Chrisanti Indiana, or Santi as she is fondly called, was 22 years old when she returned to Indonesia in 2014 after completing her studies in Sydney, Australia. A young and energetic woman, Santi has a passion for beauty and the digital industry and set out to fuse the two sectors, providing new platforms and access to information about the beauty industry to millions of women in Indonesia.
Along with her partners, Christopher Madiam and John Rasjid, Indiana built Sociolla, an e-commerce platform focusing on beauty and personal care products. Fast forward to 2019: Sociolla has grown into one of the biggest digital beauty platforms in Indonesia, with more than 250 employees in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and India’s New Delhi. The startup raised USD 12 million in Series C funding in May 2018 from EV Growth, a venture capital firm that provides growth stage capital, especially in for Series B companies and those further down the road. Sociolla’s annual gross merchandise value has consistently increased and the company targets to have quadrupled growth this year, pointing to a promising future.
KrASIA recently Spoke to Indiana about her mission to build a comprehensive network rooted in the beauty industry.
KrASIA (Kr): How did you get the idea to start Sociolla?
Chrisanti Insiana (I): In 2014, there was no e-commerce platform that really focused on beauty products, and I found it very difficult to find original and safe products online. Indeed, there were several marketplaces selling beauty products, but most of them hosted unauthorized resellers, and therefore the products were not guaranteed to be safe. My partners and I believed that the beauty and personal care industry had great potential because these are necessities for many people.
Kr: What were some of the challenges that you had to overcome?
I: It wasn’t easy to gain trust from brand partners and customers. Since day one, we have been committed to only selling authentic products and cooperated directly with brands and authorized distributors. Initially, they were reluctant to enter the online business as they did not want to be associated with resellers so we had to convince them that we offer a different concept that can help to promote their brands.
Meanwhile, many customers were reluctant to shop on Sociolla because they could get the same products at cheaper prices on other marketplace platforms, so we had to come up with a clever strategy to secure our audience.
Kr: What makes Sociolla different from other e-commerce platforms that specialize in beauty products?
I: We have grown beyond the e-commerce platform actually. We aim to build the entire beauty industry’s ecosystem in Indonesia. In the beginning, our e-commerce site had a blog for marketing purposes. Over time, we realized that market education is important when it comes to beauty and personal care needs. After we became aware of this trend, we built a media platform named Beauty Journal by Sociolla in Sociolla’s second year of business. It turned out that the traction was high, and now we have around three millions users. This encouraged us to develop a community platform named Soco by Sociolla in the third year. In short, Sociolla has three pillars: e-commerce, media, and a community platform.
Kr: How do you grow your community?
I: We have a Sociolla blogger network where we support people who aspire to be beauty bloggers or influencers through online and offline activities. We regularly conduct workshops on how to write good articles and reviews, social media presentation, and so on. Our web and app-based community platform, Soco, connects Sociolla’s e-commerce and online media sites. At Soco, users must create a beauty profile to determine their skin type and their preference for skin care or makeup. All the content and recommendations that appear in their apps are personalized according to the profile. Users can also scan a product’s barcode through the Soco app to see details and reviews from our community so they can make an informed decision.
Anyone can become a content creator on Soco by writing reviews and articles, or creating videos, and they can also recommend products to friends. We want to grow the beauty industry from all angles: shopping, content, and community. Brands also benefit from this community development. We give access to new brands when they enter the Indonesian market; we help activate the brands by engaging them in our events so they get more exposure.
Kr: As a young entrepreneur, what have been some of your most important lessons in building Sociolla?
I: There are definitely advantages and challenges in plugging into digital business at a young age. I have high energy and enthusiasm and I dare to take the risk. However, I’m aware that I’m lacking in experience as there are still many things I don’t know. Therefore, it’s very important to get a mentor and learn from people who are more experienced and mature. I need to spend more time learning about the ins and outs of the industry and work harder in order to quickly master this business. As entrepreneurs, we’re responsible for the lives of many people. If we don’t learn fast and progress quickly, we’d lose to bigger companies.
Kr: What’s next for Sociolla?
I: We’ll open two offline stores this year to get closer to our customers. We’ll offer a unique concept to give the best shopping experience to Sociolla’s customers.
This article is part of “Women in Tech,” a series by KrASIA that highlights the achievements of women who are a driving force behind Southeast Asia’s tech startups.