Mumbai-based luxury personal care brand SOVA brings the expertise of an Ayurvedic formulator to skincare and haircare products.
Fifty years ago, visiting a store to buy beauty serums and masks was unheard of. Common ingredients available in the kitchen made up women’s beauty regime and if you ask your granny, she’ll tell you they worked.
Then came cosmetic creams and lotions. However, over the last few years, there is a conscious move back to natural ingredients. Organic and ‘safe’ natural products have suddenly become the buzzword in the cosmetics industry and cashing on this trend is Mumbai-based luxury personal care brand SOVA.
The company was founded by designer Vasavdatta Gandhi and her niece, Sneha Daftary, in January 2018. Its USP, though, is that its products are backed by the expertise of Vasavdatta's father-in-law, HI Gandhi.
HI Gandhi was a formulator of allopathic medicines, and in 1999 began studying Ayurveda. He went on to found his own Ayurveda medicines company - Millenium Herbals. "He produced phyto-based medicines for arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, heart diseases, infertility, auto-immunity. We have up to 60 medicines in our portfolio," says Vasavdatta.
Having worked as a formulator of medicines for more than 50 years, HI Gandhi, Managing Director of Millennium Herbals, is the brain behind all the formulations of SOVA's products.
Vasavdatta, a graduate from New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, designed bridal wear for almost 12 years. While she continues designing for a few clients, she joined the family business four years ago. Sneha is a trained hairdresser and founded her own salon - Vous Salon in Mumbai 12 years ago.
The story of three generations
Troubled with hair fall due to water and weather-changes, Vasavdatta would not only use shampoos made by her father-in-law when she travelled, but use them while at home. "For about 10 years, I used products lying in his lab. He has about 100 products ready to be launched as we speak," she says.
Vasavdatta says she soon realised that if her father-in-law’s formulations worked so well for her, why not make a business of it. This led to the birth of SOVA, meaning 'one's own' in Sanskrit.
"While my father-in-law formulates the products, Sneha brings in her expertise in the hair space and I look after the logistics," says Vasavdatta.
The SOVA journey
SOVA's products were initially sold at Sneha's Vous Salon. They were later launched on ecommerce platform Nykaa in mid-February and later on Amazon, Flipkart, HealthKart, Propshop and indiaretailing.com. Their first product was a brahmi and hibiscus hair oil, a blend of 16 cold pressed oils.
"It was formulated way before launching SOVA. Our friends and family have been using it for some time and they always kept coming back asking for more," says Vasavdatta. The co-founders changed the base before launching it under SOVA's branding and now use sesame oil to make it more luxurious.
SOVA has 15 products as of now - nine for haircare and six for body care. The company plans to launch more products soon. Vasavdatta says SOVA has no immediate plans of launching products exclusively for men.
While HI Gandhi provides expertise for the formulation of the products, SOVA is otherwise an all-women's team. Once the formulation of a product is ready, it is tested in-house and manufactured at Millennium Herbals' factory. "Once the products are formulated, they are kept in an oven-kind of an environment. The formulation is kept at a particular temperature for a couple of months, up to a year," Vasavdatta says.
Inside a SOVA bottle
While plant and other Ayurvedic extracts and oils are sourced from different parts of India, proteins are imported from the UK, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
"Every ingredient is mentioned at the back of the pack. We do not hide anything," claims Vasavdatta.
She adds the blending of the raw materials, including proteins and botanicals, and their proportions are backed by science. Each ingredient is selected after checking its efficacy for the selected purpose.
"If I am putting bhringraj or jatamansi, they won't be as effective if I don't add peptides and proteins to it. This is how we are unique with our formulation," says Vasavdatta.
SOVA's products range from Rs 250 for soap bars to Rs 2,150 for the hair mask.
The beauty business
According to an Assocham report, India is the second largest market for beauty products, cosmetics and cosmeceuticals in the world. The beauty and wellness industry is expected to touch Rs 80,370 crore by the end of this year, the report added.
While there are several players competing in the luxury beauty products segment, KAMA Ayurveda and Forest Essentials are SOVA's direct competition. SOVA gets most of its orders online and from Tier II cities. The founders have pumped in their own funds to start SOVA and are not looking to raise funding for the next one year.
After Mumbai and Pune, SOVA launched in South India, stocking its products across 50 outlets of beauty and wellness brand Health & Glow in Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The company claims it has 50 percent growth month-on-month.
Vasavdatta says the company plans to open its own retail stores eventually. SOVA has also already marked its presence in the corporate gifting space with major clients being E&Y and Red Chillies Entertainment.