[100 Emerging Women Leaders] Meet Naina Ruhail, who went from working in IT to founding an organic beauty startup
Like any MBA graduate, Naina Ruhail took the usual route of joining an IT company. However, within two years, she realised that her true passion lay in beauty and makeup. She promptly joined the London School of Makeup and the London School of Styling.
“I was a professional makeup stylist in the UK, and I was living in London. I had a certain fascination for different kinds of beauty and makeup products, and was particularly interested in organic products. I had realised while it wasn’t easy in the UK, there were different options available,” recollects Naina in a conversation with HerStory.
But when she returned to Delhi, she realised that the job wasn’t as simple as she had thought. “There are different products available but finding them wasn’t easy. The natural organic products are spread across several categories,” says Naina.
It was then that she, along with her husband, Prateek Ruhail, decided to start, a one-stop-shop for all-natural and organic beauty products. Founded in 2018, the Delhi-NCR based startup raised $200,000 in seed capital led by Agility Ventures.
“People today have started becoming more aware of clean beauty and organic products. But accessing them and finding out if these products are right for their skin is also important. With Vanity Wagon, we also want to inform our consumers and build awareness about clean products and beauty,” explains Naina.
Before listing any product on its website, the team at Vanity Wagon carefully researches the product and the ingredients. The startup selects its partner brands with the same attention to detail.
Some of the brands listed on Vanity Wagon are – Bare Necessities, Raw Nature, Auli Lifestyle, Biotique, Cocomo, Disguise Cosmetics, Ilana Organics, Just Herbs, MamaEarth, and Khadi Naturals.
Prateek and Naina Ruhail with Sahil Shrestha, Co-founder and COO, Vanity Wagon
Focusing on clean and cruelty-free beauty
The focus of the platform is on brands that sell cruelty-free and organic products free of any harmful chemicals. Naina explains they also try to understand more about the brand, the target audience, range, what it stands for, etc.
“Needless to say, like every startup, the journey has been hard. First, there was the challenge of finding the right brands. Initially, all the brands that we tried to discover weren’t exactly clean or natural, so the hunt in itself was time-consuming. One of the larger portals suggested a product that they said was natural. As it turned out, it was chemically formulated. Then, finding the right people was also a task. However, when we spoke to the customers, we realised there was a big gap in the market,” explains Naina.
To help their customers make informed choices and purchases, Vanity Wagon has listed videos on their website in a section called ‘Vanity Watch’. It also has a monthly magazine called ‘Vanity Mag’ and several blogs.
Vanity Wagon has four revenue streams – online sale of organic personal care products, offline sales, subscription boxes, and their supply of beauty products to hotels.
The beauty startup’s 2020 annual Gross Merchandise Value or GMV was to the tune of Rs 1.2 crore, with 80 percent of the revenue flowing from online sales. According to Naina, Vanity Wagon is growing at 50 percent month-on-month.
The startup is looking at strengthening its customer-first technologies, and also incrementing the reach of the brand to fulfil a larger consumer base.
“It is our community that has kept us going, and we have ensured that we are accessible as a brand. I personally talk to as many people as I can. It isn’t about just selling the products,” says Naina.
Speaking about what keeps her going, she says,
“You have to keep pushing yourself and moving ahead. Fortunately, I have a strong team and a good support system. There is no rule book to ignore gender bias; you have to fight through it. I have had my lowest days, and you will have tough times. You have to keep yourself motivated. I have tried to ignore a lot of slack. While it is easy to say, you just have to do that to maintain your sanity.”
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