Minimalist: Bringing transparency, authenticity and efficacy into personal care

Mayank Porwal

Published July 29, 2021

We first met Mohit and Rahul Yadav in 2008 when they started their first company, Scopial Fashions, an e-commerce startup built for India’s pre-smartphone era. Although Sequoia Capital India did not invest in it, it was clear to us that the brothers were sharp, frugal, complementary in skill, and great in execution. When we partnered with CarDekho in 2013, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the brothers had joined Cardekho’s core team. Over the coming years, they played pivotal roles in Business and Product there.

When the duo left CarDekho to start up Freewill, a personalized hair care brand, it was a pretty easy decision for us to recommend them to our colleagues at Surge. Mohit and Rahul, who had both grown tremendously in ambition and experience, and moved faster than ever before, joined Surge’s second cohort in 2019.

Their experience at Freewill resulted in a lot of hard-won learnings on what Indian consumers want in their products and the kinds of problems they’d like their products to solve, as well as on direct-to-consumer distribution and delivery. Last year, the brothers pivoted and relaunched their company as Minimalist, a digital-first science based skincare brand with a mission to bring transparency, authenticity and efficacy into personal care, by showing their customers what ingredients they are using, why they use them, and how they help their products perform better.

Millennial consumers across India are increasingly health and product conscious, and want to be informed about what goes into the products they buy. They want to know which ingredients are used, and how they function not only on their skin, but also on how they impact the environment. Whether it’s on forums like Reddit or videos on YouTube, millions of users are striving to learn more about each aspect of their consumption behaviour, so that they can make educated choices. Mohit and Rahul aim to give Indian consumers the solutions they are looking for with a level of transparency that is not yet common in the country’s skincare industry.

Today, we are thrilled to announce that Sequoia Capital India is leading Minimalist’s Series A round, along with participation from Unilever Ventures.

Bringing science into beauty

India’s personal care market is worth $18 billion and growing at a healthy pace of 10% per year. Looking at the share and trajectory of cosmeceuticals in the US, we believe India’s science-backed personal care segment will be worth $3 billion by 2025. This is the market Mohit and Rahul are going after.

Minimalist’s current product range consists of science-backed serums and lotions which contain active ingredients, like niacinamide, salicylic acid, and retinoid. These target skin conditions, such as hyperpigmentation, acne, and melasma, that affect Indian skin differently but are often not well addressed by international brands. Minimalist, which manufactures all their products in-house, has a dozen R&D specialists who spend at least six months in development and then a similar duration in testing these products before launch. All of Minimalist’s products are free of fragrances, allergens or toxic ingredients. The company’s data shows that 83% of Minimalist users are able to find significant differences in their skin conditions within four to six weeks of use. The company has already launched 20 SKUs, and is expanding their range by targeting specific skincare problems where consumers report they are not satisfied with the results, or the affordability, of other brands.

Building what consumers love

The customer engagement for Minimalist across various channels is multifold stronger than most other DTC skincare brands we’ve seen so far. This reflects the connection that they have been able to build with their users. What’s more, they’ve been able to reach many new consumers who don’t fit the archetype of ‘typical’ DTC beauty users; about 50% of Minimalist customers come from India’s Tier 2 cities and beyond, and nearly 30% of them are male.

This comes down to their promise to customers and their positioning. While personal care brands in India have traditionally grown their reach by making marketing promises to consumers, such as, ‘remain oil-free for 24 hours’, Minimalist has taken a different approach. The real hero is their product and the biggest influencers are their users. From building for product benefits their consumers really look for, educating them about the source and functions of the product ingredients, to sharing only raw customer stories as opposed to doing paid campaigns, Minimalist strives to be highly transparent with its customers every step of the way.

What’s next for Minimalist?

Minimalist has already served more than a million customers and is one of the fastest growing Indian personal care brands we have seen in recent years. This is just the beginning for them, and they plan to extend beyond skincare, and into other personal care segments such as haircare and bodycare. Minimalist is committed to continue innovating and using their extensive R&D capabilities to keep churning out products that users love and that solve real problems, not only for India but for the world.