Don’t be surprised if you don’t find your favorite shampoo on their store. Possibly it’s one that has toxic chemicals. Worried? Afterall,who wouldn’t like to buy safe and healthy products for their families? Serving a need that is very personal to the individual and is a conscious lifestyle choice, NaturalMantra.com launches to provide them with products that are safe, natural and organic, and that they can use in their daily lives, from dusk to dawn, in every aspect of the home.
In conversation with Abhilasha Dafria for YourStory.in, founder Nishant Nayak tells us how he inaugurates his startup on the world wide web to earn the customer’s trust!
How would you define NaturalMantra in less than 50 words?
We started NaturalMantra.com as a lifestyle destination for parents and eco-conscious shoppers providing widest selection of natural, organic, handmade and earth-friendly products. Our aim is to make eco-conscious-living easy, accessible and affordable.
What is your background and what inspired your business idea of an organic lifestyle products venture?
I have over 10 years of experience in technology and business. During my 4 year stint in eBay HQ inSan Jose,CaliforniaI was involved in various roles of Web Analytics, Product Management (Search) and Internet Marketing (SEO). It was here that I got hooked on to ecommerce. A platform to enable entrepreneurs build their own business is something that NaturalMantra.com aspires to build, just like what we built at eBay.
Our introduction to green living started after the birth of our daughter in 2007. When she was just a few weeks old, we found out that she had an extremely sensitive skin. As new and eager parents, we bought the best available brands in the market. To our surprise, these trusted commercial lotions, not only not work, but because of the toxic chemical ingredients, it caused an allergic reaction. It was then that we educated ourselves and began a search for something non-toxic for our daughter. Thus began our journey into the natural and organic lifestyle which continues to this day.
What were the challenges you faced while starting up?
We decided to move back to Indiain early 2011 and wanted to continue a sustainable lifestyle in Indiaas well. But there was no single place where we could find all the products we were looking for, under one roof. We spoke to numerous like-minded parents, searched online and realized
Where are your suppliers from and how do you source your products?
A lot of our suppliers are actually entrepreneurs out to make a change by making fantastic natural, organic and safe products. Around 90% of our products are made inIndia. We also have a few imported brands but essentially we want to bring fantastic Indian brands made for the Indian consumer and eventually a worldwide audience.
We source products from big brands to small home-based businesses. Size does not matter. What matters is the quality of the product, sustainability quotient and customer satisfaction. We have a hybrid model (Retailer + Marketplace think Amazon + Controlled Marketplace of eBay). We stock products and ship it out in some cases, whereas in the others, the seller ships it out themselves. We however manage the customer experience by always ensuring that we take responsibility for products listed on NaturalMantra.com. Complete customer satisfaction is our highest priority.
Could you tell us a little about your tie-ups?
We have tie ups with some big names in the Organic food industry, the cosmetics industry who will be coming on board shortly. Can’t reveal further details. Only want to add that we end up being very selective about who we bring onboard to sell on NaturalMantra.com. You have to be choosy when people trust you to bring safe products for the family.
Tell us a bit about the market size that you are trying to capture. Any interesting trends that you have observed?
The organic and natural market inIndiais extremely fragmented and a lot is unaccounted for. In fact, if you try to find some research on it, you will come out empty handed. Having said that, you will find signals of consumer-demand everywhere. For instance, dedicated organic shelves in retail shops, local farmer’s market etc. From a business standpoint, we looked at the trends before deciding that this is the right time to launch NaturalMantra.com.
TheUSorganic market is estimated at 26 billion USD market and showing triple digit growth.Indiais a very close follower of theUSmarket and will eventually mirror that trend. There is a growing expat community inIndia, who are used to natural, organic, safe and non-toxic products in their home country and are looking for the same lifestyle inIndia. There is also growing awareness in young couples along with rising income means and they are ready to pay for quality products that are guaranteed to be good for their family.
In the end, we are trying to solve a problem we faced ourselves and we know many like us exist inIndia. Sometimes you have to take the plunge and solve the problem at hand.
Could you tell us a little about you’re target audience? What age group comprise majority of your clientele?
To understand our customers we also have to understand their lifestyle. A Natural Mantra customer is an evolved shopper. S/he knows what she is buying and also understands the benefit that she derives from it. S/he is well informed, and gives importance to quality over quantity with no-compromise on her family’s health and will pay a premium to have access to the products that she cares about. Our clientele is around 70% women, 30% men, in the age group of 24-45 typically a working woman, educated, living in a metro. Apart from individual customers, we will also cater to corporates helping them reach their sustainability goals. Corporates are slowly realizing the benefits of choosing eco friendly products in their work environment, which leads to a higher employee satisfaction.
Do you intend to make international sales as well?
Yes, going international will be the next logical step for NaturalMantra.com. We want to bring fantastic Indian products to a larger international audience all over the world.
How has the response been so far?
Considering we just started the response has been fantastic. We have tapped on an idea that is very close to people’s heart. Our suppliers are excited because there is not one channel like us which only sells natural, organic and eco-friendly products. Our customers are delighted because they no longer have to run from one store to another to buy all the products they need.
What are the typical margins you’d make on the products sold?
Margins range from 20% to 30% depending on the type of product being sold.
How much capital was required to implement the idea?
We started the company with a 2 lakh working capital which was spent on getting the site up and running, buying some initial inventory, marketing, packaging, and shipping costs etc. We run a lean start-up.
Is NaturalMantra funded? Do you plan to raise more funds?
NaturalMantra.com is currently self funded but we are actively looking for like-minded investors who believe in the sustainable lifestyle choice and the huge potential that this market has in the coming years.
How big is your team? Are you looking at hiring?
Our team size is currently 2 full time folks and 1 part time. We are looking to hire 1 designer and 1 operation executive, 1 sales and 1 sourcing person soon.
Where are you based? When are you looking at starting your own stores?
We are based in Mumbai but will expand toDelhiandBangaloresoon. We are currently not looking to start our own stores anytime in the near future because the offline retail model is just too expensive to manage and maintain, especially with the range of products that we will offer.
How do you plan to deal with competition from other players in the market doing similar things? What is your USP?
There will always be players copying our idea. Ideas can be stolen but execution excellence, great customer service cannot. You cannot buy customer loyalty, it is earned through consistent excellence in service and great products. We are not concerned with other players doing similar things. In the Internet world your website is an open book and it doesn’t take much to copy an idea. In the end customer loyalty is built on great pricing, excellent return policies, fast shipping and a wide range of quality products. Sites working on price as the only determining factor will ultimately fail.
Any other strategy that works as a differentiator?
Another strategy we have is around the content and education. Currently few people know how to identify natural and organic products. There are lots of myths and misconceptions around Organic and Natural products. It is here that we bring in the NaturalMantra advantage. Our main USP lies in the fact that we scan the ingredients check for the organic certifications, connect with the passionate sellers who make these amazing products. Only after ensuring it is a truly sustainable product, we list it on our site.
Where and how do you see yourself going ‘bout this?
We are currently focused on the customer and listening to what they are asking us to do. They are asking us to Our goal is to help them discover amazing products made from a passionate set of sellers and promote a sustainable natural living. If you haven’t already used some of these products we strongly urge you to try them and we guarantee that you will never go back to your regular commercial brand.
Do give NaturalMantra.com a visit and hopefully you will also make the choices that are good for you and your family.