As the Covid pandemic raged in 2020, much of the world was at a standstill and many people turned to online shopping.
But Chrisanti Indiana did the unexpected: she expanded her e-commerce business – offline.
Her beauty and personal care e-commerce startup, Sociolla, had just two brick-and-mortar stores in Indonesia in 2019. By the end of 2021, that number has grown by “10 times more” “, she said.
“A lot of people actually told us that it was a very bold move to actually open an offline presence, while everyone was closing their offline stores. [during the pandemic]”She added.
But it was a “well-calculated” move by Social Bella, the company that runs Sociolla.
“We know it’s time for us to really prepare… to make sure that after the pandemic, we can serve more and more consumers,” she added.
Looking forward turned out to be the right move for the 31-year-old. Her online and offline approach turned her e-commerce startup into a multi-million dollar beauty conglomerate.
Since 2018, it has raised about $225 million and attracted an impressive list of investors including East Ventures, Jungle Ventures, Temasek, and Pavilion Capital.
Indiana, the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Social Bella, told CNBC Make It how she’s taken her Jakarta-based startup to the next level.
Handling counterfeit goods
The idea for Sociolla came about in 2015, when Indiana returned home to Jakarta, after studying abroad in Australia.
The makeup addict realized that in Australia, she had easy access to a wide range of beauty products from international brands. That is in stark contrast to Indonesia.
“There were a lot of options for me, but then I went back and there were basically none,” Indiana said.
“No platform has it all – I have to find specific sellers on social media, ask friends who can help buy you products. [when they are] Abroad.”
What makes matters worse for her is the proliferation of fake makeup products online that are sometimes sold for “a fraction” of the original price.
“I still remember very clearly in my mind that there are many similar sellers online, especially on social networks, claiming their products are 99% genuine. What does that mean, genuine 99 %?”
Indeed, domestically produced counterfeit goods abound in Indonesia, thanks to cheap labor and materials. According to a local report, Indonesian authorities seized $9 million worth of illegal cosmetic products in 2018 – double the amount of the previous year.
Seeing friends buying these products confused Indiana.
“It’s skincare, it’s makeup. It’s something that you put on your skin. That’s weird to me,” she said.
Determined to build a space where consumers can get safe and authentic products, Indiana teamed up with his brother and friend to launch Social Bella, with a starting capital of $13,000. .
“Since we started, we’ve made sure we only work with authorized distributors or brand owners,” Indiana said.
Building an ‘ecosystem’
Sociolla may have started out as an e-commerce platform, but the trio has bigger dreams.
Social Bella has since gone beyond offline stores – it’s also a distributor for beauty and personal care manufacturers worldwide.
“We became the affiliate partner of many global brands in Indonesia. We not only helped them distribute their products to Indonesia, but also helped them understand the market,” Indiana said.
In addition, this business also operates Soco, which Social Bella says is Indonesia’s largest online beauty product review service. Soco has accumulated more than 2.5 million reviews for approximately 36,000 products, the company added.
The “beauty journey” for customers is more than simply putting something in a cart and checking out, says Indiana.
“We recognize that there are so many touchpoints that really matter…finding the right product for you isn’t just about going to the store and picking it up. You’ll make sure you read the reviews. price, talk to your friends or Google first,” she added.
“Soco makes sure they have access to tons of product reviews before buying a product.”
On top of that, Social Bella also runs Beauty Journal, a lifestyle website, and Lilla, a Online retailer for mothers and babies.
It’s all part of building a business “ecosystem,” as Indiana calls it.
“We want to … serve more and more women, not only in beauty and personal care, but also in other industries.”
The startup seems to be on the right track — it now has more than 30 million users across all of its business units, says Social Bella, selling about 12,000 products from 400 brands worldwide. gender.
Indonesia’s next unicorn?
Over the past two years, Social Bella has expanded dramatically, growing from just three Sociolla stores in Indonesia in 2020, to 47 stores there and 16 stores in Vietnam today.
While much of the expansion has taken place during the pandemic, Indiana says that has always been in the plans for the e-commerce platform, locked or not.
“It’s really about creating a seamless omni-channel experience… because we believe we’re serving the same customer whether she’s shopping offline or online,” said the 30th honoree Under 30 Asia by Forbes said.
“They can choose to click and collect or … she can also deliver to her door. That ensures she can shop the way she likes.”