The co-founders of the homegrown D2C beauty brand - Pilgrim, Gangandeep Makker, and Anurag Kedia, were always driven by the idea that Indian consumers deserve world-class options when it comes to skincare and hair care without burning a hole in their pockets.
There is an unmet desire amidst well-traveled and aware millennials. This desire is to experience affordable global beauty offerings, at their doorstep. While Indians are aware of global beauty trends, this awareness is limited to sensations like K-Beauty. Moreover, it has been difficult to access these experiences in India.
Once this need was established, the co-founders of Pilgrim put together an on-ground experience in the beauty and entrepreneurship space. Hence, Pilgrim was founded in 2019.
“Pilgrim makes borderless beauty experiences accessible and affordable. It brings together unique beauty and cultural traditions from around the world. It connects with the wanderlust spirit of a modern millennial, hence the name – Pilgrim,” explains Gagandeep Makker, Co-Founder & COO, Pilgrim.
“We believe in 'clean beauty'. Hence, all our products are FDA approved and free from toxins like parabens, sulfates, and mineral oils, which are otherwise commonly used in beauty products. Our range of products is 100 percent vegan, free of harmful toxins, and not tested on animals,” he adds.
The brand currently offers 35 SKUs across hair, face, and bath-body in the price range of Rs 30 -800.
The journey as an entrepreneur is filled with challenges. However, it’s your perspective and approach that will help turn the tide.
“We looked at these challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. The biggest challenge that we faced over the last year was the disruption of the supply chain at various points. Many of our ingredients are sourced internationally. This created challenges in logistics and global procurement. Having said that it also allowed us to unlearn, create new systems, work closely with our agile global network and bounce back. We are now equipped to cater to the growing demands and account for disruptions,” he asserts.
Betting Big on D2C
The brand has seen an increased inclination towards personal well-being and care in Indian millennials. Indian consumers want to experience and access global beauty regimes and ingredients from the comfort of their homes. Hence, Pilgrim operates at the intersection of borderless beauty experiences and a strong D2C model.
“We have identified a gap in the market where young India wants to invest in personal care, experience global regimens, and ingredients without burning a hole in their pockets. We make this possible through our retail strategy and product offerings. At the core of this strategy is a goal to stay relevant. We want to seamlessly integrate into their aspired lifestyle as opposed to a transactional relationship where it comes down to selling/ buying,” he asserts.
“We retail via multiple platforms including our website. We are also betting big on personalization. We understand that Indians have long been subjected to a one-size-fits-all approach. We are here to break that notion and create effective and targeted solutions. To enable this we invest heavily in R&D. It empowers us to curate unique, 'clean' beauty and cultural traditions from around the world. It has also played a pivotal role in bringing a toxin-free range of products to India,” he adds.
Young India takes pride in representing thoughtful brands. They want to live by example and spread awareness on how toxic ingredients can harm the skin and the environment.
“Hence, we identified the 20 most common and harmful ingredients, available in most products. We call them ‘The Toxic 20’. Our R&D teams found viable substitutes for these ingredients. Our products are toxin-free without compromising on efficacy and stability. Moreover, every Pilgrim product undergoes several rounds of iterations before launch. We make this possible at a larger scale with our strong and agile global network,” Makker states.
Technology also enabled the brand to understand consumer concerns. Its AI-powered customer support chat offers personalized suggestions. It also empowers the brand with insights that can help it constantly innovate its offerings.
“Within a year of sales, we have witnessed an ARR of Rs 18 crore. Today, we touch the lives of around 30,000 users every month and aspire to grow this 8x in the next 12 months,” he shares.
Bringing Global Beauty Practices to Indian Millennials
The brand has a strong and agile global network including R&D teams. These teams are driven to find solutions to problems we face every day. If a consumer can access the same apps/ food/ clothing as its global counterparts in an accessible way, why is personal care left behind? Why the barriers of logistics and cost? Hence, the brand is in a constant pursuit to test and invest in ingredients and formulations that deliver the best results for our consumers.
“We deliver quality experiences with a strong focus on R&D and a controlled QC process. We consistently innovate in partnership with credible R&D teams across the world. This enables us to bring exciting beauty experiences from different parts of the world and offer the highest quality products to our consumers,” he asserts.
Currently, its two best-selling ranges include ‘Secrets of Jeju Island, Korea’ and ‘Secrets of Vinotherapie’. The first is inspired by the secrets of the pristine island of Jeju. The second is inspired by the tradition of Vinotherapy in France and uses Red Vine as a key ingredient.
“The Indian D2C beauty market holds tremendous potential. While from a business perspective, we want to scale and unlock this potential, our bigger aspiration is to integrate ourselves into the lives of our consumers, meaningfully. To achieve this we want to double down on enhancing our R&D capabilities,” he says.
Marrying Technology with the Brand
As a D2C brand catering to young India, Pilgrim is digitally savvy. Technology has enabled the brand to create points of differentiation across several touchpoints.
“With AI, we can create meaningful experiences for our customers, from the comfort of their homes. It empowers us to add value to their lives. Technology has also helped us create authentic and innovative value propositions. Feedback from consumers enables our R&D teams to dig deeper and fast-track product innovation,” Makker states.
The brand has recently raised Rs 13 crore in Series A funding. The round was led by Fireside Ventures, Rukam Capital, and founding teams of Boat, NoBroker, and the founder- CEO of Bewakoof.com, with Dexter capital as the transaction advisor.
“Our vision is to disrupt the D2C beauty and personal care industry. The funding, which takes us a step closer to our vision, will be primarily used for - enhancing R&D capabilities, team expansion, and brand investments. Most importantly we are excited to build a homegrown brand that brings at par global experiences in a localized manner,” he says.
“Additionally, we are looking at building larger teams across different functions and levels and increased brand investments to bring alive global experiences for our users, both online and offline,” he adds.