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“Start-ups could greatly benefit from a forward-looking orientation to finance”

While the global pandemic has bought economies to a halt and massively disrupted businesses, it has also fuelled start-up dreams and we even saw several Indian start-ups achieve Unicorn status during the pandemic period. The times have never been better for the budding entrepreneurs to give wings to their start-up dreams.

The Government, too, has come up with various schemes to support its ‘Vocal for Local’ drive. A case in point is the recent Rs 1,000 crore Start-up India Seed Fund announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Start-up India International Summit 2021 held earlier this year.

Adgully is turning the spotlight on the entrepreneurs who fought against all odds to bring their dreams to fruition in our special series – START-UP STARS. We at Adgully wholeheartedly support the ‘Vocal for Local’ movement and over the next few months will be featuring all local/ homegrown businesses, brands and Apps. 

In 2016 Vikas Lachhwani and Tarun Sharma launched mCaffeine – touted as India’s first caffeinated personal care brand offering Caffeinated products. They are premium and effective personal care for millennials, bringing out the real, confident and bold approach to self-care in Indian markets. mCaffeine is now the largest Coffee skincare brand. In just about 4 years, the company has crossed the Rs 100-crore mark in annual sales. Witnessing 12x growth in the last 2 years and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, mCaffeine is eyeing 3 x growth in FY20-21. With the biggest captive website of any personal care brand in India, mCaffeine has a CR rate of 70% higher than the industry average. mCaffeine is a bestseller in multiple categories across e-commerce platforms, being market leaders in the body scrub category and claims to have the highest revenue by product density across challenger brands. 

In conversation with Adgully, Vaishali Gupta, Head of Marketing, mCaffeine, speaks at length about the inception of mCaffeine an affordable premium brand catering to both the genders, the need for start-up incubators in India and much more. 

What is the core business proposition?

Offering an exciting range of Caffeinated products (Coffee, tea & chocolate) we position ourselves as premium, affordable and effective personal care for young and aspiring millennials.

We are a 100% vegan and cruelty-free, Peta-certified brand. Our products are FDA approved, made safe and dermatologically tested, with no SLS, parabens, silicones and mineral oils.

How did you identify your TG?

Geos – Pan India

Age – 18 to 34

Gender – Gender Neutral

Our customers are self-care enthusiasts, explorers and experimenters of new trends. They are the people who always want to be aware of all the novelties of beauty, skincare and fashion. The caffeine family might have different lifestyles, hobbies and interests, but they all share a common interest in being the most updated and keep up with their adventurous self at all times.

At the heart, their extreme love for grooming, caffeine, and coffee is what binds us together. Thus, representing the altar of caffeine, skincare and lifestyle!

What were the challenges that you faced while setting up the brand and how did you overcome them?

Firstly, we are a product company and for us, our products are the prime focus. Being a digital-first brand, we had built our technology, and this was not our expertise. This was when we explored Shopify. Easy to understand and customise, the Shopify India team and partners were extremely helpful in helping us build this.

Secondly, saying ‘NO’ to things. It might look exciting to try out, but wasn’t relevant. We stayed focused and made sure we spent enough time towards building our short-term and long-term objectives.

Funds/ finance is the prime issue of almost all start-ups. What can the industry and the Government do to address this issue and ease the capital requirements of start-ups?

Capital is a critical element for any start-up. Over the last decade, equity investments in start-ups have come a long way. More and more angel investors have joined the ranks. However, there are two major opportunity areas that the banking system in India can capitalise on. Firstly, banking systems work largely based on evaluation of past performance. Secondly, banking systems weigh assets more than intellectual property. Start-ups could greatly benefit from a forward-looking orientation to finance with a focus on business moats and intellectual property. This will ease the finance requirements for capital expenditure and working capital.

Prime Minister Modi has announced a Startup India Seed Fund. How do you see start-ups benefiting from it?

Start-up Seed Fund is a great initiative. India needs many more start-up incubators. This scheme directly supports the incubators and will encourage more and more start-ups to come up and generate employment.

How is digital helping you further your business?

Digital is our core and since our audience are millennials, they are digital heavy, we like staying connected with our core target audience on digital platforms. As a brand, we focus on delivering an experience with our high-performing products and digital helps us define this experience in the best way.

What were your key learnings from 2020? How do you see the start-up ecosystem progressing in 2021?

The key learning that the brand saw in 2020 was the growth of the brand being in a digital stage, investing time and money on building technology at this stage was important. Technology solutions like Shopify helped us with a few challenges that we were faced with and gave us easier solutions.

There is a drastic change in the way people are looking at things now. The ecosystem is becoming more open towards new products and ideas. We have technologies to build products and services and put Indian brands on the global map.

What would be your message for the budding entrepreneurs?

Building a long-term approach rather than short-term decision-making always helps in a brand’s journey. Making data your guide and letting it give you answers is one learning experience. Investing in technology is important for a brand, it helps if you are going to capture the digital world.

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