Why this Bengaluru woman entrepreneur developed a line of eco-friendly cleaning products
Bengaluru’s Bellandur lake is infamously known for being highly polluted as most of the city’s treated and untreated sewage makes its way here.
For Roopa Hariharan, a resident of Yemalur, living merely 3.5km away from the lake was not a beautiful sight.
“That got me thinking why we couldn’t change the things we use at home and thus affluents released into water bodies,” she tells HerStory.
However, her hunt for eco-friendly products seemed futile as most existing options were not very efficient. That is when she took the matter into her hands and founded PureCult, a D2C brand offering eco-friendly home cleaning products at a premium price. She was joined by seasoned entrepreneur and supply chain expert Sumit Anand as a co-founder.
Roopa has always tried to maintain a minimalist lifestyle and contribute as little waste as possible to the world to do her bit to assuage climate change. Over the years, her family has made conscious decisions to abandon diesel-fuelled vehicles and switched to electric cars and solar-powered houses.
To incorporate sustainable cleaning products in her life, Roopa took the long road by researching ingredients, chemical compositions, and sourcing. She also went through various safety data sheets, and put all her engineering knowledge into practice for a year and a half.
Roopa also got a chemistry expert onboard as consultant to help with developing the products, run product testing, and incorporate relevant changes.
However, 15 days prior to PureCult's scheduled market launch in March 2020, a nationwide lockdown was imposed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This posed further logistical and other challenges to gain access to vendors, ingredients, and bottle manufacturers.
However, the startup managed to work its way through and entered the market in August last year.
With a core team of 12 people, the brand offers 12 different cleaning products within the price range of Rs 299 and Rs 499.
As with most brands started during the pandemic, it has harnessed digital avenues of marketing and selling and is now available on ecommerce sites like Amazon, Flipkart, and Paytm, besides its own website.
The market and more
Although there is increased awareness among consumers to stay away from chemicals like sulphates, parabena, and silicone when it comes to personal grooming products, the entrepreneur says they were initially unsure of how the market would respond to eco-friendly alternatives for home cleaning.
Operating on a B2C model, the brand attributes the higher prices to expensive ingredients such as enzymes and essential oils.
“I was positively surprised by the rate of adoption. In fact, we had to stop promoting and advertising for a while because we couldn't handle the volume of orders and had to streamline operations,” she shares.
At present, it sells about 20,000 units a month and hopes to clock Rs 10 crore turnover in August as the brand completes one year in the market.
The eco-friendly factor
As an entrepreneur in the sustainable industry, she says the challenge lies in always looking to become more eco-friendly.
Even with the ingredients and raw materials in place, she experienced resistance from manufacturers to experiment new processes.
“We started off with this utopian idea of putting all products into a biodegradable packaging but the options were very limited,” she adds.
Despite incurring higher costs, the Bengaluru-based startup has now tied up with a vendor who supplies post-consumer resin (PCR) bottles made from upcycled bottles that don’t contain heavy lead and metal. While 50 percent of packaging is PCR-based at the moment, it hopes to increase the usage to 75 percent in three years and 100 percent in five years.
It is also looking to use refillable pouches, which would reduce 60-70 percent of the carbon footprint.
Besides business operations, Roopa supports eco-friendly initiatives by CUPA and sponsors studies conducted by the Centre for Wildlife Studies.
In the future, PureCult hopes to diversify into eco-friendly and safe petcare products.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai