[Startup Bharat] What helped Juicy Chemistry grow revenue 44% despite competition in the skin and hair care space

Juicy Chemistry was born at a time when the quintessential skincare consumer in India was starting to look beyond shelves lined with chemical-ridden products. With an almost obsessive focus on ingredients and quality, the D2C brand was able to bag thousands of lifelong loyalists. Here’s how.
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After years of harsh chemical peels, oral medication, and multiple dermatologist visits for her acne, Megha Asher decided to trade it all in for natural, clean products that could help her deal with her skin issues more sustainably. Shopping for such products, one day, she picked up a face cream that had hibiscus oil and a few other natural, plant-based ingredients — and decided to purchase it.

When her husband, Pritesh Asher, turned the bottle around to check out the ingredients for himself too, he noticed it contained “propylene glycol”. Now Pritesh came from a petrochemicals background and had extensive experience and knowledge in the domain — so propylene glycol, which is commonly used to constitute radiator cooling fluids, raised a red flag for him.

The enterprising husband-wife duo wondered why they couldn’t take the natural ingredients mentioned on the product label, and make it at home for themselves, devoid of harsh and unnecessary chemicals — and that was essentially the genesis of Juicy Chemistry.

Terms such as "clean beauty", "natural skincare", and "organic beauty" dot the nooks and crannies of social media today, and most of us skincare junkies follow these trends almost obsequiously, either hoping for something to work, or just because it’s an interesting fad.

Crazy things have happened in the skincare universe, especially on social media — from snail mucous and “vampire facials”, to the ongoing trend of using frozen breastmilk on one’s face — beauty fads are a dime a dozen.

Pritesh and Megha Asher

But why this obsession to keep trying something new, all the time? Why don’t products work?

“The products definitely work, we just don’t give them enough time to work. You can’t expect dark circles you’ve had since childhood to disappear in six weeks, or even six months. It takes time, and unfortunately, we’re all impatient,” Megha tells YourStory.

Brand loyalty for the win!

Founded in 2014, Juicy Chemistry is a skincare brand that’s laser-focused on natural ingredients-based products. It claims to offer products that are sustainably sourced, are cruelty-free, freshly made, vegan, and colours and synthetic fragrance-free.

When it launched, it was one of those brands on the scene that just smelled really good and checked all the “natural ingredients” and “organic” boxes in an era where most skin care products contained hard-to-pronounce chemical ingredients. It set the bar for skincare brands of the future notches higher than what they used to be.

These days though the story is quite different, not just for Juicy Chemistry, but the broader industry.

There has been a stark proliferation of brands in India focused on the things Coimbatore-based Juicy Chemistry essentially does — clean, organic skincare that does not harm you over the long term. Competition has increased manifolds, and it’s harder to now occupy space on people’s at-home skincare shelves than it was when Megha and Pritesh started out.

Source: Juicy Chemistry | Image design credit: Daisy Mahadevan, Team YourStory Design

“People keep jumping from one brand to another every time think a product will help them better and show faster results than the previous one did…that competition has definitely made it harder to convince people,” Pritesh says.

Blame social media, waning patience, or lack of adequate knowledge, but skincare product consumers are fickle and don’t want to stick with products for a longer time. Unfortunately, for companies such as Juicy Chemistry and other natural beauty brands that put in the effort to ensure their products are clean and as close to natural as possible, that augers more cut-throat competition.

Amidst the mercurial competition though, Juicy Chemistry says it has hit its stride in the market, and it can contend with fewer customers because that sustainable brand loyalty is what ultimately leads to solid growth versus a fad-driven upswing.

“Even though we’re not growing as fast as we’d like to, we are growing, and it’s mostly because of repeat customers who keep coming back because they’ve used our products for a long time, and given them time to work and address their skin issues. Loyal customers who’ve stuck with us and believed in the brand have obviously reaped immense benefits, and I’m more thankful for them,” Megha remarks.

Source: Juicy Chemistry | Image design credit: Daisy Mahadevan, Team YourStory Design

Juicy Chemistry served around 45,000 customers last year versus 25,000 in 2019, it says, an 80 percent jump aided by more people shopping online during the pandemic.

Its revenue in 2019 came in at Rs 2.9 crore, rising 44.8 percent in 2020 to Rs 4.20 crore. The startup recorded a profit of Rs 22 lakh in 2020, higher than Rs 20 lakh in 2019.

What’s really worked for Juicy Chemistry and helped it meet competition, head-on, all these years has been its ingredients — the cynosure of its entire brand philosophy.

“The heroes of the brand and the product are always the ingredients for us, and we take great pains to ensure they’re good quality, sourced from the best places and people we’re able to find. Ingredients are everything,” says Megha, who remembers that the first time Pritesh and she created a Juicy Chemistry product was in their very own kitchen.

Even today, despite employing experts who carefully monitor production, Pritesh says he visits the facility at least once a day to personally check the quality and texture of the products.

Source: Juicy Chemistry | Image design credit: Daisy Mahadevan, Team YourStory Design

The next step: A lifestyle brand

While it specialises in skincare and haircare, Juicy Chemistry eventually wants to metamorphose into a lifestyle brand — and that means getting into nutrition.

Currently, the startup says it’s in the early stages of launching its own line of nutritional comestibles, which could include teas, capsule supplements, drinks, effervescent tablets, etc.

“What we consume ultimately affects how we look on the outside. We’re already on a natural, all-organic journey at Juicy Chemistry, and nutritional consumables feel like the next logical step," Pritesh says.

The brand is also soon launching a line of pocket-friendly skin and hair care products that do not compromise on ingredients.

Pritesh says bringing prices down was a bit of a toil, especially because of the brand’s strict no-compromise on quality ingredients policy.

Source: Juicy Chemistry | Image design credit: Daisy Mahadevan, Team YourStory Design

But instead of sourcing orange oil from Spain, the company has been increasingly turning to Indian farmers and organic suppliers to source at cheaper prices, while ensuring the integrity of the quality remains intact.

“We’ve formulated this new, pocket-friendly line using a lot of Indian Ayurvedic herbs and plants such as ashwagandha and neem etc too, which has helped us make the product useful and affordable," he adds.

Juicy Chemistry is also refining its retail strategy now that physical shopping has picked up once again, thanks to the COVID-19 threat abating. Two stores — one in Cochin and another one in Chennai — are already operational. A third one is being planned too, and Bengaluru is at the top of the list for it.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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