We sat down with content creator Diipa Büller-Khosla to talk about what it’s like building a next generation skincare brand with 1.7 million fans as co-founders.
Diipa Büller-Khosla is a content creator, model, activist and the co-founder of indē wild—a next generation skincare brand serving the South Asian diaspora. In 2019, Diipa founded indē wild, tapping into her Instagram fanbase of 1.7 million followers for step-by-step insight and guidance.
You have a massive fanbase on Instagram. How did you first get into the world of content creation?
The world of social media sort of fell onto my path, and changed my trajectory in such an incredible way. At 18, I left India and moved to Europe, to study Human Rights Law. I interned at the United Nations’ International Criminal Court as well as at the IMA Influencer Agency.
Working at IMA opened my eyes to the world of social media. The industry was exciting and new to everyone at that time, but what was lacking was representation. There was no one else who looked like me, or had a similar upbringing. I felt this immediate pull to change the narrative.
“There was no one else who looked like me, or had a similar upbringing. I felt this immediate pull to change the narrative.”
So much of my community has been with me from the start, so I like to think I’ve grown through seasons of life with them. At the end of the day, I’m a proud Indian woman simply finding balance between tradition and modernity, my way; my audience gets it because they’ve lived it.
At what point did you look at the community you had built and think, ‘I want to build a company with all of you’?
I knew from the start that indē wild would be a people-powered ‘for-us-by us’ brand that would shake up the beauty industry. Having been one of many affected by colourism at a young age—then chronic acne for over a decade of my life—my confidence was shattered. I had this feeling of being ‘othered’ by unrealistic beauty norms, and I knew I wasn’t the only one who wanted change.
As I shared my unfiltered experiences, in return, I was lucky enough to hear the stories of so many others who also felt unseen in the beauty space. That only pushed me further to ask more questions and to intently listen to exactly what my community was saying and wanting.
“I knew from the start that indē wild would be a people powered ‘for-us-by us’ brand that would shake up the beauty industry.”
What was it that your community wanted to see more of within the beauty space?
We learned that not everyone in my Instagram community was aware of skincare and what ingredients do for their skin. Beauty is such a top-down industry. We grow up being told what to use, and what we should like—but no education about the ingredients. You assume that certain products work as advertised, because everyone else is using them, but later, you come to find out that the ingredients are actually really bad for your skin.
If you’re melanated [have high skin pigmentation], you have different skincare concerns and that just wasn’t something people were talking about. Now, not only are we talking about the ingredients so that everybody has access to that knowledge, but we’re building a brand for our community that has been made by people who look like them.
Skincare today is complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. We urge our community to ask questions, and we’re continually learning and excited to share.
You call your community the co-founders of indē wild. What does that mean, and how did you invite them on the journey towards building the company?
Community is the heartbeat of indē wild. From the beginning of our brand, we’ve constantly been asking and listening to our community about what they want from skincare products. Prior to even launching the company, my team and I held count- less focus-group sessions with our community. We asked for their opinions on formulation, packaging, experience, you name it.
That gave me the personal opportunity to connect with our community, while giving indē wild a more solid understanding of consumer perception—specifically the needs and concerns of the South Asian diaspora when it comes to skincare.
Now that indē wild is launched, is your community still actively involved?
Absolutely! They’ve seen the brand from the very beginning, when it was a baby, and shared that process, so the emotional response is strong.
We still hold sessions, and continually look to our community as a gut check. We take polls, run surveys, share product reviews, and conduct focus groups—all via Instagram. If something doesn’t pass our community’s pulse check, it doesn’t go too far.
“We continually look to our community as a gut check ... It will forever be part of our way of doing business.”
These touch points make us better, and we’re so humbled to receive such candid feedback. It will forever be part of our way of doing business.
Within the beauty industry, there are many companies that have been started by content creators, musicians, or actors—but few succeed. What defines success in this space?
The differences between the ones that do well and the ones that don’t are two-part. First, the brands that really listen, and look for a gap in the market, succeed. With FENTY BEAUTY, it was the fact that no one else had ever given such a large range of tones before—and Rihanna listened to that. Same with her lingerie line, SAVAGE X FENTY. No one had ever given such a large range of sizes before.
Why make a product that no one wants, when you can make a product that everybody has been need- ing for ages? A lot of the brand cadence that we have is a result of listening to what the other products are that people are missing and/or still need.
The second difference is whether or not your customer base actually relates to you as a person. If there’s no relation or real connection, then they’re not going to buy it.
What advice would you give to brands interested in co-creating with their customers?
Don’t just co-create for the sake of it. Think about what actually needs to be co-created. It’s all about listening and learning from your community.
What about when it comes to acting on what fans are saying?
There has to be a proper structure for the input of customers as stakeholders, so that it’s not too confusing and you can filter out what you need.
When you’re a new company starting out, it’s easier to make decisions and factor in what your community wants and asks from you. We are not not testing on animals. We are vegan. We don’t use perfume. We don’t use preservatives. Sustainability is top of mind—but we also don’t shout about it, because it should just be the norm by now.
“When you’re a new company starting out, it’s easier to make decisions and factor in what your community wants... If you’re a legacy brand, it’s really hard to make that shift.”
If you’re a big legacy brand, it’s really hard to make that shift because you have such a long history behind you. Unless you’re up for a huge cultural shift in your whole business, people are not going to see you as a brand that is serious about their values.
So far this year, indē wild has raised $3 million in seed funding. Congratulations! Any exciting plans in the pipeline?
Yes! We are about to expand markets, and finally go home to launch in India. We’re also planning to roll out a customer-loyalty program soon, which will help to create a more established relationship between us and our community.