[100 Emerging Women Leaders] How Harini Sivakumar built D2C brand Earth Rhythm to help her specially-abled child

In this feature of 100 Emerging Women Leaders, we feature Harini Sivakumar, Founder and CEO of D2C brand Earth Rhythm.

After giving birth to her son in 2010, Harini Sivakumar quit her lucrative banking job as she had to take special care of her son, who had Down Syndrome.

Harini and her husband moved to different cities in search of best solutions for their son. “We were moving to different cities - Chennai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, and finally we moved to Delhi in 2015,” says Harini. 

She was looking for products that were gentle for her son, but realised there was nothing available in the market. Most of the products available were loaded with chemicals. 

“I was looking for products based on his needs. One of the specific concerns for my son was that he was non-verbal and it was difficult for me to figure out if something was bothering him. He couldn’t communicate if his skin was itchy,” says Harini. 

Due to the unavailability of natural skincare products, Harini decided to study more about skincare formulations herself, and did several courses before starting to make her own soaps. 

She then started Soapworks India (now Earth Rhythm) in Delhi in 2017. It is an environmentally conscious and sustainable brand that offers products in hair care, skincare, and others.

Harini and her father Sivakumar

The early days 

Harini was very cautious of the products she used on her son. She wanted products that didn’t have any fragrances and were 100 percent natural. 

“The fragrances had actually triggered multiple complications into my son like allergies. I started looking for shampoos and soaps and even hair oils,” adds Harini. 

Close to seven years ago, this was a big challenge, as most of the products were labelled and sold as medicated products.  

“As a consumer, I would wonder why only such products were available,” she says. It was during this time that she decided to start making her own products -- a small batch of DIY soaps and cold processed soaps at home. 

“I never dreamt of being an entrepreneur back then. But the idea of creating a product and knowing what went into the product gave me a lot of conviction of using the product on myself,” says Harini. 

Building the products 

By 2016, Harini started studying about skincare formulations and did several courses. It was then she realised there was much more that needed to be done in terms of product formulations rather than just selling a product. 

She started giving the products to her family and extended family, and they would come back with asking for more.  

Harini Sivakumar, Founder and CEO, Earth Rhythm

Harini then started Soapworks India in 2017. The brand was only into soaps initially. 

To begin with, she started selling the brand on social media and to a few known sources. After a year, Harini decided to take this up seriously and expand the brand and the business. 

“I realised that many consumers were looking for such products. The West had already cracked the formulations with research, which were clinically tested. But it wasn’t accessible in India,” says Harini. 

It was then that her father Sivakumar joined the business and the company rebranded as Earth Rhythm by 2018. 

“I felt a lot of consumers came to small businesses because there is a personal touch. I therefore gave a lot of thought of what needed to be done. The idea was to make our products sustainable in every way,” says Harini. 

Adding more products 

Starting in 2019, the first product Earth Rhythm built were shampoo bars. This took off well, Harini says, and even today it is the star product in the catalogue. “We got the features of a liquid shampoo in a bar format, without plastic packaging.” 

“It is a shampoo that is essential and no longer a luxury. It has all the benefits, and even get people to shift to a sustainable lifestyle,” says Harini. Earth Rhythm is Ecocert Certified (one of the largest certification bodies in the world).

The company says its products combine natural raw materials and science-backed formulations with a zero-waste philosophy, and each product formulation takes anywhere from months to years to perfect.

Earth Rhythm recorded 4X jump in revenue in May 2021 as compared to last year. Being a digitally native brand, the majority of revenues (75 percent) come directly from the website. The company has also partnered with third-party websites like Nykaa, Amazon, and others, which contributes up to 25 percent of the company’s revenue. 

“We own the complete manufacturing process in India. While it is a complicated process, but as a founder, I have been super passionate about the product. My father is passionate about finance and sales, and so, building the factory came naturally to me. When I had earlier done the course, it helped me connect with a lot of global manufacturers and set up the process,” adds Harini. 

The market 

In July this year, Earthy Rhythm raised $1.2 million seed funding from Anicut Angel Fund, the equity arm of Anicut Capital. The company said the funding would be used to strengthen its R&D efforts, for product development, clinical trials, marketing, and team expansion. 

Ashvin Chadha, Co-founder, Anicut, said, “Even before we knew about Earth Rhythm, my wife was a consumer. I would always see the product at home. Also, the story of Harini resonated very strongly. The personal experience itself showed a deep need. We have seen large D2C brands grow. We have seen SUGAR Cosmetics grow, and we have seen the journey of these brands. We believe in taking early calls in businesses that we believe in.” 

Today, Earth Rhythm offers professional-grade products in haircare, skincare, and makeup. It claims the products are safe, non-toxic, sustainable, and biodegradable. The products range from Rs 500 to Rs 1500. 

An Avendus report says that the country’s D2C business is going to be worth $100 billion in the five years. India has as many as 600 D2C brands – a number that will significantly grow in the next five years, and more than 16 brands with an annual turnover of more than $60 million. Some of the D2C startups in the beauty segment include Juicy Chemistry, Mamaearth, Piligrim, Plum, etc.

Advising all women entrepreneurs Harini says, “If you have an idea and vision in mind, nothing should stop you from achieving it.” 

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Edited by Megha Reddy