By combining science and sustainability, Plum’s plans for success bear fruit

At a glance  Startup: Plum  Founder: Shankar Prasad  Year it was founded: 2013  Where it is located: Mumbai  Sector: Retail…

Shankar Prasad, CEO & Founder, Plum.
Shankar Prasad, CEO & Founder, Plum.

At a glance

  •  Startup: Plum
  •  Founder: Shankar Prasad
  •  Year it was founded: 2013
  •  Where it is located: Mumbai
  •  Sector: Retail
  •  Problem it solves: Skincare in an environment-friendly way
  •  Funding: Bootstrapped

 Mumbai-based Plum, claims to be India’s first 100 percent vegan beauty brand.

The founder of plum is Shankar Prasad in year 2013 located in Mumbai as retail sector. Skincare in an environment-friendly way is the main motive of Plum with Bootstrapped funding.

Chennai-based Shankar Prasad, 43, a chemical engineer from IIT Bombay, worked for eight years at HUL in manufacturing and product development. After completing his MBA from ISB, Hyderabad, with a gold medal, Shankar was a management consultant for two years with FMCG and financial services clients. He was also a part of the founding team for FACES Cosmetics in India. In 2013, he worked out the concept of Plum, which combines science and sustainability. For him the country’s beauty market was missing transparency.

According to him, entrepreneurship was not his career plan;  he enjoyed doing something creative and positive. Plum maintains transparency of source and ingredients for the customer, as well as thoughtfulness for resources.Plum is a much-liked fruit – juicy, wholesome, and delights on the first bite and that is how exactly the brand personalityworking he’d imagined. For him, the venture was an amalgamation of his values, his knowledge as an engineer, and his experience from working in the personal care space for a long time.

The brand was created in a London design studio with most products designed in the EU. As India’s first 100 percent vegan beauty brand, Plum claims to have safe ingredients, with natural extracts to suit various skin types and concerns.

Growing market

For beauty, India is a large and growing market, expanding in every dimension i.e. the categories that people are beginning to use, the diversity of choice variables, the price points that are operational. It is for customers of all age and income groups.Plum offers a no-questions-asked free replacement policy on Plum sells on Amazon, Nykaa, Flipkart, Myntra, Purplle, and Snap deal, and Health Glow stores in metro cities.

According to Red Seer consultants, the beauty market in India is around $7 billion in size, and growing in healthy double digits and  expects the offline business to pick up pace in FY2019. Shankar believes that Plum’s differentiation stems from its cruelty and nastiest-free philosophy.

Profit without funding

Despite not having raised external funding, Plum became profitable in 2016.According to Shankar, funding depends on three things: what’s our growth aspiration, how much capital is required, and whether the funding partner is aligned on the aspiration and trajectory. When the answers to these questions align well one should not hesitate to raise funding. Social media, product innovation, and quality have helped them gain traction.

The products are manufactured in Maharashtra and abroad. They own the supply chain and take care of material management and manufacturing; delivery is outsourced.Plum now serves around 60,000 customers per month. The secret of their success is vision towards qualitative more than quantitative, being financially sustainable, channel partner satisfaction and feedback, success of new product launches, repeat customer rate, and productivity of retail stores.

Caring for the planet

The start-up uses only recyclable packaging, avoiding the use of PVC,ABS, and SAN. They avoid over-packaging and constantly look for ways to reduce the use of packaging.

We do not use any plastic that cannot be recycled. Our tubes and bottles are made of the least damaging plastic. But we are not sacrificing on the aesthetic quality, says Shankar.Shankar says Plum is careful about the claims they make, and do not do anything they cannot substantiate. They give away 1 percent of our sales towards environmental causes, as a member of the global non-profit ‘One Percent for The Planet’.

Not without challenges

Plum’s biggest achievement so far is being able to stay in the business while sticking to its values. But the journey has not been without challenges. According to him, managing smaller production volumes is a struggle until they reach a much larger scale. Although he did not reveal the current GMV, Shankar says Plum will continue to expand along all dimensions – product, consumer reach, and distribution.

They are now about 50-strong, with our headquarters in Mumbai and sales teams spread over all four regions and do not sell outside India but are seeing clear interest and a few discussions are on.