'We Are Aiming To Expand Over 25,000 Stores In Future' Vikas Bagaria, Founder & CEO, Pee Safe
India is a mega-market with over 1.35 billion potential customers from diverse cultures and regions. The country is one of the largest global retail destinations with the market size set to cross $1.7 trillion by 2025.
How was the journey of Pee Safe?
Pee Safe is India’s leading hygiene and wellness D2C brand. Our journey started with the toilet seat sanitizer spray, which went on to become a bestseller. The brand is the outcome of my personal experience with my wife Srijana, wherein she became susceptible to a urinary tract infection after having used a public washroom. The very first product became popular largely through word-of-mouth advertising initially. Since its inception, Pee Safe has emerged as a brand that is disrupting the hygiene ecosystem and has grown to become the house of safe offering complete health and wellness solutions. We have also diversified into multifarious product categories including eco-friendly sanitary pads, organic tampons, menstrual cups and panty liners and a maternity care line including breast pads; intimate hygiene products for both men and women like natural intimate wash and wipes and sweat pads; and other sub-personal hygiene segments through products like Palm Safe and Moskito Safe apart from anti-pollution masks. Pee Safe also has the affordable Raho Safe range of products going a step ahead in reaching out to a larger segment of the population. The products include an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and a multipurpose surface protectant. Pee Safe also owns two other rapidly growing brands, Domina (sexual wellness) and the brand FURR (female grooming) which have been consistently posting high growth.
Tell us about your reach. What are your strongest markets at present?
Pee Safe is a digital-first D2C brand with a massive online reach. We also have a strong pan-India footprint in over 10,000+ stores and 100+ cities. We are aiming to further expand its offerings in the near future as we have also launched our own branded outlets through the franchise model. Pee Safe raised a seed round of $1 million from a group of angel investors and Venture Catalyst. Subsequently, we received INR 30 crore in Series A funding led by Alkemi Growth Capital, a health and wellness focused fund. In June 2021, Pee Safe further raised INR 25 crore ($3.75 million) in a pre-series B funding round led by entrepreneur Shaival Desai and existing investor Alkemi Growth Capital. There are plans to raise another $10 million through a Series B round towards the end of 2021. Despite the pandemic challenge, Pee Safe has witnessed a 70% year-on-year growth of its online business in the fiscal 2020-2021.
What are the challenges faced by the company during COVID?
The restrictions that were imposed for a smooth functioning of delivering products during the onset of the pandemic were our greatest challenge, especially when the number of orders received at that hour was ten times higher. Even though the restrictions were in place, our products such as the alcohol-based hand sanitizer and N95 masks were required by some of the hospitals to carry out their operations. Since our products fall in the essential services category, we were given a curfew pass every once in a while. We utilized the opportunity to help the medical staff and people engaged in saving others’ lives.
The Indian wellness market is influenced by international brands, so, how difficult is it for a homegrown business to fit in the wellness space of wellness?
Despite the fact that the wellness industry is heavily influenced by western countries, the Indian population strongly prefers to buy products made in India rather than those sourced from other countries. Not to mention, Ayurveda, which is one of the most effective sources of wellness, has influenced the Indian wellness industry.
What are your expansion plans? Any plans to announce physical stores?
We're looking to expand our offline presence by adding franchise-owned brand-exclusive stores to our 10,000+ locations across India. In the next year, we plan to expand our offline presence to 25,000+ stores.
Tell us about your leading product categories, and upcoming launches?
Apart from our existing bestsellers including the Toilet Seat Sanitizer Spray, Menstrual Cups, etc., we have seen a good demand for the FURR range as also the stretch mark oil which has been accepted with good numbers. We are selling approximately 500 bottles on a daily basis. Going forward, we will introduce 6 more products in the Domina range. We are very keen on expanding our maternity care segment and have reintroduced breast and maternity pads and breast pumps as well. We will be releasing 3 more products in the maternity line.
Your thoughts on the evolving D2C landscape in India, where do you stand as a company in the ecosystem?
India is a mega market with over 1.35 billion potential customers from diverse cultures and regions. The country is one of the largest global retail destinations with the market size set to cross $1.7 trillion by 2025. The D2C sales channel is also growing in sync and is expected to be worth over $100 billion by that time. The Indian D2C arena is going to be hotly contested by the players as well as the investors. There have been numerous D2C successes in the country and this coupled with the pandemic impact has made investors rally behind the innovative, useful and agile D2C brands. There is bound to be a much superior investor activity and expansion of the market in the years to come. The next 3-4 years are going to be even more exciting in terms of D2C expansion in India. There will also be significant consolidation as roll-up companies as well as the leading players will go on an acquiring spree to further expand their market command. The market is primed for unicorns and even IPOs in the next few years.
As a digital-first D2C brand, Pee Safe focuses on establishing a strong brand-consumer connection to constantly innovate products and marketing strategies based on their feedback. This is crucial since millennial buyers look for products that address their real-life challenges and needs and often seek customized solutions. This is where Pee Safe stands as a differentiator. The products offered by Pee Safe are all introduced after thorough market research. Our products are sustainable and usually address the unresolved needs of the public. For instance, we innovated and introduced the Pee Safe Toilet Seat Sanitizer spray which has since gone on to become the market leading product in its category, not only in India, but, on the global platform. Our innovative and sustainable approach makes the products different from the other existing ones in the market.
From being a digital-only brand to having an omnichannel presence - what is your growth strategy?
It was not just a disruptive product idea and timing that worked in our favour and for our growth. We have always strived to address what has been taboo and not discussed out in the open. For instance, we are one of the first few brands in India to show ‘red blood’ in our campaign, which naturally sparked a conversation on social media. We collaborate with various influencers to talk about our products on social media platforms. Our mantra is ‘keeping things simple.’ All the products are essential and the demand has risen exponentially. Yet, we have refrained from profiteering at any point in time, more so during the current crisis. Despite receiving several proposals to sponsor shows or get a brand placement in breaking news segments instead of air time, we have steadily declined any such offers. Pee Safe has been consistently receiving positive feedback from our existing customers. We don’t believe in negatively using our brand goodwill. Right from the outset, our focus has been on awareness campaigns and sharing valuable information through our social media accounts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook etc. Our marketing strategy revolves around digital communication, especially in the current scenario and using our outreach to connect with consumers all over the country. The aim is to spread awareness about the importance of sanitisation and educating people about how the products help them.
Business of wellness - future outlook? What are your views on Men's wellness products? We have a plethora of brands to take care of women's wellness? Why are there hardly any brands to cater to men's wellness?
According to IMARC Group, the global personal hygiene market reached a value of $55.7 billion in 2020. This is set to grow at a CAGR of 5.80% during 2021-2026. As per a February 2019 report by Mintel, an Indian man spends an average of 42 minutes grooming himself every day and about two-thirds of them are concerned about some aspect of their appearance. Even the men’s hygiene industry has come a long way in the past few years and body, skin and hair care, grooming etc., have become new additions to men’s vocabulary. Awareness around men’s hygiene and related products has increased and the market is set to grow with brands entering the space. Pee Safe is committed to promoting personal hygiene for both men and women. We already have products such as sanitizers, sweat pads, etc., for men as well and are steadily working on including new products which take care of male hygiene needs.
Do you think COVID has changed everyone's perspectives about wellness?
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a major transformation in the way people perceive health and wellness. People have now become aware that all-round hygiene is their best chance of healthy living in the years to come. Trends such as emphasis on touchless activities, and strong implementation of sanitization measures are now gaining momentum. While before the pandemic, not even half of the Indian public focused on basics of hygiene such as washing hands before eating or serving food, now, there is a majority adherence to even steps like wearing masks in the public places and disinfecting surfaces in and around the living spaces. From the industry perspective as well, the manufacturers are becoming increasingly quality conscious and focusing on creating products that address the consumer needs and are easy to use on-the-go
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