After working in the FMCG sector for almost a decade, Malini Adapureddy started Deconstruct in her own garage, which now has become one of the best contemporary skincare brands in the country.
After completing her engineering degree at IIT Kharagpur, Malini Adapureddy went on to pursue an MBA at INSEAD. She spent nearly ten years in the FMCG and CPG industries before starting her own business, Deconstruct. Her career began at Flipkart, followed by Proctor and Gamble and Kraft-Heinz, where she gained experience in various functional areas such as supply chain, manufacturing, marketing, and business roles.
Deconstruct, a Bangalore-based skincare brand, was founded in early 2021. A brainchild of Malini Adapureddy, this brand was started in her garage, where she is putting her engineering and marketing knowledge and bringing simple, innovative, and science-backed products.
Abhishansa Mathur was in a candid conversation with her regarding her journey of starting Deconstruct, challenges, future plans, and much more. Here's an excerpt of the interview below.
Please share the What, When, & How of starting your brand?
I have always worked in the FMCG industry and have been constantly brainstorming ideas for the sector. My approach was very systematic, and I wanted to focus on FMCG only, with skincare and personal care being the easiest to start with during the COVID pandemic. I wanted to create something that was not dependent on imports from China or other countries, given the logistical and other restrictions that were in place.
Skincare is very close to the pharmaceutical industry in India, and there are similarities in R&D, manufacturing, and other aspects. I researched the per capita spending on skincare in India compared to other countries and found that it was much lower, indicating a lot of potential for growth.
The second reason is when you look at beauty and personal care as an entire pie, skincare has been increasing, and as the market is evolving, it is becoming the most prominent thing in beauty and personal care alone. For example, it is skewed toward bathing showers, haircare, and oral care, and it is because everyone uses soap/gels, shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrush. But as the market is expanding, more people are starting to use more skincare, and it's very evident.
Moreover, skin care is becoming the most prominent segment in the beauty and personal care market as more people are using it. But India is only 12.5 percent. In China and European markets, 50% of the industry comes from skincare, and in countries like Indonesia, almost 25% of the industry comes from skincare. This macro trend made me choose skincare as the category.
Also, people today are more curious and want to know more about what they use, and this insight played a role in my decision to focus on skincare with science. With this macro perspective and consumer insight in mind, I started Deconstruct.
How has been the journey so far? How were the initial days?
Initially, I worked as a customer service representative, responsible for packaging and shipping products from my garage due to the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we acquired the products, we manufactured and stored them in the garage until we could ship them to customers. Finding resources was a priority, but fundraising proved to be a challenge for a while, though it helped me structure my work and plan for hiring employees. Prior to the brand launch, we established a social media presence on Instagram, where we shared relevant information, which became our go-to market strategy. Our initial feedback demonstrated that people trusted us because we provided useful information and promptly responded to their questions. This helped us acquire our first 1,000 customers.
What challenges did you face while running your brand? When you started VS Now?
There were different challenges at different stages. The biggest challenge when we started was hiring people and telling them we were legit. Also, since it was during COVID and everyone was working from home, it became even more difficult as we had no office or working space, and then, of course, growing the brand was a task.
Then after a while, we realized that we've reached a stage where we are doing very well and many other brands are talking about what we are talking about, so how do we differentiate ourselves? And later, thankfully, we figured it out as well. Some challenges were differentiating, organizing, growing the brand, and fundraising. But there's nothing that can't be overcome if you have a great team and place.
Let’s talk about the skincare industry in India? How is it growing?
Brands may not have a long lifespan given the rapidly evolving trends, and constant innovation has become crucial in today's fast-paced environment. Consumer trends are changing at an accelerated pace, and failing to keep up can lead to losing relevance. As such, it is essential to stay on top of consumers' changing preferences and needs.
Skincare is a growing category, and new products are being introduced frequently. However, their longevity in the market is dependent on the ever-changing consumer trends. Consumers are becoming more mindful of ingredient sourcing and sustainability, and convenience is becoming increasingly important. People desire products that provide multiple benefits and can be used on-the-go, but developing such a product can take several years of lab research.
Technology can aid in product development, but ultimately, staying ahead of consumer trends and launching new products or brands is critical for success. This is the direction in which the industry is headed.
With so many players in the market, Do you think there can be saturation soon?
I believe that saturation is unlikely to occur in this category, which is precisely why I ventured into it. Compared to other categories, there is still a lot of potential in the beauty industry. Despite the seemingly crowded market, there is significant spending on skincare in India due to the country's longstanding obsession with beauty products. While we have traditionally relied on homemade or ayurvedic remedies, the emergence of science-based products has further expanded the market. As such, I don't believe we have hit a saturation point since the industry is not monopolistic. With rapid evolution, brands must continually innovate to remain relevant, as there is always a risk of being replaced by competitors.
What trends do you foresee in this industry?
Sunscreen is a crucial component of any skincare regimen and its importance cannot be overstated. Sun exposure can have a significant negative impact on your skin, causing damage such as tanning, wrinkles, dehydration, and other age-related issues. It is heartening to see that sunscreen is gaining popularity for all the right reasons.
Also Read: Here’s how the passion for skincare made this sister duo from Ahmedabad start Azafran, a sustainable organic FMCG brand!
Let's discuss the end-to-end of your production cycle. From raw materials to manufacturing & distribution!
The timeline for our ideation process varies between a minimum of 6 to 8 months and a maximum of 18-24 months. Our first step is to consult with consumers and identify gaps in the market for a particular product, as well as any required format changes. We develop hypotheses, validate them through further consumer consultation, and supplement our findings with secondary data such as keyword trends, Google trends, and international brand insights. The R&D phase follows, which typically lasts 5-6 months, though some products may require longer. The entire cycle from ideation to product launch may take anywhere from 4 to 20 months. This is our standard process.
Where are your major clients located?
Our tier 1 demographic accounts for approximately 30-35% of our consumer base, while the remaining 65% comprises individuals from tier 2-3 cities. This trend has become normalized across cities with the advent of the internet, but it also depends on the level of engagement within a particular category. As for our male consumer base, it makes up around 30-35% of our total clientele, in line with our brand's positioning.
What, according to you, makes Deconstruct stand out amongst other brands?
We speak the language of science and say we are not a single-ingredient kind of brand. Our formulations are very gentle, which is something most of the brands in the market are not.
How are you using Social Media to promote your homegrown brand?
Social media has definitely been a go-to marketing channel, and that's where we launched our brand. Influencers are a big part of our social media strategy because we understand their importance in this entire ecosystem and expose the brand to a lot more people. We ask them to talk about their positive experience with the brand. We try to do well-rounded campaigns using social media in terms of both paid and organic channels.
As users are more involved and okay with reading the information on Instagram, we put infographic content. On YouTube - the viewers want to know more about the product or category in layperson's language. We try to keep it more user and begin friendly content as to why you should use it. On the other hand, LinkedIn is more about brand values. We keep it very organized, what the structure looks like, and what are the new developments. So we keep all three strategies very different in that way.
For us, the focus is a product, and that's where we differentiate in the very first core. We launch products that are extremely effective while also not being very heavy on the pocket because that's what our pricing range has been like. Once we are out with the product, the first thought is how do we communicate our agenda and so for that, we do before and after kind of images on social media and give out details like skin report or rather, test report so that the proof is there that it is going to work. So, our marketing strategy is about how the product is effective and everything around it.
What is your 5-year plan for Deconstruct?
We aspire to become a house of brands because trends are evolving and we need to be innovative. For every new trend, we cannot launch a brand or a range of products under Deconstruct. So, that's when a new brand becomes imperative.
Can you share your business model with us?
It is pretty simple, and we have kept it very retail-specific. We have been online but recently started with offline stores in Bangalore. We sell through our website and third-party places.
Could you tell us about your funding Phase a little?
We have raised two rounds of funding as of now, and we recently celebrated our second anniversary in February this year. The first round was on the idea and the vision, and the second round has definitely been on numbers and growth. It feels happy to say that whatever vision we had thought of is coming to a place, and we have seen it translate into revenue numbers as well. We are tracking some targets this year, and if that works out, we will go for another round of funding in 6-8 months.
One advice/suggestion you’d like to give aspiring entrepreneurs out there.
If you want to start something that first leap of faith has to be with no logic and all through because your heart says and you want to do it, and that's the right time you should do it. But if you've already started and taken that step, then just be positive, experiment multiple times, and fail quickly because when you fail, you'll also figure out a successful path and just be persistent.
One Anecdote you would like to share?
So, like how people in the West say that everything started in a garage, for me, it literally did. I started a company in a garage, and that's so literal of something.
Your happiest or cherished moment/achievement you would like to share.
There is no one cherished moment for me. One thing I've learned as an entrepreneur is that don't get very excited about anything positive and also don't get very depressed about something negative because it's a daily thing. When I made my first hire, I thought I had conquered something; similarly, after the first round of funding was done, I thought it was brilliant. But then the sales dipped by 30% compared to the previous month, and I got dejected. Later we scaled again and received funding in the second round too. It's an up-and-down kind of journey, and I think it is something I cherish the most.
Describe your startup in 2 words: Consumer-focused and innovative
Best-selling products: Brightening Serum, retinol serum, and vitamin serum sunscreen
One homegrown business that you love and support: Can't pick one, but I will probably say Local Samosa and Social Samosa
One habit that helped you in your entrepreneurial journey: I'm very disciplined.
Best investment you did for your learning: My engineering degree though it looks like I'm not using it, but I'm using it somewhere.
One thing you really are a badass at: I usually don't get daunted by any situation. I just take it and go with it.
What do you know now, wish you had known earlier: Take a lot more decisions with your gut.
One piece of advice you received that you still follow: Be persistent about what you want to achieve
Three things one should remember/learn when one wants to work in the Skincare industry:
1. Just make sure you know your consumers well.
2. Try not doing something because everyone is doing it. Figure that one thing out which can set your brand apart.