19 November 2017 10:02:24 IST

The perfect brew of health and wellness

MCaffeine makes caffeine-infused personal care products to support every lifestyle

More often than not personal care products cater to insecurities than our well-being. Companies advertise even sunscreen as a solution to keep a tan away rather than protection for the skin from harmful UV rays. The examples are endless.


When Mumbai-

based entrepreneurs Tarun Sharma and Vikas Lachhwani decided to start MCaffeine, an online-only caffeine-infused personal care brand, two years ago they agreed never to use vanity as the selling point. Out to redefine personal care and how it’s seen, Vikas says, “Look at how personal care is presented to us today: the fundamental premise of most brands is, if you don’t use our products you’ll be ugly. This is ridiculous and disgusting! Personal care is meant to support good health, wellness and a particular lifestyle; changing one’s skin colour isn’t the point of life. At no point will we ever sell insecurities.”

Both of them believe that it’s about time brands started changing with the times. “We are still trying to pitch fairness creams and the same soaps to people. But a lot has changed since, let’s say, 20 years ago. Even our lifestyles have changed, and that’s what we want to cater to. If someone spends most of their time outdoors, the products they’ll need are different from someone who sits in an air-conditioned office all day,” explains Vikas.

A way of life

Talking about why they decided to make caffeine the base of their products, they say that they stumbled on some research while poking around the personal care field that surprised them: caffeine — the most widely consumed psychoactive drug — isn’t just an ingredient you consume to help you stay awake; it also has a long list of health benefits.

Intrigued by its ability to strengthen hair and its antioxidant properties, they spent a year doing intense research on caffeine and its benefits before launching their first product last October. Since then, there’s been no looking back. They currently have 14 caffeine-infused skin and hair products such as neem caffeine facewash with argan oil and vitamin E, hibiscus caffeine SLS free conditioner with argan oil, shea caffeine cold cream with vitamin E, smooth jazz caffeine body butter, bouncy techno caffeine shampoo, and sea ferns caffeine sunscreen SPF 30+ PA++, with plans to increase the range based solely on the different lifestyles people lead today.

Tarun and Vikas, who met through mutual friends, worked on creating a chain of saloons called Pep Salons before this. This is where they came face-to-face with the vast world of personal care. “Since we were in the salon business we got access to all kinds of products. We realised the business can’t function without the right products, which is when we decided to create our own,” says Tarun. While Pep Salons no longer exist, Vikas adds, “We wanted to develop products with a purpose and not just some concoction for a fad. When looking at what connects with people we came across material on caffeine. It doesn’t just have great properties; it’s also turned into a way of life. It has a personality of its own!”

Their products are natural and they try to use organic ingredients as much as possible. Coffee is their main source of caffeine but they are planning to experiment with cocoa and tea as well. Depending on the product and its requirements they use coffee from various geographical locations. Coffee beans are sourced from Chikkamagaluru and Kodagu in Karnataka and Adimalai in Kerala.

Robust growth

Though they are a small start-up they have been growing pretty aggressively and very sustainably. Last year MCaffeine, whose parent company is called PEP Technologies, raised ₹2 crore as part of the first capital raise from people including Kaushal Aggarwal, MD at Avendus Capital; Harminder Sahni, MD at Wazir Advisors; Krishna Mehra, ex-founder, Capillary Technologies; and Pranay Jivrajka, founding partner, Ola. They are in the process of closing the pre-series A round.

The brand, in a span of a year, has more than 1 lakh customers, growing steadily at 60 per cent month-on-month, with an annualised revenue rate of ₹4 crore. They are profitable at unit level and are working with the likes of Amazon, Flipkart and other e-commerce retailers to further sales, not just in metros such as Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, but also in Tier 1 and Tier 2 towns around the country. “We expect to break even at an organisational level by Q2 next year,” says Vikas.

MCaffeine customers are between the ages of 20 to 35, well educated, and experience oriented. “Our repeat rates are very encouraging both within products and cross-products. Our average repeat time is 45 days,” he explains.

Constant innovation in terms of product, efficacy of product, ingredients, and modes of taking things to people is what helps keep MCaffeine so robust.

Even demonetisation, implemented a month after the company’s launch, and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) haven’t slowed their growth much. “The currency is what moved away during demonetisation; since we’re a digital-only brand we hardly felt an effect. During the time, we were growing rapidly so whatever effect the note ban might have had wasn’t too bad. Every transaction we make, including to our supply chain, is made digitally and hardly any cash exchanges are made,” says Vikas.

“GST was an interesting time as well. Since our growth rate was high (60 per cent m-o-m), we used the GST as an opportunity to look at and secure our value proposition,” adds Tarun.

The personal care segment provides tough competition. Everyone uses products in some form or the other, which means there’s always room for new players. But that hasn’t fazed the two. “In this market there are always some people who seek something more than what is available to them; we cater to them.”

In fact, one of the biggest problems the company has faced was when they sold out on a product quickly! “It’s a problem but a beautiful one! We are trying our best to produce more and meet the demand,” says Vikas with a laugh.