FF Rising Stars: Kiren Tanna, Una Brands

By Marco De Novellis // 27 September 2023

Kiren Tanna (Una Brands), centre, with Julien Mialaret (Eurazeo) and Ryan Manafe (Dagangan) at FF Asia 2023.
Kiren Tanna (Una Brands), centre, with Julien Mialaret (Eurazeo) and Ryan Manafe (Dagangan) at FF Asia 2023.

Unilever for the online world – Kiren Tanna’s Una Brands is building brands across the Asia-Pacific. See our FF Rising Stars for 2023!

While many B2C brands in Southeast Asia reach $1m in revenue, scaling beyond that is a challenge. With Una Brands, Kiren Tanna is looking to build the next Unilever for the online world, buying and building brands across the Asia-Pacific. 

Since its launch in 2020, Una Brands has raised over $100m, acquired more than 20 online-only brands, and helped grow many of them from $1m to $10m in revenue, supporting product launches and new country and channel expansions.

A serial entrepreneur, Kiren previously founded the budget hotel chain, ZEN Rooms, acquired by South Korea’s leading hotel franchise, Yanolja, and online food and grocery delivery platform, Foodpanda, acquired by Delivery Hero for $500m in 2016.

Founded: 2020
Country: Singapore
No. of employees: 300
Stage: Series B
Total funding raised: $100m+
Investors: Whitestar Capital, Northstar Group, Alpha JWC, 500 Startups, Global Founders Capital, Presight Capital, Maximilian Bittner

Why did you decide to start Una Brands?

After the acquisition of ZEN Rooms, I took some time off, did some angel investing, and spoke to various founders. During these conversations, I came across various D2C founders who had achieved initial product-market fit but were struggling to scale their business beyond $1m-$2m in revenue and didn’t have the knowledge, capability, or resources needed to be a $10m-$50m brand. Neither could they exit the brand due to no viable routes at that scale, so many were stuck with the business with few alternative options.

That’s where the idea for Una was born. We want to become the digital version of Unilever for APAC and do this by acquiring great brands and growing them into global, well-loved, and enduring household names.

What do you want to achieve?

We are building a generational company and our 10-year vision is to have THE go-to platform for innovating and bringing great products to life for consumers across the globe to make their lives easier and more fulfilling. 

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Navigating the complex landscape of brand acquisition and transformation within the dynamic APAC market. As we aim to scale brands from initial product-market fit to becoming household names, we encounter various hurdles such as cultural nuances, regulatory requirements, and rapidly evolving consumer preferences. 

To address these challenges, we are actively seeking collaboration with experienced mentors, industry experts, and advisors who possess a deep understanding of both the APAC market and brand growth strategies. Their insights and guidance can provide us with invaluable direction in overcoming these obstacles and accelerating our mission.

Who has helped you most in your journey so far? 

The collective support of my co-founders has been indispensable throughout my entrepreneurial journey. And each co-founder brings a unique set of skills and perspectives that have been critical in shaping Una’s growth: Srini, with his tech prowess, Kushal, with his astute M&A insights, and Tobias and Adrian, spearheading our e-commerce strategy. Their combined efforts have not only helped us overcome challenges but have also forged a dynamic team capable of driving our vision forward.

What’s the best and worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Best advice: 

Embrace failure as a stepping stone to success. This has been a cornerstone of my entrepreneurial journey. Failure is inevitable, especially in the fast-paced world of startups. Instead of fearing failure, I’ve learned to view it as an opportunity to learn, iterate, and improve. Each setback brings valuable insights that can ultimately lead to a stronger and more resilient business.

Worst advice:

The notion that success is guaranteed if you follow a certain formula. In reality, every entrepreneurial journey is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for success. Blindly adhering to a prescribed path can hinder innovation and prevent you from adapting to changing circumstances. It’s important to combine proven strategies with your own creativity and instincts, allowing your business to stand out in a competitive landscape.

What tech would you not be able to do without? 

I use Workflowy, the note-taking app, to manage practically every aspect of my work and personal life. For someone who is working on multiple things and not immediately structured, it helps me stay organised and have my mind mapped out for me to access anytime.

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