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Building a Viral Brand on Social Media: A Conversation with Delhicious Body

This Small Business Saturday, we spoke with Zara to learn everything about the start of Delhicious Body, how she and her husband navigated the viral moments as small business owners, and their favorite tools for social media.

Posted 10 months ago
delhicious body scrub

Written by

Mackenzie Taylor
Posted 10 months ago
While pregnant in 2018, Zara Saleem was experiencing some eczema with her skin, and, rather than treat it with steroids, she looked for more natural solutions from her Indian heritage and created a solution using Black Assam Tea. Almost immediately, she noticed her skin clearing up and she and her husband, Zak, knew they had something special on their hands (pun, very much intended!). And that’s when Delhicious Body was born.
Over the past five years, the brand has seen a tremendous amount of growth—from beauty boxes to Glamour Magazine to viral moments on TikTok!
This Small Business Saturday, we spoke with Zara to learn everything about the start of the business, how she and her husband navigated the viral moments as small business owners, and their favorite tools for social media.

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  1. How do you build a viral brand on social media?

How do you build a viral brand on social media?

Delhicious body
For anybody who doesn’t really know, what is your business, and how did you get started?
Zara: Delhicious is an all-natural Indian-inspired skincare and body care brand. We started in 2018 and it was a very organic start. We had no intention of actually even starting a beauty brand per se, but, I had actually developed a dry skin condition when I was pregnant with my second daughter.
Being of South Asian descent, it came very naturally to me to formulate products using natural ingredients because usually what doctors do is prescribe steroids for anything, you know, dry skin or eczema-related. I didn’t want to use that because obviously, I was pregnant.
So coming from a South Asian background, it’s very, very normal and very natural for us to always look to remedies and recipes that have been in the family for generations. I started formulating with my husband, and we came up with a body scrub. We used a very unique ingredient that wasn’t on the market, which was a specific grain of Assam tea that was sourced directly from India.
We literally just came up with one product. I started using it and honestly saw a difference within a couple of days. It was insane. And that’s when we had the idea. We thought: “You know what? There’s actually a gap in the market for something like an Indian beauty brand that’s fun and it has personality.”
It was very, very organic and started with one product and we now have an entire range.

 

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Were you always interested in beauty and skin-related products before you started this business, or was it purely because you were having issues with eczema and thought: “Wait, I don’t want to use a steroid. I will make my own product”?
Yeah, it was exactly that. We didn’t have the intention to start a brand. It was when we created the product because of a need that was present in my life, that we realized “Actually, there’s nothing like this out there.”
There was no five-year plan. It was more like, “Yeah, let’s see how it goes. The product worked for me, so it’s there’s a chance to help other people too.” That being said, I was very aware of the fact that there weren’t a lot of beauty brands out there that have a South Asian heritage … there’s nothing out there that’s fun and easy to understand, so let’s make a brand that can demystify Ayurveda, per se.
At the start, where did you go when it came to marketing the product or even selling the product? Did it happen organically where you were sharing it with friends and then word of mouth came about?
We built the website and launched with one product. And of course, had no sales because nobody knew about us.
Instagram is where we started. I started creating the brand page and posting there. Sales started trickling in, but it was more so when we started to get a bit of press when it really kicked off.
That was one of my early objectives. We’re a brand new business in the market, which is very saturated, what’s going to make us stand out is if we get some press. So I started hounding a few journalists and just asking them to buy a product. It really was me sending DMs to journalists and emailing them. Harper’s Bazaar picked up on it and said, “We’ll try it.” And they really liked it. That helped because other journalists then started to reach out and ask: “Can we also try the product?” Then, we had the BBC reach out and invited us to come on the radio to talk about it.
It was within the first three to six months that kind of kicked off. We were featured on BBC Asian Network. We went on and talked about the brand and about our story and how important it is to have natural remedies and Indian natural remedies in the market.
We were approached by Glossybox, which is the UK’s biggest subscription box. It was a huge order of 100,000 units—and bearing in mind, we didn’t have a factory, we were still making everything at home—we took the order on. We did it. We did it from our house. We turned our house into a factory. We had one room that was a filling room, one room was heat sealing. But, we did it …
That was the start of it for us where we suddenly had all these people sharing all their stories that they’ve got their Glossybox and it had our products in it. It was really exciting. It was off the back of that, that we then expanded the range. We thought: “We’ve got one body scrub, let’s do three.” That was pretty much the beginning for us.

 

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Now that you have amassed a following, how do you think social media has helped you with building your overall brand?
I mean, social media has literally been insane for us. We have only recently started doing paid advertising and before that, we didn’t spend a penny on advertising. We didn’t need to.
So again, it happened really organically. Instagram was still ticking along and then TikTok came. We were in the pandemic and we’d kind of developed the body balms. Again, it was one of those things where people were not that bothered to try a new product. I remember pitching it to stockists and retailers and it was kind of just like, “Yeah, they look interesting, but we’re not sure.”
Then TikTok started and I initially joined TikTok with the idea that I was going to use it to help other small businesses. Like a behind-the-scenes of how we run our business.
But then one person had spoken to a magazine, and she said that our product had helped her psoriasis. I made a TikTok on it and it just blew up. Every single TikTok I posted afterward had more and more people buying the product and sharing pictures. We wouldn’t even ask them. They would send us pictures saying, “Oh my God, look at how this has helped my skin.”
It was very, very organic. There was this crazy moment where we were always out of stock. I would post a TikTok. It would blow up. We’d get hundreds of thousands of views and people would just buy up all the products. We ended up building a waitlist—I think it reached around 50,000 people for these balms because people knew the product worked. And that was all down to social media. If it wasn’t for our TikTok and joining in those early days when the algorithm was probably more favorable towards more businesses, I’m not sure we would have reached the level that we are today.
What social media channel do you think is the best for building a brand or business online? Obviously TikTok, but do you think Instagram is still pretty helpful for you?
It’s just me and my husband right now running the business. And social media does take up a lot of my time. I felt like I dedicated a lot of time to TikTok and I thought, Instagram is just kind of your brand page where you make it look pretty. However, a month ago, I actually really invested a lot of time in Reels, and again, we saw crazy growth. We saw insane sales from it. And, I think we grew 30,000 followers in a month.
I generally think it’s where you plug your energy. I don’t even think it’s about which platform is necessarily better anymore. I think every platform has a strategy, but you have to really test the algorithm and know your brand values. You need to build those brand values through social media, which is something we do, and it’s something I’m really passionate about. It’s telling the brand story and being authentic, honest, transparent, and showing the journey of beauty ingredients. I think any platform is actually worth investing time into, whether it’s Instagram or it’s TikTok.

 

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For people who are getting a bit discouraged and they’re just starting out on social media and starting to figure out who their brand is, what is some advice that you wish you heard at the start?
I think it would be to not copy and not look at what everyone else is doing. I think when people start off social media with a brand, they look at a brand they want to be like and go: “I’m just going to copy what they’re doing.” And that doesn’t always work because that brand has its own brand values and they’re speaking to their own type of customer. You got to find your own customer and without actually having authentic brand values, your brand is never going to do well on social media.
Brand values are so important to know. What is it like that makes your brand special? What is it that you are passionate about and you want to bring through your business or your brand? Without knowing that, there’s no authenticity behind it and you’ll just fall stagnant. Even when we started, I looked towards another big beauty brand and tried to see how they were doing their marketing. And it was just so disingenuous and people can see through that.
However, if you’re starting your own business and you’re authentic about the story of why you’re there and why you are in the market, people are going to resonate with that. That’s what’s going to help you grow.
What tools have helped you build your business online? Obviously, it helped when you reached out to magazines and all that. That was super helpful for you to build your business. But what other things have helped you grow and focus your business?
I mean, I think it’s just kind of like the standard tools that a lot of small businesses are probably already familiar with.
Building your own website, like Shopify. We use Shopify as it’s so easy, simple, and user-friendly for any kind of beginner. I think design tools like Canva have been great for us. We use a really good email marketing platform called Klaviyo. They’re great for us. Social media, whatever we can use, it’s always free. We didn’t use and still don’t use a lot of paid things, especially when we were starting out. Everything we used was free. You don’t need a big budget to start a small business at all. I think that’s a very common misconception.
Recently, we’ve started using Flick as well, which is great. I’ve been using the caption writing tool and the new AI tools that Flick has, which have been really helpful.

 

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Is there any last piece of advice that you would give to a small business or somebody just starting out with their business?
I think my last piece of advice would be: Don’t be discouraged if you don’t make sales in the first couple of months. That is not the time to focus on sales. I think a lot of people think they’re going to switch that website on and they’re going to have all of these sales pouring in.
I had somebody reach out to me who was starting a candle brand and she said, “Yeah, I’m so excited!” Then, she launched it and didn’t get any sales. She was then like, “I’m just going to pivot and do something else.” You need to really invest a lot of time. A lot of people tell me I am so lucky, but there’s really no luck involved. It truly is a time investment.
Don’t give up too soon. If you feel like something isn’t working, it’s very slow. Don’t think about sales. Sales will come when you build your brand and that is the honest truth of it. If people can resonate and connect in a world, which is so noisy and you can cut through the noise and speak to somebody with authentic values, you’re going to get a customer.
Want to learn more and follow Delhicious on social? Be sure to follow them over on Instagram and TikTok!
Be sure to also try Flick for free for 7-days to see why the tool is so helpful in creating content for small businesses like Zara’s!

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How do you build a viral brand on social media?


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