Secret Skin tapping into a burgeoning clean beauty market
Secret Skin was born after founder, Anisha Oberoi, fought a year-long battle with breast cancer and her search for clean, non-toxic beauty products to assist in her recovery. Her struggle for sufficient information or accessibility to such products led to the foundation of a platform that hosts sustainable, non-toxic beauty and wellness brands that are devoted to the ‘People, Planet and Purpose’.
The company is an impact-driven ecommerce discovery platform that connects beauty consumers in the Middle East to sustainable beauty brands from around the world. Built on a framework that focuses on social and environmental impact, all brands are responsibly curated with sustainable products that are safe for people and the planet, without any harmful chemicals or synthetic toxins. As a beauty tech start-up incorporated in UAE, Secret Skin’s mission is to raise awareness of mindful consumption and women’s health in the region through the narrative of “clean beauty”.
The global beauty and personal care sector was forecasted by Grandview Research to reach around $716 billion by 2025 out of which approximately 8 percent will be clean beauty. The GCC beauty and personal care industry is projected to be approximately $32.2 billion by 2025.
According to Oberoi, the assumption is that the share of clean beauty in the GCC will be in line with global forecasts translating to around $2.6 bn. Secret Skin believes that clean beauty and specifically ecommerce is the way forward in the region which approximately around 40 percent of the GCC clean beauty market in the Middle East.
Within GCC, Saudi makes up for 30 percent in beauty spending, followed by UAE and Qatar (about 20 percent each) with the rest allocated to Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. In UAE alone, the beauty market is forecasted to be $6.4 bn, making clean beauty a $510m market by 2025.
Oberoi pointed out, “The GCC region differs from the rest of the world in digital penetration (> 90 percent) and spending propensity (>$240 per capita spend, highest globally in the beauty category). Covid has expedited the online shift in the region (forecasted to grow twice by 2023 and 4x by 2025).”
Setting up has not always been easy for Oberoi. She added, “It’s a steep learning curve: you’re braiding the rope as fast as you’re climbing it, and finding new ways to reach higher, scale faster. I think I should give myself more credit for the kind of traction that we have achieved in eight months. We are aggressive yet intend to meaningfully, cautiously disrupt the beauty landscape by focusing on women’s health through the narrative of beauty, instead of what a mainstream player would do to build their voice. This has been very rewarding to me personally, given what I am trying to create.”
Like many startup entrepreneurs, setting up payment gateways was another hurdle. “I remember a bank refusing to allow us a payment gateway because we didn’t have an office, and refusing to consider the flexi-desk attached to our license - this caused a month’s gap for launch,” shared Oberoi.
The company also experienced Covid-related delays in receiving shipments because they were not considered priority due to pandemic-related guidelines, or due to the paucity of flights. So the company had to pay exorbitant freight charges to get inventory in. “I was also quite new to the region so we had to learn how to navigate government regulations that applied to local businesses that import from abroad. However, we were able to pivot and mitigate risks quickly as a result of our determination, and the right advice from our advisors and legal counsel. In the beginning I had to scout hard to onboard brands, but now they come to us to be enlisted,” said Oberoi.
Oberoi has a lot to be proud of. Secret Skin secured exclusive brand partnerships from brands new to the region as well as garnered support from mission-aligned angel investors as well as built a small team who were passionate to be part of the Secret Skin journey.
Oberoi shared, “Our customers grew steadily as did the awareness around clean beauty. I am proud that we have had no cancellations or returns since we launched six months ago, and this is due to the superior customer service and fulfilment experience that we have been able to put into place.”
Secret Skin has recently just rolled out in Oman and Kuwait, and are preparing to enter KSA later in 2021. The company plans to launch an app and a Private Label in 2022 with expansion plans to South East Asia starting with Singapore in 2023.
“My dream is to have our ME HQ in Dubai and the SEA HQ in Singapore where I lived for two years, and to ship globally. I want Secret Skin to be known as a pioneer in Sustainable Beauty Tech, a business that focuses on women’s health and wellness with contribution to social and environmental impact in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals,” pointed out Oberoi.