Plum raises VC funding from Unilever Ventures

The demand for vegan, organic and natural beauty and body care products is on an upsurge. As this brings forth a huge market opportunity, manufacturers of such products are also attracting venture capital companies for funding their business expansion plans. For starters, Plum has just recently acquired funding from the VC arm of Unilever. The company plans to use these funds to scale up its online as well as offline businesses. A report:

Pureplay Skin Sciences (India) Pvt. Ltd, the parent company of the skincare and beauty products brand, Plum, has raised a Series A funding from Unilever Ventures, the venture capital arm of Unilever, which is said to be world’s biggest consumer goods company. The funding is expected to help the company to scale up both their online and offline operations.

Series A round is usually a company’s first important round of venture capital funding. Unilever Ventures has come on board purely as a financial investor, according to Plum’s co-founder, Shankar Prasad.  “We weren’t looking to raise money initially, but we realized that as the business grew, it needed money. Unilever Ventures’ global presence and expertise would be of enormous value in this partnership,” he states in an interview to Live Mint.  Prasad, however, has not revealed the exact amount of the investment. Prasad founded the start-up in 2013 as a bootstrapped venture.

In the second half of 2018, Plum, which claims to be India’s only 100 percent vegan beauty brand, had ventured into the hair care range of products. The three-year old company already has around 40 products in skincare, body and bath essentials categories, in addition to kaajals and colour cosmetics.

Focus: Distribution network

With an average product price of ₹ 500, Plum positions itself as a mid-premium consumer segment brand, according to a press release issued by the company. Plum products are also available in the retail market at the outlets of health-focused retailers, such as Pharmacy Nobel Plus and Health and Glow.

The Plum range of personal care products are also available on online channels, such as Flipkart and Amazon. Its products include sunscreen lotions, face mask and moisturizers, among others. In 2017, the brand diversified into offline distribution, which, at present accounts for about 25 per cent of its turnover.

Though Plum products are currently sold through about 100 retail outlets across the country, mostly under the platform of wellness and health retail chains, such as Health & Glow, eCommerce remains the biggest sales channel platform for the company today. In addition to its own web portal, the company’s products are also available on Flipkart, Amazon, Nykaa, Snapdeal, Myntra, and Purplle. The company does not sell its products outside India at the moment but has been seeing an emerging interest and demand from consumers and distributors overseas. The company serves about 60,000 customers per month and expects to double this figure in the current year, i.e. 2019. 

Recent investments by Unilever Ventures

In the year 2017, Unilever Ventures India made its maiden investment, and that was in Peel -Works, a consumer-based Big Data analytics company, according to a newspaper report. Peel-Works helps retailers boost higher shopper loyalty, and also maximizing their returns from their store collections and inventory levels. Subsequently, Unilever Ventures had invested $10 million in another venture capital company, Chiratae Ventures, which was previously named IDG Ventures.

In early 2018, Unilever Ventures India had also funded Milkbasket, a grocery delivery platform, to the tune of $3 million.  Milkbasket specializes in delivering essential grocery products such as bread, milk, eggs and butter at the customer doorstep. Unilever Ventures, worldwide, has invested in over 50 companies, that are primarily focused on personal care, technology and food, stated the report. 

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