From an engineer to a make-up artist to an entrepreneur, Manisha Chopra has donned many hats. Her aptitude as an engineer, combined with her study of chemistry and mathematics, have been value ads to her passion for cosmetics. The passion for cosmetics has further culminated into a venture that offers a range of skincare products made from sea salt, mud, and minerals and is free of harmful chemicals.
Manisha is the Co-Founder of SeaSoul Cosmeceuticals, which she started in 2012, a name she chose to denote the range’s inherent qualities of ‘pure’ and ‘untouched.’
“Cleopatra, the Goddess of beauty and valour, from ancient Egypt, had travelled from Egypt to the Dead Sea to build the first Spa there,” she says.
Drawing from this, Manisha wanted to bring a similar experience to India. SeaSoul Cosmeceuticals has its manufacturing plant based in Israel and is sold and marketed in India.
Passion for cosmetics
Make-up and skincare expertise comes naturally to Manisha. Thanks to her mother who was a beautician, Manisha had an early exposure to the use of make-up and skincare regiments.
Although passionate and skilled in make-up and skincare, Manisha continued to pursue her degree in engineering and after completing her graduation took up a corporate assignment in Australia as an engineer back in 2003.
Manisha believed that if she ever had to work in the abstract space, she would be most adept at being an artist or a painter. However, fate had other plans for her.
While at a friend’s wedding in Malaysia, the appointed beautician failed to turn up, Manisha then stepped in to help her friend and did her complete hair and make-up. It got rave reviews and mock bookings such that it made her realise that her inherent passion lay in make-up and this could be pursued professionally.
To take this further, she studied cosmetology and then did a master class with Rae Morris, Australia, one of the most creative and sought after make-up artists in the World. Owing to her natural expertise with make-up, she was handpicked by Rae and she trained under her tutelage assisting with shoots, ramp, advertising, editorial, fashion, bridal, etc. This expanded her network and brought in contracts for star studded fashion shows and big banner Hollywood projects, where she learned and eventually mastered the ropes of professional make-up.
Manisha is passionate about make-up, she enthuses, “Beauty perception in India was very different from the western countries. A decade ago, getting ready for the party meant caking up your skin with make-up and look done up as compared with western countries’ thought process where make-up is considered as a tool for looking beautiful yet walking comfortably in your own shoes with a minimalistic look so that you don’t lose your individuality.”
After a decade of professional experience in make-up in Australia, she decided to set foot in the skincare industry in what she believed to be her true calling.
Manisha caught on to the refreshing wave to go green and chemical-free that hit the skincare industry in India and abroad. There was suddenly a conscious consumer preference for natural, chemical-free, and
eco-friendly products. She realised that there was a lot of untapped potential in this space as the market was flooded with chemical-infused products. Manisha warns, “Don’t pick anything off the shelf tagged as organic, natural, ayurvedic or herbal. Read the ingredient label and look for products free from harmful chemicals such as sulphate, parabens, phosphates, formaldehyde, petrochemicals. Do not use or buy the face products just because it suits your relative or friend or just because there is a discount available on them. Try and test every product and understand the benefits of the products before using them on yourself.”Manisha was driven to go green because of personal reasons too. Her infant son had contracted eczema, a dry skin condition, owing to the climate abroad and this prompted her to move back to India, and also brought about the need to focus on using skin-friendly ingredients for her own product range.
This time round, she decided to take the new road and moved to India from Australia.
She was lucky to have a geologist for a father in law, who told her of the benefits of the Dead Sea salt, mud, and minerals. The Dead Sea, as she researched further, was found to have 70 times more nutrients than any other sea, with 26 essential nutrients, out of which 12 are extremely rare and not found anywhere else in the world.
Once in India, things fell in place, and Manisha launched her business, “Beautiful skin can best compliment ones make-up and is now achievable for anyone. On an average, a person uses up to 200 chemicals per day, not having other options to resort to. There is a healthy lifestyle choice one can make by shifting to an organic, daily skincare routine, using the SeaSoul Cosmeceuticals range,” she says. The product range includes facial care masks, polishes, creams, cleansing and toning lotions, bath salts, healing candles, kits and hair treatment serums. She quips, “Go by the quality of the product and then the fragrance. Like in SeaSoul range and most of the true organic brands, there is no added fragrance to convince the smelling senses of the buyer. The ingredients and the quality of the product makes it unique not the fragrance.”
She reached out to leading beauty salons and began by educating them about the benefits of her product range. She holds training sessions in salons pan India and has been successful in product adoption for her range in 2500+ salons so far. They have also set up a kiosk in Pacific mall in Delhi and a standalone store in Hyderabad, along with a presence in leading salons, spas, and outlets across cities in India apart from being available on leading ecommerce sites. She also speaks at reputed beauty and fashion retail related events, and has won several accolades so far, one of them being the ‘Cosmetic Treatment Player of the Year 2015’ award from the Indian Salon Congress.
We ask her if there were any challenges she faced in her journey, she confesses, “Although cosmetic industry is woman focussed but that is not the case in the core of the business. Majority of spas or saloons are either managed by men or are usually opened up by housewives looking to do something. Hence many times a woman who owns skincare line, especially where she is manufacturing the products herself, is not taken seriously. This requires a massive thought process change in the Indian society unlike the west.”
About consumer preferences in beauty products, and her approach in the scheme of things, she says, “This is has been and is a continuous challenge. The current trend in the service industry is purely focused on result irrespective of the quality or the ingredients used in the products. Service professionals are the key influencers to the end consumer hence a mindset shift is critical here and since instant results have a short-term gain on business this makes it even more challenging. There is a constant effort to line up use of natural or organic products and focus on long term business gains rather than short term.”
Motivation to succeed
From taking care of two young children, planning new strategies to promoting SeaSoul Cosmeceuticals with her Co-Founder and husband, Sankalp, and travelling almost 20–25 days a month, she has her hands full, but she would never want it any different as she thoroughly enjoys her work, and believes she can make a difference, and that’s what keeps Manisha going.
She plans to increase the product range in the near future and scale up the presence of SeaSoul Cosmeceuticals and to extend her business model from B2B to B2C. In the offing is also the plan to set up 100 plus kiosks pan India via a franchise model.
Her long term goal is to make SeaSoul Cosmeceuticals the best beauty brand in the world, and to create awareness about going organic and chemical free with skincare.