Behind BeautyMnl, the country’s leading homegrown eCommerce company, is a group of young professionals showing the world what a combination of “passion, inspiration and a touch of science” can do. The platform, operated by Taste Central Curators, Inc., has taken the Philippine market by storm and made beauty, health and wellness products accessible for Filipinas, quickly becoming the go-to destination for health and beauty with over 45,000 locally-sourced and internationally-curated products. What started in 2014 with just makeup and skincare has since expanded into vitamins, supplements, healthy snacks and food staples, home and even mom and baby items.
Behind all this is a young, spunky team of women, averaging 25 years of age. Those who joined the company in its early years have since moved up to become savvy, strong and competent managers. Their keen sensitivity to the market and passion for delivering on expectations planted the seeds of what was to become a profitable, pioneering venture.
One of the founding team members, Dinah Maghuyop, BeautyMnl’s lead developer, muses on the company’s humble beginnings. There were just two of them at the time, as they had always been keen on keeping their team lean and efficient. This is why they decided to host their website on Amazon Web Services at the onset. Building the website in a couple of months and then the mobile site just a month after launching, they could not afford to allocate any time to focus on infrastructure. Their singular focus, according to Maghuyop, was to make sure it worked.
“On a good day, at the start, we had about 50 orders a day, and we were so happy with that!,” Maghuyop recounts. “Now, on a normal day, it’s exponentially more than that as we now serve millions of users!”
A mere two years after those humble beginnings, they wanted to turn BeautyMnl into a mobile application to expand their reach. But with growth came challenges. They could not scale by focusing on feature development alone. They needed the ability to keep developing features while still maintaining stability for their ever-growing customer base, which also entailed setting up protections against security threats. With only one person focused on mobile app development, continuously innovating on the app was hard.
“We were growing so fast it made it difficult to improve our infrastructure accordingly,” lead developer Maghuyop said. “We had to hire new people,” she added. A good chunk of the new hires were fresh graduates armed with the eagerness, energy, and enthusiasm of their age and a tabula rasa pluckiness. Aside from hiring, they realized the need for a more robust infrastructure to consistently support the influx in traffic, downloads, and users.
Life Lofranco, Lead Infrastructure Engineer, explained, “We started with one server, but as we grew, it became increasingly difficult to iterate more efficiently.” He shared that whenever they had new software releases for the site, application environments needed manual intervention and at least a week to deploy end-to-end. Also, they could not automate their software releases, with each feature release taking up to twenty minutes to deploy.
Lofranco mentions that it was vital for them to bring in experts in wiring to organize their existing infrastructure. Enter AWS partner, Apper Digital Inc. Apper helped BeautyMnl move from a monolithic architecture to microservices. With microservices, an application is built as independent components that run each application process as a service. This shortens application development cycle times and enables flexible scaling.
When BeautyMnl first approached Apper, their primary goal was to optimize and scale. But they saw other opportunities to take these optimizations to the next level, such as preparing for seasonal demand. For peak or sale seasons, they wanted to be ready for the increase in transactions and users, and ultimately, reduce friction in the user experience. They also needed to reduce downtime as well as the time it took to release new features.
Since then, they have been able to reduce their deployment time for software releases by 75% with the use of AWS CodePipeline, AWS CodeBuild. They have also reduced application bugs and have achieved end-to-end cloud infrastructure provisioning using AWS CloudFormation, which resulted in a reduction of provisioning work from one week to one hour, 168 times faster.
“At the core of what we do, in the six years that we’ve been here, our goal was always to build a homegrown e-Commerce brand for every Filipina,” Maghuyop reflects. Now that they have their infrastructure on the cloud, they can keep their eye on a singular focus: helping every customer find all the ways to let their best self shine, through technology.
“We consider ourselves lucky to be in this eCommerce space very early on when there was practically nothing then. By providing the platform to empower Filipinas to be comfortable in their skin, we have driven body positivity and inclusivity forward in a significant way,” Dinah said. “Our recent rebrand in October 2020 will drive this vision even further in the years to come, and we look forward to serving our customers in even more meaningful ways,” she said.