Millennial’s beauty startup Social Bella raised over $225 million

How Indonesia's counterfeiting problem spurred a multimillion-dollar beauty business

When the Covid pandemic hit in 2020, much of the world was locked down and turned more to online shopping.

But Crisanti Indiana did the unexpected: She took her e-commerce business — offline.

Her beauty and personal care e-commerce startup Sociolla had only two brick-and-mortar stores in Indonesia in 2019. By the end of 2021, that number would increase “10-fold,” she said.

“A lot of people told us it was a very brave move to open an offline presence while everyone was closing their offline stores. [during the pandemic]” she added.

But it was a “well-calculated” move for Social Bella, the company that runs Sociolla.

We know now is the time for us to prepare… to make sure we can serve more and more consumers after the pandemic.

Chrysanthemum Indiana

Co-founder and CMO of Sociolla

“We know that this is the right time for us to prepare to make sure that we can serve more and more consumers after the pandemic,” she added.

Looking far ahead proved to be the right move for the 31-year-old. Her online and offline approach transformed her e-commerce startup into a multi-million dollar beauty conglomerate.

It has raised around $225 million since 2018 and has built an impressive list of investors that includes East Ventures, Jungle Ventures, Temasek and Pavilion Capital.

Indiana, Social Bella’s co-founder and head of marketing, tells CNBC Make It how she took her Jakarta-based startup to the next level.

Fighting counterfeits

The idea for Sociolla was born in 2015 when Indiana returned home to Jakarta after studying in Australia.

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The make-up junkie realized she had easy access to a wide range of beauty products from international brands in Australia. It was a stark contrast to Indonesia.

“I had a lot of opportunities, but then I came back and there were basically none,” Indiana said.

“There was no platform where it was all there – I had to find specific sellers on social media, ask friends who can help you buy the product. [when they are] abroad.”

Her situation was compounded by the proliferation of counterfeit cosmetics online, sometimes sold at a “fraction” of the original price.

I still clearly remember that there are many similar sellers online, especially on social media, who claim that their products are 99% authentic. What does it mean, 99% authentic?

Chrysanthemum Indiana

Co-founder and CMO of Sociolla

“I still vividly remember that online, especially on social media, there are many similar sellers who claim that their products are 99% authentic. What does that mean, 99% authentic?”

Indeed, locally produced counterfeits are widespread in Indonesia due to cheap labor costs and materials. According to a local report, Indonesian authorities seized $9 million worth of illegal cosmetic products in 2018, double the amount of the previous year.

Seeing her friends buying these products left Indiana confused.

“It’s skincare, it’s makeup. It’s something you put on your skin. It’s just weird to me,” she said.

Determined to create a space where consumers can source safe and authentic products, Indiana teamed up with her brother and a friend to launch Social Bella with $13,000 in seed capital.

“Since we started, we’ve made sure we only work with authorized dealers or brand owners,” Indiana said.

building an ‘ecosystem’

Sociolla may have started as an e-commerce platform, but the trio had bigger dreams.

Since then, Social Bella has expanded beyond offline stores to become a global distributor for beauty and personal care manufacturers.

“We become an associate partner of many global brands in Indonesia. We help them not only distribute their products in Indonesia, but also help them understand the market,” Indiana said.

In addition, the company also operates Soco, which Social Bella says is Indonesia’s largest online beauty product review service. Soco has accumulated more than 2.5 million reviews on approximately 36,000 products, the company added.

Social Bella was founded in 2015 by Crisanti Indiana, her brother and President Christopher Madiam (left) and CEO John Rasjid (right).

Social Bella

The “beauty journey” for customers goes beyond adding items to shopping carts and checking out, Indiana said.

“We realized that there are so many touchpoints that are really important… to find the right products for you, it’s not just about going to the store and picking them up. You definitely read reviews, talk to friends or Google First,” she added.

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“Soco makes sure they have access to a lot of product reviews before they buy.”

Additionally, Social Bella also operates Beauty Journal, a lifestyle website, and Lilla, an online retailer for mothers and babies.

It’s all part of building a business “ecosystem,” as Indiana calls it.

We want to make sure we expand and reach more and more consumers. If Social Bella becomes a unicorn, that’s a bonus

“We want to…serve more and more women, not just in beauty and personal care, but in other industries as well.”

The startup appears to be on the right track — it now has more than 30 million users across its business units, Social Bella said, selling 12,000 products from 400 brands worldwide.

Indonesia’s next unicorn?

Over the past two years, Social Bella has expanded rapidly, growing from just three Sociolla stores in Indonesia in 2020 to 47 stores there and 16 stores in Vietnam today.

While much of the expansion took place during the pandemic, Indiana said it’s always been part of the e-commerce platform’s plan, whether it’s on lockdown or not.

“It’s really about creating a seamless omnichannel experience… because we believe we’re serving the same customer whether she’s shopping offline or online,” said the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia honoree.

“They can choose to do click and collect or … she can also have her purchases delivered to her home. This ensures she can shop the way she likes.”

Social Bella aims to serve more female customers.

Social Bella

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