With Shilpa Shetty as investor, Ghazal Alagh’s Mamaearth is looking to clock 100 Cr in sales by 2020
In 2018, actor, entrepreneur, fitness expert, and investor Shilpa Shetty decided to invest in Mamaearth, a startup Co-founded by Ghazal Alagh that makes baby and mothercare products.
At the time, Shilpa Shetty said, “I really have a lot of belief in people who are very enterprising, and with a passion. They want to do things they believe in and I am willing to put money into them. That’s how Mamaearth happened."
“Since our inception in December 2016, we have already sold over one million products to more than 500,000 customers across 150+ cities in India," says Ghazal.
L-R: Varun Alagh, Shilpa Shetty and Ghazal Alagh
So what makes Mamaearth stand out, and appealing to mothers like Shilpa Shetty who went on to invest in the company?
In a freewheeling chat with HerStory Ghazal Alagh talks to us about this and more.
Solving a personal problem
Mamaearth claims to be Asia’s first Made Safe certified brand that offers 100 percent toxin-free and natural baby and mothercare products.
Parents want the best for their children and Mamaearth came from a deeply personal need - access to chemical-free products for children. It was when Ghazal and Varun (her husband and co-founder) were expecting their first child that they started looking out for safer alternatives in India. Like most parents, they were disappointed and had to buy products from the US.
It was not only expensive but also inconvenient. “We realised it was not just us, but a lot of other parents around us who were also struggling with these concerns and that’s when we decided to make parenting stress free and started Mamaearth.”
At Mamaearth, Ghazal is the Chief Mom and is primarily responsible for product development, content, and community management. “I work closely with a number of mothers to develop a product line that addresses problems that moms face on a daily basis,” she says.
Born and raised in Chandigarh, Ghazal has a Bachelor’s in Information Technology from Panjab University. She pursued her love for the arts with intensive courses in Modern Art, Design and Applied Arts from the New York Academy of Arts.
“I started my career with NIIT in mobile technologies as a developer, and later became a corporate trainer. As part of my role, I trained managers and engineers from various IT companies in SQL, J2ME, and Oracle. I then started Dietexpert.in, which is a fitness website targeted at providing customised diet plans to consumers. Being an artist, I also exhibited my work around the world.”
While starting up, the biggest challenge, Ghazal says “was to find the best natural ingredients that were equally effective so that we could offer non-toxic and 100 percent safe products to our consumers at affordable prices.”
As newcomers in this business, rebuilding the trust of their audience in age-old organic recipes and get them to look beyond fancy names, and packaging was also tough.
Yet another challenge, Ghazal says, “was the boundary between personal and professional commitment, which becomes hazy for couple-preneurs, and we did face initial hiccups while working together. But being parent-preneurs made things easier for us. Varun and I, as parents, are working together towards a common goal that makes up for everything else. Of all things, the trust that our strong marriage brings to the business is a blessing in disguise.”
Getting Shilpa Shetty on board
Having Shilpa Shetty on board has worked wonders for the brand. The Mamaearth team had reached out to Shilpa to have her on board as its brand ambassador to help spread awareness and build credibility among millennial parents.
“After we met Shilpa, she asked us for our products, and told us that she would associate with us only if she liked using them. Eight months passed by, and we almost lost hope. To our surprise, one day, we got a call and were told that Shilpa loved our products and was even interested in investing in the company. We were delighted because her trust and confidence in us was proof that we were headed in the right direction,” she says.
Mamaearth’s monthly figures are at over three crore in gross sales, and it has grown at 300 percent over the last year. It also managed to raise funding. Ghazal says,
"We have been identified by the investors’ community, and have raised around $5 million from top VCs. By now, we have attained validation for our products from over 500,000 Indian consumers. By delivering happiness and reducing parental stress, we have become one of the fastest growing personal care brands in India."
Standing out from the crowd
The R&D, testing, and approval from mothers makes Mamaearth stand out in a market flooded with many baby and mother care products.
While the manufacturing and packaging is done by third-party vendors across the country, all the R&D for new product development is carried out in-house by the Mamaearth team. Ghazal shares that the final ingredients for new products are tested against safety standards by the Made Safe team.
Thereafter, the product samples are tested in the Mamaearth laboratory and sent to Europe for clinical testing on humans.
Once the products are tested and declared safe, they are sent for microbial testing to ensure that the microbial activity does not impact the product during its shelf life.
After that the products are sent to the community of mothers for initial use and feedback. “It is only after their approval that we send the product out for mass production,” adds Ghazal.
Community of mothers
“Mums” the word
When it comes to children, a mother knows best, goes the dictum. Ghazal and her team, have from ideation to inception, worked closely with other mothers and taken their feedback on a daily basis.
She says, “There are certain parenting problems that only mothers will understand, and being a mum has helped me in understanding and addressing those issues. Our community of mums is growing with each passing day. Today, we have about 300 mums who guide us on the nuances of their issues, as well as why current solutions do not work for them. For me, it becomes easier to understand their problems on a deeper level, since I can relate my parenting experiences with theirs.”
Being an entrepreneur and a mother, has comes with its own set of challenges. Ghazal tells us that being both a mother and an entrepreneur is like raising two kids at the same time. There’s a constant pull of dividing time equally. Apart from maintaining work-life balance, being a leader adds to the stress and responsibility.
She adds, "As a mum, striking the right balance between motherhood and business commitments is a constant worry. But being a parent has also taught me multitasking, resourceful problem solving, flexibility, and empathy. With my dedication and determination, I can overcome any challenge that life or business throws at me."
It comes as now wonder then, that Ghazal and the Mamaearth team is looking forward to clock 100 crore in sales soon.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)