Madhuwanti Saha
Marketing

“As a digital-first brand, TV is an important part of our strategy”: Sambit Dash, Mamaearth

The brand’s VP, marketing talks about the new advertising campaign, entry into the adult bathing soap segment, and more.

With two Bollywood celebrities - Shilpa Shetty Kundra and, more recently, Sara Ali Khan - endorsing its different products, the growth of personal care brand Mamaearth is noteworthy. The home-grown skincare start-up had an annual run rate of more than Rs 700 crore (or $100 million) in FY21, according to analysts at Jefferies India, a financial services company.

Started by husband-wife duo, Ghazal and Varun Alagh, in 2016 under the parent company Honasa Consumer, Mamaearth was launched as a baby-care brand, with six products. It competed with brands like Mother Sparsh, Priyanka Raina's Maate, The Baby Atelier, among others.

Subsequently, Mamaearth diversified and entered India's Rs 54,550 crore beauty and personal care market, positioning its products as premium and non-toxic. It currently offers products for both men and women across 150 SKUs.

It all started off with a website and presence on e-commerce sites like Amazon, Flipkart and Nykaa. Lately, Mamaearth has expanded to large format retail stores like Shoppers Stop and Central. The company sells over 80 natural toxin-free products, including bamboo-based baby wipes, lotions and face masks.

Mamaearth has, reportedly, raised more than $23.3 million from investors, including Sequoia India, Stellaris Ventures, Fireside Ventures, Marico's Rishabh Mariwala, Snapdeal co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, and Kundra, who also endorses its skincare range and plant-based diapers.

Khan came on board this April as the face of Mamaearth's haircare range. The brand launched a campaign with her this month to promote its improved version of Onion Shampoo (introduced last year). The 25-second TVC, conceptualised by Korra Worldwide, also brings in Khan's mother, actress Amrita Singh, and leverages their bond to promote the toxin-free and natural goodness of the product.

Sambit Dash, VP, marketing, Mamaearth, informs us that the campaign will run for 10-12 weeks. The digital-first brand is going all out on TV, promoting it on Hindi and local (Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, etc.) news channels, GECs and movie channels.

Sambit Dash
Sambit Dash

Talking about the media mix, he says, "It's similar to the face wash campaign we did in March (with Kundra). With the scale increasing, we have to find more ways of reaching out to the new consumers continuously. We are a digital-focused millennial brand. Millennials also watch television. Hence, TV is a major part of the campaign. But our overall spends are digital-first; we do social media, OTT, TV, other digital media, and in-shop branding. Print and outdoor are not part of the plan at the moment."

Khan will be seen promoting other popular products from the haircare category. "Our recently launched rice range is doing well. Argan is another popular range for us. So, as we see them gaining more popularity, she (Khan) will start promoting them," mentions Dash, who joined Mamaearth from Taco Bell in February 2020.

Mamaearth will foray into the competitive bathing soap category in July. "We will be launching India's first sulphate-free soap, with different ingredients," claims Dash, without spilling any beans on the marketing plans.

Mamaearth advertised on television for the first time last year as one of 'Bigg Boss' Season 14's associate sponsors on Colors.

The brand relies on digital marketing (primarily influencer marketing), and works with 500 ‘mom bloggers’ to spread awareness about its products among ingredient-conscious users. As a result, Mamaearth’s Instagram account organically clocks in 40K-50K new followers every month, as pointed out by Dash. He adds that digital spends account for 80-90 per cent of the brand's total advertising budget, which, as per a recent Financial Express (FE) report, has increased in recent times.

This March (2021), the team selected ZenithOptimedia as its media agency.

Even though the bulk of sales comes from online channels, offline sale is an essential growth component for the brand, contributing 15 per cent, as pointed out by its co-founder and CEO Varun Alagh in the FE report.

As part of its expansion plans, Mamaearth has tied up with modern trade retail outlets such as Shoppers Stop, Wellness Forever, Health & Glow, Dabur NewU, among others, despite the ongoing COVID pandemic.

Dash tells us that the team has partnered with more than 10,000 retail stores so far. "Over the last year, we've also expanded our distribution offering. The partnership with Shoppers Stop took place last year. Since then, we have tied up with supermarket chains like Ratnadeep Retail, and retail pharmacies like Apollo Pharmacy. We'd like to be available in all the major supermarket stores in the country."

Having said that, the marketing head emphasises on all revenue channels for growth, online and offline. "We started the business as a D2C brand. Therefore, it remains extremely critical for us. In most of our marketing moves, we try to link buyers back to our legacy website. It is still our priority. But from a growth perspective, all the revenue channels are important."

The pandemic has amplified the demand for ‘clean’ (natural, non-toxic) beauty products, because general awareness around health, purity and ingredients has increased. Mamaearth has, therefore, witnessed growth across the healthcare, face-care and baby-care segments, Dash tells us. "The Ubtan and Vitamin C ranges are doing extremely well," he says.

The popularity of brands like Mamaearth and one of its rivals WOW Skin Science has added a lot of variety to the personal care category, with FMCG giants like HUL and Dabur on one hand, and younger start-ups on the other.

Dabur recently launched a plant-based shampoo under its Vatika brand, and is marketing it as a 'No Nasties' product, free of sulphates, silicones and parabens.

The stiff competition in the space doesn't worry Dash. "We have mixed the best of traditions and science by converting homemade remedies with R&D into convenient application products. That's the core differentiator for us.”

He insists that competition is welcome, as "more brands and products coming in with this proposition is good for both the consumers (who will get more options) and the category itself."