The past decade has seen one word rise like the phoenix – organic – and one phrase flung at every instance – read the label. But these words are often used in the health, nutrition, and fitness context.
If you’ve ever tired reading the (extremely complex) label of a cream, shampoo, or a lotion, and had the perseverance to Google search the ingredients, you’re in for a rude realisation of how we’re happily being swindled in the name of ‘natural’, ‘organic’, ‘pure’, etc.
The big fat lie
“It was sheer happenstance,” says Pritesh Asher, 33, as he narrates his first brush with absolute debauchery.
It was a routine Sunday visit to the mall. While pretending to help my wife with the chores, I was approached by a sales person with a brand new all natural beauty product launched into the market. While checking the product, a few of the ingredients caught my attention as we used them as raw material in our manufacturing processes at our petroleum products plant. All I could think of was the oxymoron, where the front of the label was screaming natural and organic, but the label behind was hushing preservatives, parabens, mineral oils, synthetic colours, perfumes and more.
Pritesh was quick to notice that the product was doled with chemicals, and thanks to his exposure to manufacturing of industrial and automotive speciality lubricants. On the other hand, the uninitiated might just find it tougher to associate the names on the label with what these substances actually are. On hearing about the experience Pritesh had just had, his wife, Megha Asher, was surprised but shrugged and said, “Well this is what is available, right?!”
The experience became a long-drawn discussion. The young couple recalls,
We started looking out for pure and natural products, but all in vain. As we shared our thoughts with family and friends, it increasingly became clear that there was either very little awareness about the chemicals present in skincare products and their adverse effects on us, or there was no alternative available for consumers to switch to a skin care brand that was truly natural. Either way there was an obvious gap in the market
It was clear that there was a need for an honest brand that the duo could be the ones to start one. In 2014, the couple decided to create an effective skincare brand that uses the purest and the most nutrient rich ingredients the nature has to offer, and hence founded Coimbatore-based Juicy Chemistry (JC).
Nature in a box
Leveraging on Pritesh’s knowledge of formulation, and with the mantra of simplified skincare, the JC product line began to take shape. Much to their horror, the initial research had revealed that most commercial products base their formulations on petrochemical concoctions such as liquid paraffin, preservatives, glycols, artificial colours and fragrances, etc., which causes more damage to the skin on application.
In its quest to change this, JC began making the first few changes – replaced the mineral base oil with nutrient-rich butters and carrier oils, synthetic fragrances with organic and certified essential oils, artificial colours with natural clays, fresh fruits and vegetables, plastic exfoliants with organic AHA rich sugars. Megha says,Once we were able to remove water from our formulations, we were able to avoid the use of harmful preservatives, emulsifiers, and parabens. Though our products have a shorter shelf life, they are better health wise!
“To believe that labs can produce better ingredients than Mother Nature is just a fad,” says the duo vehemently. JC sources its exotic and authentic ingredients from far and wide to ensure that the best of nature reaches its customers. Although the brand wants to expand to all customer bases, the current operational costs and economies of scale puts them in the luxury segment.
Pritesh says, “A product is only as good as the ingredients used to create them. We take painstaking efforts to source the finest organic produce from suppliers and they all come with a premium price tag.”
Megha illustrates the point with an example.For example, our Aloe vera and Calendula soap for kids is manufactured using the traditional cold pressed method and contains the following ingredients: organic extra virgin olive oil, calendula oil, virgin coconut oil, wild grown Aloe vera, purified water, sodium hydroxide (Lye – used during the saponification process to turn oil into soap. None remains in the finished product.) A similar product in comparison from a leading brand for baby care products has the following ingredients listed: coconut oil, ethanol, water, sucrose, sodium hydroxide, glycerine, castor oil, steric acid, fragrance, PEG 40 hydrogenated castor oil, Trideth-9, propylene glycol, jojoba oil, tetra sodium EDTA.
Traction and revenue
JC is currently bootstrapped. Validation has come in the form of a phenomenal response JC had received in the last 18 months. Megha adds, “Customers are very sensitive about personal care products and find it difficult to trust or switch a brand easily. As a new brand, we have managed to get past the initial struggle period and we now have majority of our new clientele through referrals.” In a short span, JC has managed to cater to over 10,000 customers in over 25 states in India and 20 countries globally.
JC is now being flooded with offers for distribution in domestic and international markets though their primary business model concentrates on B2C market. They have also been approached by various spas and high-end destination resorts.
Sustainability and social responsibility
JC revolves around sustainability and transparency. Megha and Pritesh say that since JC products do not contain any harmful chemicals like parabens, phthalates, and sulphates, they do not cause harm to waterways and marine life. The products label is ‘green washed’. The duo work towards making every aspect of the business more sustainable. Other than the fact that the products are chemical free, they’re animal-testing free as well, and come in recyclable packaging.
To empower small scale enterprise and be socially responsible, JC sources its packaging materials, like cane baskets, bamboo hampers, gift baskets, etc., locally. They have initiated a socio-economic programme for the cause of Children’s Education and Women Empowerment. Women learn to produce quality products manufactured through self-help groups to attain financial independence, and provide quality education for their children.
Challenges and cruising ahead
Megha says that cash flow management for a rapidly growing bootstrapped company like theirs is a complex task. “Lack of employees with skills needed to drive revenue across the organisational chart for a relatively niche market is challenging. As a startup, we have managed to build our demand. The challenge is to deliver outstanding products that exceed expectations of our customers in an efficient way,” adds Pritesh.
JC has already started focusing on their growth strategy with plans of flagging off exclusive stores in Chennai, Bengaluru, and Mumbai by the next financial year. A large percentage of JC’s clientele prefers to shop online, and hence they will be looking to strengthen and increase their online market share. As an immediate next step, JC is looking to get its products certified through a reputed third-party agency. “This will be a major step forward in our commitment to offer Avant-Garde skin care products”, says the duo as they sign off.