Korean skincare has been gaining tremendous fan following in Dubai. It’s sheer popularity is owed to the very beneficial natural skincare ingredients and innovative products. With the growing popularity came several new brands in the UAE catering to the Emiratis. One such brand that has been making a significant mark in the industry is Chicsta.com. Managed and built by Ruchika Singh, the brand recently hosted a skincare Yacht party with some of the huge beauty influencers of Dubai. Chicsta has managed to build a strong audience base and a solid social media following within a few months of its inception.
Here’s an insight into the quick interview of Ruchika Singh, the face behind Chicsta.com.
Q1. How did you think of starting Chicsta.com?
Ruchika: In 2013, I joined Zomato and embarked on my journey of working with startups. And it soon became a part of who I was, professionally. It wasn’t long before I found myself working with multiple startup brands, all of different scales. Some were just starting out, some were at the inflection point while a few had already covered some ground. The Korean Wave hit me sooner than most. By 2010, I was using Korean products and actively following K-Pop, K-Drama with a handful of my girlfriends.
This was not only a turning point for my skin but also the evolution of my brand Chicsta. I noticed the gaps in the market, such as unavailability of genuine products, shipping difficulties and not to forget the unbearable waiting time to get a decent product in hand. I couldn’t help but try and solve this problem for myself and the whole community of young women in UAE that were catching up on Korean Cosmetics. There is so much really that Korean Skincare has to offer. So you could say more or less, Chicsta was born from a young entrepreneur's need to solve a huge market problem.
Q2. What was the reason behind launching Chicsta in the Middle East?
Ruchika: When I moved to Dubai about 5 years ago, I came across quite a few people talking about BTS, TWICE, and other K-pop & K-drama stars. There was this immense hype around their flawless glass skin and the 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine that they religiously followed.
I saw the K-Pop culture and K-Beauty slowly making space in people's hearts in the UAE. From the entertainment industry, people started looking up to Korean products.
The K-Pop culture was not yet prominent here, but it had a tremendous scope of emerging out as a principal player in the market. I saw people looking for authentic Korean skincare products and ordering them online from US-based online platforms and waiting days for its arrival, I got a first-hand experience of this myself, since my obsession with Korean Skincare started quite early too.
When I saw the need for a reliable source for Korean Skincare and content in the market, the idea emerged.
It was a golden opportunity for me to start with Chicsta, an online platform to meet the Korean skincare needs of people here in the UAE. And I must say, people of UAE are pretty adaptable and, they welcome everything heartily.
Q3. Why do you think Korean products and K-Pop have become so popular in the Middle East?
Ruchika: I would say it is the similarity between the cultures. Koreans and Emiratis both prefer cute & shy over bold, and family values are very strongly depicted in both cultures. I would say the Korean drama fever was caught on because of these similarities as people could associate themselves with the on-screen drama which focuses on family relationships.
Q4. There is a lot of competition now in K-beauty space. How does that challenge you as an entrepreneur?
Ruchika: Competition is always a good sign; it’s a sign of a thriving market which has a lot of potentials to grow. More than a challenge, it’s a validation for me that I’m doing something right. I feel there will always be space for more players in this market because it has so much to offer.
Q6. What makes Chicsta stand out in the K-beauty market?
Ruchika: There are a lot of upcoming Korean skincare stores in the UAE. People here are pretty enthusiastic about the Korean skincare and frantically look for places to buy the products.
But, during the process of understanding the Korean skincare market in the UAE, we realized there was a tremendous gap between the consumer's demand and the supply of authentic Korean products.
And, that's when we decided to bridge this gap by sourcing genuine skincare products directly from Korea. That's our biggest USP.
Trust is one of the most prominent factors, especially when it comes to using something on your skin and we believe in providing the people with the best which is tried, tested & vetted by our in-house experts.
We have partnered with some of the most loved and trusted Korean skincare brands; Benton, Missha, Neogen, Cosrx, Heimish, Laneige, Some by Mi, and Centellian 24 are to name a few of them.
Apart from this, we aim to build an influential community in the UAE where people can talk about K-Pop, dramas, cuisine, K-beauty as well as skincare. And, that's what our brand tagline is: K-arefully K-urated, Exclusively Yours!
Q7. What were the challenges that you faced, initially?
Ruchika: Challenges are a part of what the business entails. However, I would say I am from the lucky slot to be starting the venture in the UAE. I feel people here are more accepting and the country provides so many opportunities for budding entrepreneurs like me. Chicsta is UAE's own local business and we plan to make our name and fame globally also.
Q8. How did K-Beauty brands receive you when you first approached them?
Ruchika: I would say they were pretty surprised to know that there were such hype and demand in the UAE. We had conducted our market research thoroughly and provided them with promising statistics which instantly got them on board.
Q9. Did you have mentors or get any memorable advice when you first started?
Ruchika: Of course, I had many people backing me up. I’d like to thank so many people, be it my peers or my superiors who have mentored and advised me in various ways throughout this journey. We started as a small group and every advice was invaluable. Even today, we’re lucky to have some very experienced industry veterans from the UAE who keep guiding us.
The most impactful advice was: “You don’t need customers to make a business successful; you need a community, which thrives on mutual contributions. You contribute to the community and community contributes back to you”
Q10. How many brands do you have now compared to when you launched?
Ruchika: We proudly house 36 global Korean skincare and cosmetics brands today. Here's a fun fact: We added a new brand every 8 days when we started.
Q11. Do you deal with products specifically curated to suit the Emirati climate?
Ruchika: Yes, there is a lot of stigma around K-beauty products which makes people believe that it is not made for their skin type, skin colour and other unbelievable myths. We wanted to shatter the image of Korean products as specific to Korean people and wanted people to realize that whether it is Asian or Middle Eastern, K-beauty products are available for every skin type, problem and colour. So we aim at spreading the word and knowledge among our people.
We do have products specially curated to cater to the needs of the people in the UAE. Whether it's about oily skin, acne issues, wrinkle problems, hyperpigmentation, or chapped skin; we have the solution for all of it.
Q12. What are some of the standout products available on Chicsta’s website?
Ruchika: I’m personally a fan of Some by Mi Snail Truecica Miracle Repair Serum and Cosrx galactomyces alcohol-free toner. Others include Missha M Signature BB cream, Laneige overnight water sleeping mask, Benton fermentation eye cream. Neogen Green Tea facial cleanser and of course how can I forget- Mediheal sheet masks.
Q13. What are your morning and nighttime beauty routine?
Ruchika: Well, I was not such a beauty fanatic until I came across the Korean way of doing it (laughs).
I am usually rushing in the morning so I keep my morning routine to a minimum. I never skip the double cleansing method followed by a toner. A dab of sunscreen is a must to protect the face from the harsh Dubai sun. My favourite product is a hydrating mist as it just wakes my skin and refreshes it.
But I go all out with my night time routine and follow the entire 10-step routine. It's a fun way to spend some time pampering your skin.
Q14. Name 5 Korean skincare products that you are in love with?
Ruchika: My absolute favourite is Snail Truecica Miracle Serum by Some by Mi. I can go on and on about this one. It is absolute magic and I love when I see people telling how it changed their life.
I am pretty fond of Sheet masks, as they thoroughly hydrate the skin and are perfect for a "me-time".
Heimish Bulgarian Rose Mist Serum is my go-to product in the dry weather.
Next on the list are the Green Tea real foam cleanser and eye masks. I can't tell how eye masks have helped me to get rid of the dark circles. I think more and more people should start investing in Korean skincare products and experience the change in their skin and confidence.
Q15. Name 5 Korean makeup products that you can’t go without?
Ruchika: My go-to favourite products are Peripera Airy Ink Velvet tint, Etude House Dear Darling Ice cream tint, Missha M perfect BB cushion, Touch in sol no pore-blem primer and Eunyul Eye & Lip makeup remover.
Q16. Are you influenced by K-Pop and K-Drama at all? If you are, which are your favourite K-pop groups and Drama series?
Ruchika: It really gets you when you start watching them. I am absolutely fascinated by the fact that there are so much support and love among the fans in the UAE.
I would say my favourite is BTS- of course, you can't think of K-pop without their name. And even TWICE is quite lovable.
I haven't watched much Drama but I did see “What's Wrong with Secretary Kim” and “Descendants of the sun”. I found them very interesting and have been trying to fit an episode in my busy schedule.
Q17. What are 3 Korean products you have in your bag right now?
Ruchika: I have the Benton Cacao Moist and Mild Toner. I have been using it for quite some time now and, it's amazing! I like to dab it on my face every now and then.
Then I have the Tonymoly LipTone Get it Tint to oomph my look if something important comes up.
Lastly, there is the Missha All-around Sun Stick. I can't leave my house without having this in my handbag. It's a must-have, no matter what.
Q18. What is your favourite Korean food? What’s the best place in Dubai to have Korean food?
Ruchika: There’s this place called Gangnam Restaurant in Oud Metha, Dubai, they serve the most amazing Gimbap(Korean Sushi).
Q19. How Influenced are you by Korean Culture? What are your future plans for Chicsta?
Ruchika: I would say I am guilty of being obsessed with Korean culture. It's like a land of cuteness. And when I look at K-pop groups & Armies making the world significantly better, I realize there is nothing as Korean culture in any part of the world.
My plans for Chicsta are to make it reach up to that level of popularity where people instantly associate it as a Korean obsessed platform where they can talk and discuss about anything Korean.
We plan to launch forums, discussion panels and groups where people can never feel that they are alone in the Korean wave. We are in this together!
Q20. Lastly, what’s that on beauty tip that you would like to share with our readers?
Ruchika: I have so many beauty tips in my mind right now. But one tip that seriously changes your world is removing the makeup before sleeping. I know you're tired, hungover or sleepy, but do yourself this favour every night.