Starting from a garage with Rs 10,000, this woman entrepreneur is now making crores with her herbal beauty startup
When it comes to problems like skin irritation and hair fall, herbal products have become a popular solution for many even as stores are teeming with international beauty products. In fact, the herbal beauty industry in India is expected to reach Rs 316 billion by 2022, according to RNCOS Business Consultancy Services.
Neeta Adappa was quite familiar with the market as her father was a sales manager for a herbal extracts manufacturing company. Little did the Bengaluru-based entrepreneur know that she would be starting a herbal product company herself later on.
After completing her master’s in Pharmacy from SNDT University Mumbai in 1992, Neeta had three popular choices at the time – pursue further studies, look for opportunities to move abroad, or settle down with a job.
Entrepreneurship was out of the question, she recalls.
Neeta took a Research and Development (R&D) and Quality Control job at a pharmaceutical company called the German Remedies. She recalls, “But within six months, I was fed up of the monotonous routine and longed to do something more creative and challenging.”
So, in 1995, when entrepreneurship was not deemed fit for women, Neeta foundedwith Anisha Desai, a junior from her college. The duo started from Neeta’s garage with Rs 10,000 followed by a year of researching, formulating skin and hair care products, and trying them out on friends and family.
Beginning with manufacturing products for beauty parlours, Neeta received an order from Nahar Heritage Hotel in Bengaluru for moisturisers and shampoos. “They were so happy with our timely delivery and quality that they asked us to supply the entire range of guest amenities because they were looking for a reliable vendor,” she shares.
Today, her brand has gained the trust of five-star-rated The Park Hotel, the Goldman Sachs Spa, Manipal Hospital, and Royal Orchid Hotels across India.
Neeta entered the retail market in 2011. The entrepreneur says that being part of the ISB Goldman Sachs 10000 Women Entrepreneur Programme helped her in this in a big way.
Prakriti Herbals offers a range of products including natural face masks, aloe vera gels, cleansers and face scrubs, hair masks, hair oils, shampoos, conditioners, among others, priced between Rs 180 and Rs 300. While they are available on ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, and the startup’s website as well, Neeta engages with regular customers across India and outside via WhatsApp groups too.
Besides a lack of infrastructure and equipment, Neeta recounts that getting external funding was a major challenge during the initial days of starting up.
Remembering how bureaucrats refused to take them seriously, Neeta says, “As Anisha and I approached a government agency for an official registration, and he turned and asked us to send our husbands the next day.”
She recalls his exact words – “You ladies will start off something tomorrow and then shut it down within a few months. I want to speak to someone more responsible.”
Then, in 2000, the duo was turned down by several banks before they finally secured a loan from Vijaya Bank through a newly launched scheme for women entrepreneurs called V Swashakti.
Having hit Rs 1 crore revenue mark in 2012 and going stronger than ever, Neeta, 50, believes all their hard work has paid off.
Funding and growth
After the initial investment of Rs 10,000, Neeta and Anisha infused Rs 50,000 into their startup towards the end of 1995. The following year, the duo invested Rs 1 lakh, and another Rs 2 lakh by 1998.
“But soon, it was not enough for our working capital for bulk purchase of raw materials. So, we took a loan from Vijaya Bank in 2000,” Neeta shares, adding that the startup has been growing at a rate of 20 to 25 percent every year till 2005.
The growth rate increased to 35 to 50 percent after 2010.
Claiming to have established itself locally in Bengaluru, Neeta, joined by her 25-year-old daughter Anusha Adappa, who holds masters in marketing from the Manchester University in the UK, hopes to mark a national and global presence.
Neeta Adappa with her daughter Anusha Adappa
Notably, she states that hotel guests generate one kg of waste on a daily basis. “This made us realise that we were part of the problem as suppliers of amenities. We’ve just redesigned and launched our biodegradable product line made from recycled paper and cotton fabrics,” she adds.
Currently, redesigning 80 percent of its products, the entrepreneur shares that several more are in the research and development phase.