The term – Gender Neutral – is making rounds on the internet every day, but have you ever heard of a Gender Neutral Beauty Brand?

This is mCaffeine’s winning idea, that has crossed the 100-crore revenue mark with 2 million customers in 4 years since their launch in October 2016.

Today mCaffeine has 20+ products, ALL Bestsellers across ALL D2C platforms in their categories, along with awards from the top beauty magazines in India!

Tarun Sharma (Founder, mCaffeine) shared his journey and lessons in a live meetup with HelloMeets. Here's what you can apply to build your DTC brand:


What makes a direct to consumer brand successful?

Talk as much as you can with your customer.

Take as many reviews and insights as possible, and cater to their most important and urgent needs. Because "they are the reason you are". If your customers find your product consistent and satisfying, they'll spread it through word of mouth – and that is the most reliable long-term strategy.


What Makes mCaffine a unique DTC brand?

When Tarun discovered the caffeine skincare, there were tons of players in the vanity market with the underlying tone that the customer's lives would transform by using the products.

Their selling point was helping the consumer reach a goal, like getting married or getting a job, and hence the products acted as means to an end.

But the essence of mCaffeine is in its quality to be unique to all individual users, it became lifestyle more than a way to  just achieve. It embedded individualism in the brand – I OWN MYSELF, AS I AM.

How to get unseen insights on products from customers?

- Find the Objective of your Study. Example: In the early stages, mCaffeine wanted to know if their TG was accepting the caffeine-based skincare, and how they are relating to the brand ideology. In the later stages, they wanted to know how their remarketing engines are performing, how small changes in packaging are affecting the sales.

- Ask the right questions through a Questionnaire. And then find ways to generate analytical data from them

- Build an interaction with the customer which is specific to a product, specific to a category, specific to a certain branding campaign. This assortment adds clarity to the insights you gather from those customers.

- Learn to differentiate between a customer's opinion v/s their insight

- Participate in conversations with prospective customers who match with your brand's messaging like - “Cruelty-Free”

- Build organic campaigns with the help of Early Adopters because they are the first (and free!) ambassadors of your brand

Constantly iterate your product’s physiology and psychology through calculated experiments. Never allow your product or marketing to become stale or boring.


What is your Moat? How do you build moats for your brand?

Your Brand is your moat, as it is a function of the product, people, systems, and content.

The product can be tweaked to your advantage, but Brand is something that will be unique; ex. Airpods.

Invest higher time in building the brand.  And keep looking for differentiation, otherwise, you’ll die. People remember mCaffeine amongst hundreds of skincare brands because they have concentrated their efforts on Differentiation. [Check out the book to learn this better → Differentiate or Die].

A brand takes 'mind-share' and a product takes a 'wallet-share'. If you have mind-share with a certain brand that means the brand has done a decent job in penetrating the communication overload of the internet to reach you. Branding is an ongoing job. And if it is not your moat, it is highly likely that there would be a sharp downfall of the product.


How do you get your first 1000 customers?

1.      Find out who ARE your Ideal Customers

2.      Find out where they hang out

3.      Map the Ideal Persona and Early Adopters

4.      Target their conversations

5.      Target their habits

6.      Target their issues with your product as a solution to them

Apart from Industry Reports, Google Trends, and data from Online Marketplaces - observe the Global Ecosystem as well. Aim to have a high retention rate on your platform in the longer run.


How to choose where to sell?

Remember that no one can tell your story better than YOU. Start with building your narrative about the brand. Give it a feeling that people can resonate with and remember, regardless of where your products are being sold.

Different platforms fulfil different needs of sales. mCaffeine’s own platform serves as a very specific objective Vs Nykaas and Amazons of the world which have a perspective of their own.

Choose your platform depending upon the objective of your product, the perspective of the users towards specific platforms, and the relationship the platforms have with their user base. Ex: Amazon’s main agenda is to be closer to their customers through operational excellence.

Your biggest challenge is to crack the right mix of channels to touch the customers and build the right amount of rapport with them.

How and when can DTC brands go offline successfully?

If you have created a decent online presence and the online platforms are not bringing you growth, then you can CONSIDER going offline. But first, ask yourself WHY. Will your objectives be carried through on an offline platform?

Back up your decision with data (Quarterly, Bi-annually, and Annually), and not with your gut feeling. Track how many customers (and with what frequency) are coming back in these periods.

If the customer requirements are being taken care of and the growth is very healthy, selling offline is something you can consider.


How to find a product-market fit?

The cost of your product is what you want in the product. What you want in a product is a function of what your customers need. Go with this approach in the initial stages while deciding your product-market fit. The need for the product will act as your guide for building and finding the right market for your product.


What role should a DTC brand hire first?

The first hire should be for serving the customer well, a Product Manager. One of the founders should devote the highest amount of attention to the product: Win the Product first as it’s the most important vertical.

The remaining employees should be hired after you have defined the Culture of your company. Build a culture that your brand represents. Culture-fit is the most important criteria when it comes to hiring. The hires with a passion for your business can take you to greater heights.


If you want to start a DTC brand Today, which sector should you choose?

Choose the sector with efficient unit economics. You should have a strong ability to build the product. Then, with the right set of Pricing, start selling Online first. Online platforms give you an option to dabble more and experiment with selling products in small quantities.

IT development in Health will be the next booming sector. It is going to explode for DTC products in the coming decade. To discover the upcoming and prevailing sectors in India, you can check out Avendus Capital's DTC Report.


What KPIs do DTC brands look at?

Some Sales KPIs are:

- Number of Engaged Qualified Leads in Sales Funnel
- Hours of Resources Spent on Sales Follow Up
- Average Time for Conversion.

Some Financial KPIs are:

- Gross Profit Margin
- Operational Cash Flow
- Growth in Revenue.

You can build a Brand Tracker or even a Survey. You can also hire agencies to conduct surveys on the Recall Value of the Brand, the Penetration of the Brand, the Association of the Brand.

Building something Distinguished requires you to be a Genie for your customer. If you’re down to play your passions in the mud, you might become the next revolutionary brand!

We tried to bring you the best of the knowledge from our live meetup with Tarun Join us sometime! - check out out upcoming DTC meetups here - HelloMeets LIVE

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