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Walking into the Resonance store is like walking into a patisserie as you are enveloped by the fragrances of butter cookies, apple cinnamon, mocha, and peach. But it isn’t calorie-rich treats that are on display, but candles of all sizes and hues. And while these olfactory delights may be a bit waxy for your tastebuds, they’re so pure that they really are safe enough to eat, says Neha Sawant, the entrepreneur behind Resonance, a Mumbai-based brand of lifestyle products that include home decor, accessories, and bath and body products.
Resonance’s premier offering is its hand-poured candles made with pure, natural, locally-sourced ingredients. Unlike conventional candles, which are made of paraffin wax, a by-product of the petroleum extraction process, Resonance uses vegetable wax, the residue from sunflower oil extraction. They also use a range of locally-grown, indigenous ingredients like lemongrass, citronella, and sandalwood, which are blended into essential oils that perfume the candles.
Sawant’s foray into candle-making marked the end of a long period of soul-searching, she says. She quit her career in finance, resigned from her job in Dubai, and began contemplating the next step. “I was always interested in essential oils and aromas and was fairly knowledgeable about different fragrance blends,” she adds. She was also a witness to the growing use of scented candles in meditation and healing in India. “By using paraffin wax candles to meditate, people don’t realise that they are breathing in toxic fumes and synthetic fragrances, often in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces and for long periods of time,” she says. Unadulterated, essential oils in aromatic candles have several invigorating, stress-relieving, and healing properties that can be used to combat sleep apnea, anxiety, and listlessness, she informs.
A study of the Indian market for aromatic candles proved that most quality products were out of reach for the average lifestyle consumer.
A perfect blend
In 2014, Sawant underwent a short training programme in France, where she studied the process of extracting and blending essential oils. Armed with new knowledge and zeal, she returned to India and launched Resonance in 2014 with three product categories - candles, diffused oils, and home fragrances. The main goal of this fledgling enterprise is to make 100 percent chemical-free, earth-friendly products at affordable prices. “Customers seeking safe, healthy products should not have to pay exorbitant prices for them,” she emphasises. Today, Resonance offers two major categories of candles – decor and therapy – and its entire range is competitively priced, varying between Rs 100 and Rs 550, depending on how long they burn for.
About finding her calling, Sawant says, “Setting up my business allowed me to combine my knowledge of essential oils with my passion for natural, environment-friendly products. Having been a regular customer of aromatic candles myself, I was also best-positioned to understand consumers’ needs and offer them products they were looking for at a price point they could afford.”
Resonance quickly grew from a small, home-based business selling exclusively at crafts exhibitions to one with a significant presence on every popular e-commerce platform. Sawant attributes this to the constant innovation her products undergo. With an eye for good design, Sawant puts all her creative energy into introducing exciting new collections for every season of the year. The brand developed 21 new fragrance blends, which Sawant claims is the largest number of blends in the aromatic candle category in India.
She also collaborates with craftspersons from all over India to create a variety of unique designs showcasing our rich handicrafts tradition.
Not wanting to restrict itself to home fragrances, Resonance recently diversified its product range to include handmade accessories and other items of home decor - lamps, candle holders, chandeliers, and bags - all customisable, and made using upcycled/recycled or eco-friendly materials like used wine bottles, beverage cans, reclaimed wood, and cork.
Sawant is also looking forward to launching the new range of vegan, chemical-free Resonance bath and body products later this year, led by its natural Himalayan salt and aloe vera-based bath soaks and soaps.
Managing the demanding task of product design leaves Sawant with little time to promote her brand on social media or keep customers up-to-date about new launches. So while customers were responding positively to her products, she was losing a valuable section of the online audience, especially important given the brand’s growing presence on e-commerce portals. “That’s where Sellfie came to my rescue,” she says. She acknowledges the support she receives for processing orders and adds,
“For small businesses like mine, which cannot afford to have every product line professionally photographed for a catalogue, Sellfie offers great ease of doing business.”
With Sellfie, Resonance has seen a threefold increase in its social media reach. The brand recently participated in the Sellfie online flea market for which they received a lot of support from the Sellfie team. “All we had to do was submit product details and images and Sellfie helped us with cataloguing, product promotion and regular social media updates. I could see how well my products were doing and my social media reach and sales went up considerably. It gave me access to an entirely new platform, which makes all the difference in reaching out to a vast consumer base,” she says.
“This is just the beginning,” gushes the spirited, young entrepreneur who is now eyeing an export market, “and Resonance has a long way to go.” There is increasing awareness in the Indian market about the importance of using natural products and Resonance is riding the wave. All of its products are laboratory certified to assure customers that they get authentic products, but Sawant never misses an opportunity to meet and interact with customers in person and and educate them about her products’ benefits.
A growing set of repeat customers is an encouraging sign of the potential of this segment. “This inspires me to continue introducing new designs, to discover traditional, locally sourced ingredients and to show the world that it is possible to create a 100 percent pure, high-quality, all-Indian product.