When it comes to beauty products, we have to admit that we are spoiled with choices. At times, though, it’s hard to find the right concealer or foundation, or even the right lipstick that would fit your own personal style. With that in mind, this home-grown brand empowers all beauty lovers to find the right essentials for their everyday use without burning a hole in your pockets. Offering high-quality beauty products to mid-range ones, you can now strut down the streets looking like a bombshell by just shopping at Chinie’s.
The beginning of everything
Chinie’s is a multi-brand cosmetic store that was founded by Kanchan Ratnani in 2016. It all started during her graduation trip to Europe whereby she discovered many good European cosmetic brands that were not known yet to the Asian market. Not only was it high in quality but it was affordable as well.
After much discussion with a friend and family members, Kanchan took the risk and began importing some of the brands and started off by retailing the products in a small corner in Rams Home Decor department store based in Langkawi.
And just like that, most of the products were sold out within a month, giving Kanchan the idea of setting up a new business that can create new demand in the market.
As a design graduate, it gave her a good foundation to take charge of the store designs and turn them into the brand that they have envisioned it to be. The first Chinie’s store is based in Langkawi as mentioned earlier, whereas the second outlet was opened in NU Sentral Shopping Mall in 2019.
To make the decision to leave everything you know and start your own business requires a lot of strength. In time, co-founder and sister, Vandana joined and was appointed as Head of Marketing for the brand. Privileged enough to have entrepreneurial grandparents and parents, they have been inspired and taught to never give up and to always strive to be the best in what they do.
The girls mentioned how their matte lipsticks from Isabelle Dupont as well as Topface from Turkey are their bestsellers. “These lippies are not just long-lasting but it is also non-drying and doesn’t get patchy after long wear. Turkish cosmetics has mastered catering to the Asian market by recognizing exact shades, tints and finishes based on our skin type. From the fairest of skin to the tannest, we got you,” the sisters shared.
Chinie’s started off with cosmetics and body care in 2017 but eventually, they slowly ventured into haircare, skincare as well as beauty tools in 2018 carrying 11 brands altogether.
Nothing beats girl power
We are each other’s biggest critique and seek for each other’s validation before proceeding with anything.
We asked them what it’s like to work together as sisters and they explained how it is truly important to understand the function of the other person. “We are each other’s biggest critique and seek each other’s validation before proceeding with anything. It is not always sunshine and roses but working with people of the same wavelength helps the company to grow faster as we keep feeding off each other’s ideas and thought process,” they explained.
With that said, here’s an exclusive featured on our #SapotLokal series where I had the chance to speak to these amazing girl bosses on what it’s like being partners, their vision for the brand and why’s it important to support local businesses.
What do you think about the local beauty brands and why is it important for us to support their businesses?
First of all, making the decision to leave everything and start your own business requires a lot of strength, not just physically and mentally, but very much emotionally. That’s because starting off on your own requires you to adorn many hats. From being able to understand finances and accounts, to stock takes, marketing your products as well as managing sales to sustain the business in the first three years. Going out on your own in the world is a hard thing no matter what you’re doing.
The number one perk to consider is showing how you care for the community that you live in. You’ll not only be able to invest back into your community but also play a part in making someone’s dream come true. Besides that, it will also give your local economy a chance to thrive, especially in tough times that we are all going through at the moment.
Smaller businesses rely heavily on the community to stay afloat. Every transaction leads to a sigh of relief and someone actually doing a little happy dance behind the scenes. So, when deciding where to spend your hard-earned money on tonight’s dinner or a gift for your loved ones, consider approaching a local, independently owned business within your community.
As sisters and business partners, do you think both of you complement each other in terms of skills?
Kanchan: Vandana is much more organized in breaking down a to-do list on a daily basis for her bigger goals which helps me in taking one day at a time. She is also a complete diplomat with a stand. I leave it to her dealing with influencers and their brand. I tend to get more emotional when things are not going as planned or coming across funny behaviors. Vandana is also more practical in approach. She allows space for reasoning and doesn’t shy away from accepting criticism positively. She brings a more definite structure to the company and advises me on how to implement and practise them. She keeps me grounded while my imagination flies high and wanting results fast.
Coming from a design background I have learnt to do things that are very tedious. Details speak volume. That hinders me from getting a task completed fast as I tend to overthink all the steps and possibilities. Vandana brings the balance of a layman perspective. She is able to work around with marketing in any kind of situation, circumstances and limited resources. She can make things work from scrap mixing bits and pieces together.
She is the partner that applauds you for the 100% effort as well as shows you sometimes 95% is good enough to receive the desired result. She is definitely more disciplined.
Vandana: Kanchan, in general, is a bigger risk taker and gambler when it comes to major business decisions. She does not shy away in trusting and importing top brands from various countries. Being a creative person, she also knows the best ways to showcase a brand. On the other hand, I am more skeptical when it comes to higher risk. For a basic example, importing a top notch quality brand that may require us to hike up the price, have a higher marketing budget and gamble on the return.
Besides that, Kanchan is more of a people’s person in comparison to me. She knows her way around dealing and negotiating with suppliers for us to strike the desired deal. Her sensitivity towards her surroundings has resulted in Chinie’s enjoying the fruit of it. This is evidently seen with the healthy and professional environment that she has built for us with our suppliers, employees and investors. She has made everyone feel more inclusive in playing their roles to grow Chinie’s and thanks to her, the company runs like a well-oiled machine.
What kind of marketing and advertising initiatives have worked for you? What haven’t?
Social media has worked best for us. The major reason for social media promotion is consumers spend a minimum 4 hours a day browsing through social media to check on updates, be it news, memes, viral contents or lifestyle hacks. One amazing tool social media has helped small businesses is its ability to target our posts towards new audiences that pose demographic, personality traits or interest towards our line of work. This effectiveness helps in minimizing wastage of resources.
With that, brand visibility and recognition gets better too. Our business profile is an opportunity for us to introduce a new range of products or brands that has entered our store. Besides that, creating campaigns on targeted products does draw in a lot of attention. Consumers are constantly on the lookout for what is new, what could make them look or feel different, which lipstick shades they are missing out on.
For example, when a new consumer stumbles upon our page, they may have not heard of us before, but what encourages them to click the “Follow” button is our content. They are able to learn more about our company and the value that we provide.
Lastly, engaging with consumers online helps in brand loyalty. In today’s world, everyone is always on the move, everybody wants convenience and information to be at the fingertips. Hence, being quick with replies on consumer’s enquiries builds a good service reputation. This is one of the factors that assists in setting you apart from your competitors. It is all about reinforcing your care for them.
In the long run, what is the vision for Chinie’s?
From a business development viewpoint, we would like to expand into more outlets for sure. Followed by signing two big famous brands we have been really keen on. Apart from that, building a successful network of dropshippers selling Chinie’s products all around Malaysia.
Whereas from a marketing point of view, one of our goals is to be able to be featured on magazines under top trustable local companies in the near future. Besides that, we are looking forward to venture into billboard marketing for Chinie’s. We are constantly working towards making our brand fall under the evoked side of consumers’ minds. It is a long way to go, but definitely not an impossible one.
The biggest marketing goal for us would be collaborating with local celebrities to produce ranges of cosmetics that are personalised for their fan base and sold under Chinie’s. This way, we are helping to stir up the economy and give back to the local community that has given us so much support to be thankful for.
What are the unspeakable challenges that you have faced in your career? How did you master them?
Chinie’s gaining the trust of Malaysians to use our products and being a frequent repeated customer. Cosmetic is a very personal preference of people. What they put onto their skin needs to be trustworthy and highly spoken about. Products that are well marketed plants a seed of trust and quality. Chinie’s making a presence in Kuala Lumpur is one of the reasons to build customers’ trust in our product and online platform. We are getting there but the journey is still long ahead.
Secondly would definitely be staffing. It is a real struggle to look for a quality retail staff and having them trained to only leave as they please. HR has been a real roller coaster of a ride.
Thirdly, many at times you are spread out thin but that comes with the job scope. When work starts to feel like a job rather than a journey, just remember to stop everything and take a break even if it means a day or two. The rejuvenation helps to get our heads back into the game.
During the MCO, did you still accept orders? What measures have been taken to ensure the safety of both you and your clients?
MCO was our biggest breakthrough for our online platform. With the amount of time consumers spend on their gadgets, it allowed us to amp up on our online marketing to increase our brand exposure. We invested more time on Instagram Stories mainly conveying product knowledge as well as method of application. Besides that, we also collaborated with multiple influencers in the industry to review our products, that helped to push traffic towards our Instagram page that eventually led to a sale conversion on our Lazada platform.
Ever since then, we didn’t only gain new customers, but we also experienced an increase in enquiries as we offer Free Shipping service.
Share with us something that you’re working on improving about yourself and how will that help with your goals?
Kanchan: I have been working to not react to every issue or situation as well as not having the last say in all matters. When you are working with a partner, one has to learn to trust as well as accept flaws. Arguments now end with an apology. Arguments should always be a discussion and not a final say of matters. Also, some situations are like passing clouds, it doesn’t always need a dissection, it can be exhausting. Give each other space and time to perform. Understand each other’s reaction under pressure hence when it happens, I am learning to not take it to heart.
Vandana: I am living by the rule of “Learn to choose your battles. Battles not fought are not lost; simply battles not worth fighting for”. Some things simply don’t matter in the long run. Focusing on coming to a mutual ground on every itty bitty thing will have a never-ending list. Hence, I chose to focus on the big important things, something that will affect me, my partner and our business in the next 5-10 years. How I’m trying to work towards this is mainly to first evaluate the problem, come up with pros and cons and discuss it with my partner. We will conclude it with a win-win, not a win-lose. In other times, if we can’t come to a conclusion, we just let each other do our thing and leave it to experiment. As we all know, starting your own business is filled with trials and errors. So, we both will try our ways, end of the day, the method that works wins and we know exactly how to accept and work around that.