute to their passion which has been
extremely fulfilling.

You are an entrepreneur of a company that is growing bigger every day, a mother, a wife, and
you manage everything at your pace quite well and the way you like. However, do you still
get judgemental advice and gazes from society?

I have always been the one to forge my own path and follow my dreams which did bring in
judgmental advice from society but I never let it deter me. Luckily, I have been blessed with the
strongest support system in the form of my family and friends that have always had my back.
And when it comes to society, I do believe in the law of nature that progress is inevitable and as
time has progressed so has people’s understanding, openness and acceptance. We can see the
shift as women today are not expected to choose between a family and career. Watching them
push boundaries and create their mark in the industry has been a delight. It truly is quite
exciting to be a woman in today’s time when the possibilities are endless.

A piece of advice for all the women entrepreneurs who are toiling day and night to leave a
mark in the business world.

When I first started 15 years ago, there weren’t many women entrepreneurs in the industry
which lead to numerous learnings for me. Today, there is a lot more awareness around how

women can be role models and entrepreneurs which truly brings me so much joy. Now, being
an entrepreneur comes with its own set of challenges and before venturing out in the field, it is
very essential to understand and be clear of the problem statement that you are trying to solve.
The market is cluttered and the competition is fierce so the only way to stand out is to create a
unique solution to a problem that is faced by your core TG. Additionally, it’s imperative to be
consistent. The only way to build consumer trust is to be consistent over the years with respect
to packaging, product, quality and design. Another point to always keep in mind is to ensure
you are listening to your consumers and satisfying their demands and needs. Creation of value
beyond just the price of the product through strong engagement patterns with consumers at all
levels should always be prime focus at any time your business. And the most important would
be to not lose motivation when you aren’t seeing instant results, but rather keep pushing
through until you see the light at the end of the dark tunnel.

Interview by: Saumya Singh

Author’s bio
Saumya Singh is a budding lifestyle and entertainment journalist. She believes that lifestyle journalism is not everyone’s cup of tea. She holds the view that just like hard stories, covering soft stories also deserves their appreciation because it is a part of journalism that appeals to the masses.

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