Anurag Kedia and Gagandeep Makker, co-founders, Pilgrim. Image: Swapnil Sakhare for Forbes India
In March 2020, when Anurag Kedia and Gagandeep Makker were about to launch their products in the market, a nationwide lockdown was announced in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Three-and-a-half years later, the direct-to-consumer (D2C) beauty and personal care brand witnessed an oversubscribed funding round. The duo from IIT-Bombay decided to launch Pilgrim in 2019 after noticing a common trend among their relatives—they were hoarding international brands after bringing them back to the country [from their overseas trips]. “So we decided to bring those international beauty ingredients to Indian consumers,” says 44-year-old Kedia. The Mumbai-headquartered company has raised $20 million in Series B funding led by Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia and India, along with existing investors Fireside Ventures and Narotam Sekhsaria Family Office.
The key ingredients used in their products set the company apart from the others in an already-cluttered market. “This is fairly a new concept for the Indian audience. We’re bringing ingredients from the country of origin. That's the USP of our brand,” explains 32-year-old Makker. The homegrown brand offers a range of products curated with ingredients from France, Korea, Spain, Australia, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Swiss glaciers. The idea was to make the products available at an affordable price. The brand has also introduced new products in India, like lip peel roll-ons. Sourcing these raw materials costs a lot, but the startup claims to have cracked the code to make it available to customers at a reasonable price.
Pilgrim started as a digital-first brand, but is now looking to grow its offline presence. Currently, 8 percent of the sales come from offline channels, the rest from marketplaces and their own website. In August, the startup clocked around Rs26 crore in revenue, and its annual recurring revenue (ARR) stands at Rs300 crore. The brand is eyeing scaling to Rs1,000 crore ARR by 2025. In the past, Pilgrim raised a total funding of Rs48 crore. The company offers over 90 stock-keeping units (SKUs) across face care, haircare, skincare products, and fragrances in over 25,000 pin codes. “Over a period of 12 months, we normally see 40 to 50 percent of our consumers come back and buy from us multiple times. At present, we’re selling 850,000 units per month,” claims Kedia. All the products offered by the clean beauty brand are vegan and free from toxins like paraben, sulphate and mineral oil.
India’s beauty and personal care market is projected to touch $30 billion by 2027, accounting for about 5 percent of the global market, according to a report by Redseer Strategy Consultants along with Peak XV. The beauty market in India is currently under-penetrated. On a per capita basis, spending on beauty and personal care stands at $14 in the country, compared to $313 in the US and $38 in China. Online commerce will become a significant channel for this industry and is projected to touch $10 billion by 2027, making up 33 percent of the total market by then.
Pilgrim, with its strong product formulations and unique international ranges, enables access to high-quality and effective products for Indian customers right at their doorstep, says Kanika Mayar, partner at Vertex Ventures SEA & India. “We believe Pilgrim is at the new frontier of India's beauty and personal care industry, and we look forward to working with the team to create a truly aspirational and global brand."