The 5th Episode of Pathfinders features Manish Taneja, co-founder and CEO of Purplle.

Purplle, which last raised $50 million, achieved unicorn status and is currently valued at $1.1 billion. Along with being a marketplace for major beauty brands, they run their own private brands like Carmesi, Faces Canada, and NY Bae which have amassed a huge following and affinity only in a few years. Manish, and the rest of the Purplle team, are lauded for their frugality, constant innovation, and down-to-the-ground approach towards gaining consumer insights.

Watch the video now!

What are 2-3 of the major milestones/pivots of your journey?

I think the biggest pivot that happened in our life is honestly believing in ourselves more than believing in what investors expected of us. I think the moment you start believing in yourself more than in what others say, I think that shift becomes significant because then you can really take control of your destiny much more than what you would otherwise do. So, there have been such moments where this has happened

You know, I think the first time it happened was when we had started. You know, many investors used to doubt that there would be a large market.. And so we also ventured into beauty services where we used to enable appointments at salons. So, I'm glad that within 12 months of that experiment we shut, then we moved back to our products business, and that did very well.

I think the second pivot that happened was, you know, we started working on our own brands because of all the data we were collecting. And honestly, today that has become a huge differentiator where, you know, these brands are actually greatly loved by our consumers and they are not available anywhere else. So there is no sort of price discounting or price war that happens on these scales and sort of becomes a key moat for us.

Likewise, you know, there have been many moments where I would say the third one, which I would say is when we pivoted from, I would say performance marketing to, you know, more content marketing. And when I say content marketing, I really mean, like, you know, shooting content that resonates with real consumers of India and not really people who live in, you know, South Bombay or South Delhi.

I think that sort of shift also made us grow quite dramatically. You know, to give you an example, a very simple video like how to use a Kajal in five different ways or if you like, aur hindi mai isko bolenge Kajol laganeke 5 aasan tarike. You know, the Hindi video there, the hundred times more views then the initial video did. And that really changed our trajectory.

And what I'm saying a hundred times I'm meaning in millions. I'm not meaning in like a few thousand. And so I think these were some of the pivots that have happened

What are some skills to keep in mind as your build for the long term?

You know, I think it's very internal. I don't think it's something you can learn from others. you know what? I also wish and I have always been this long term focus, guys, we've always believed that it's hard to build a company in ten years. I think usually great companies get built over a 25, 30 year period.

And we were prepared for the grind. And of course, we were having great joy and fun along the way. So, you know, but some of the things that we do well, from a long term point of view, I think we have three diverse founders, and we respect each other quite well. And hence, you know, we tend to have a more balanced view of how market will be at some point in time in future.

I come from a financial services background, so I understand the return on capital employed. But Rahul is a great operations leader. You know, he can set up systems quite amazing and Suyash is a great technology leader. So we are a, you know, good amalgamation of three very different people, but you know, people who respect each other a lot.

So I think that's where we get our Long-termness from. And therefore, you know, we you know, investors love companies which can deploy capital efficiently under and, you know, generate a good return on that company. And you know therefore they back founders. And so we as founders, our job is to invest capital into ideas and businesses that, you know, we think will return great return on capital.

And we only look at measuring return on capital over a longer period of time. So I think it's very internal. I think some of it is just very serendipitous that the three of us with very diverse backgrounds came together, but ended up being very respectful of each other. I think those are some of the things that I think come in the way.

How was working with Blume different from working with others?

Look, I wouldn't say that, but I will tell you some, some things that Karthik has done for us that I could not have done for myself. I think there was a fund which did like the.

We were in the middle of a fundraise in 2015-2016 and there was a fund which had met us eight times, and it was our last and final meeting before they were sort of say yes, and they ended up saying no. And, you know, I just walked away from the room saying, you know, it's okay. I didn't want to burn any bridges, but actually, Karthik ended up calling them and said to them that, you know, hope this becomes your biggest anti-portfolio.

You know, I just feel like I never had that faith in myself, perhaps like what Karthik had. So it's quite happy that somebody said this about us. And likewise, you know, Ashish has been on our board since 2013 and, you know, I have always reached out to Ashish for any small thing. Big thing I did in life.

And, you know, sometimes I don't realize, but I reach out to us. He's, you know, once I called him, he took my call. Later, I got to know that, you know, he was actually in the hospital and he was recovering from a back injury. You know, I just think Blume is founder first, probably at another level altogether. You know, it's really hard to be as nice as these people are.

So yeah, these are some memories that I'll have.

Part of Pathfinders

Welcome to all our new series, Pathfinders!

We’ll take you through quick conversations with tenured entrepreneurs from Blume’s Fund 1.