When the Covid pandemic hit in 2020, much of the world was under lockdown and more people turned to online shopping.
But Indiana’s Chrysanthemum did the unexpected: it expanded its 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, this number will increase “10 times”, he said.
“A lot of people actually told us that it was a very bold move to open an offline presence when everyone else was closing their offline stores. [during the pandemic]”, she added.
But it was a “well-calculated” move for Social Bella, which runs Sociolla.
“We know that this is the time for us to really prepare … to make sure that after the pandemic we can serve more and more consumers,” he said.
Looking ahead was 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 nearly $225 million and has an impressive list of investors that include East Ventures, Jungle Ventures, Temasek and Pavilion Capital.
Indiana, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Social Bella, tells CNBC Make It how she took her Jakarta-based startup to the next level.
The idea for Sociolla came about in 2015 when Indiana returned home to Jakarta after studying in Australia.
The makeup lover realized that in Australia she had easy access to a wide range of beauty products from international brands. It was a complete difference from Indonesia.
“There were a lot of options for me, but then I came back and there was basically nothing,” Indiana said.
“There was no one-size-fits-all platform – I had to find specific sellers on social media and ask friends who could buy products for you. [when they are] abroad”.
What made it worse was the online proliferation of fake makeup products, sometimes sold at a “fraction” of the original price.
“I still remember that there are many sellers on the Internet, especially on social media, who claim that their products are 99% authentic. What does that mean, 99% authentic?”
In fact, counterfeiting is rampant in Indonesia due to cheap labor costs and local materials. Indonesian authorities seized $9 million worth of illegal cosmetics in 2018, double the amount from the previous year, according to a local report.
Indiana was surprised to see friends buying this product.
“It’s skin care, it’s makeup. It’s what you put on your skin. It’s amazing to me,” she said.
Determined to create a space where consumers can get safe and authentic products, Indiana teamed up with her brother and friend to launch Social Bella with an initial investment of $13,000.
“Since we started, we have ensured that we only work with authorized distributors or brand owners,” Indiana said.
Creating an “ecosystem”
Sociolla may have started as an e-commerce platform, but the trio had bigger dreams.
Social Bella has since expanded beyond offline stores – it is also a distributor for beauty and personal care manufacturers worldwide.
“We become a partner of many global brands in Indonesia. We not only help them distribute their products in Indonesia, but also help them understand the market,” said Indiana.
In addition, the business also operates Soco, which Social Bella says is the largest online beauty product review service in Indonesia. Soco has collected over 2.5 million reviews for nearly 36,000 products. the company increased.
Indiana said the “beauty journey” for customers goes beyond just putting something in their shopping cart and checking out.
“We’ve learned that there are many touch points that are really important … finding the right product for you isn’t just about going to the store and picking it up. You’ll be sure to read reviews, talk to your friends, or Google First ,” she added.
“Soco makes sure they can access tons of product reviews before they buy.”
In addition, Social Bella also runs Beauty Journal, a lifestyle website, and Lilla, online retailer for moms 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 in other areas as well.”
The startup seems to be on the right track – it now has more than 30 million users across all its business units, said Social Bella, selling an inventory of 12,000 products from 400 brands worldwide.
Indonesia’s next hit?
Over the past two years, Social Bella has expanded aggressively, growing from three Sociolla stores in Indonesia to 47 stores and 16 stores in Vietnam in 2020.
While much of the expansion took place during the pandemic, Indiana said it was always part of the e-commerce platform’s plan, shutdown or not.
“It’s really about creating a seamless, holistic experience… because we believe we serve the same customer whether he’s shopping offline or online,” said the Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 awardee.
“They can choose to click and collect or … she can also have the purchases delivered to her home. This ensures that she can shop the way she loves.”