Around seven years ago, Sabrina Suhail, a makeup artist was taken aback when one of her clients asked if any of the products contain animal ingredients. Although an animal lover, Sabrina had never considered the makeup industry would have anything to do with animals.
Usually prepared for any questions her clients may have, Sabrina went back and studied the ingredients.
“When I looked in-depth into the ingredients, I realised that brands use chemical names which people believe are just a chemical and don’t know that it is extracted from a certain animal. It was quite shocking to me as to why they would use animal products when plants can make good ingredients too,” she tells HerStory. Sabrina says her academic background in chemistry and botany helped in understanding the industry better.
After 15 years of working as a makeup artist, Sabrina Suhail decided to start a cosmetic brand in 2014. Her Bengaluru-based startup, Tinge, is now part of the natural and clean cosmetic market that is expected to reach $834.5 million in 2021.
For the first three years, Sabrina focussed on studying and researching clean beauty products and obtaining necessary licences for her business.
Officially registered in 2018, its store in Bengaluru attracted customers for its customised products. The startup prides itself on conducting transparent business where the customer can choose their preferred colour and fragrance to alter the standard products and watch it being made in front of them. “Once their preferred formulation is sold, the remaining is discarded and the same product is not sold again,” Sabrina says.
The startup offers a wide range of cruelty-free and vegan products like lip balm and lipstick, foundation, and concealer, among others. They are also handcrafted with minimal machine intervention.
The entrepreneur says, “This is a first-of-its-kind offering and many haven’t heard of the customised concept in makeup. That was usually restricted to clothes or haircuts but no company customises a foundation or an eyeliner for you.”
It also follows the sustainability path wherein Tinge allows customers to refill their products instead of throwing the empty bottles and purchasing brand new ones. The entrepreneur also makes it a point to raise funds for animal welfare organisations like CUPA once or twice a year.
Started with an initial investment of Rs 46 lakh, Tinge clocks a monthly revenue of Rs 4 lakh. It also claims to have grown 30 to 40 percent between 2018 and 2020.
COVID-19 and the road ahead
Sabrina says she didn’t expect the entrepreneurial journey to be easy and rightly so. One of the key challenges, she recounts, has been obtaining the licences as they are very expensive.
“You have to really think if you want a particular licence on your packaging as we are a small company. We let go of some stamps like eco-certification and our customers have been pretty okay without it,” she shares. Product testing has also been another challenge.
While word-of-mouth played a key role in its growth, Sabrina believes building trust was crucial for customers to walk in and purchase customised products. To achieve this, it leveraged social media and showcased transparency by presenting the raw materials being made into final products.
Besides its own website, its vegan cosmetics are available on 15 different platforms including Vanity wagon, Sublime Life, LBB, and will be available soon on Nykaa. However, the customised products are restricted only to the startup’s website and the store.
To get products customised online, customers are instructed to send a couple of pictures, facing the light without any makeup and proceed with their preference of colour and fragrance online. This is particularly important because customer visits to the store have dwindled due to COVID-19.
“There were hardly any sales during the lockdown but we saw constant growth in lipstick sales over time because this is something quick to put on before a call,” she adds.
Moving ahead, Sabrina hopes to expand Tinge’s retail presence by opening stores across India.