This mother-daughter duo aims to build a natural and toxin-free babycare brand
Babycare giants came under huge media scrutiny a few years ago as multiple lawsuits were slapped stating companies were using asbestos containing talc that can cause cancer. During this time, Akanksha Sharma was pursuing her bachelor’s degree in apparel industry management from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.
“That was a huge eye-opener for me. Babies have the most sensitive skin and we are applying something that may cause permanent illness,” she tells HerStory.
When she returned to India, Akanksha was quick to discuss the issue with her mother Monisha, who has studied cosmetic engineering and had an MBA under her belt.
During the pandemic, the mother-daughter duo put their head down into researching baby skincare and launched, a natural baby bath and skincare brand that is cruelty and toxin free.
Monisha is a firm believer in the goodness of traditional skincare formulas of using natural ingredients found in our kitchens. She would even instruct Akansha on various skincare remedies on phone halfway across the world when she was in the US.
“We live in a joint family and I have always lived around my grandparents. The love and nourishment of the traditional dadi and nani ke nushke is priceless. But with increasing nuclear families these days, we think these traditions are getting lost,” Monisha says.
While the idea with CITTA was to carry on such traditional practices, the duo did not want to compromise on safety and spent most of their time on carrying out lab research before commercially launching the brand in April 2021.
They studied different household and traditional practices across different regions of India. For a product like massaging oil, Akanksha says, “We looked at what is being used in east and the west regions of India. We studied the different oils used in the west and east, looked at their benefits and amalgamated based on what we would like to offer.” CITTA’s massage oil is now fragrance-free and a mix of 12 oils.
Based in Pune, the startup designs its formulation and outsources manufacturing to a third party facility in Gujarat. The brand offers five different ranges of products, including moisturising baby balm, shampoo, massage oil, and baby powder.
As a digital-first D2C brand, CITTA's products are sold through online marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, and FirstCry in addition to its own website. It is now venturing into the offline market, beginning from Pune.
The name CITTA was inspired by the Sanskrit word chit, which means “pure consciousness”. According to the founders, it aligned with their personal vision of remaining conscious of why and how they work at CITTA. “The name is traditional, but also sounds modern,” Monisha says.
Contesting in the babycare market
CITTA’s products are offered at a starting price of Rs 659, slightly higher than established giants like Johnson & Johnson and Himalaya Babycare. Amidst the D2C boom that India is witnessing, many smaller brands are also operating in the babycare market that is pegged to grow at a CAGR of seven percent between 2021 and 2026.
But the entrepreneur duo are deterred by the market competition.
"We are very confident about our products, the quality of ingredients used, and our formulation. Yes, there are a lot of big and niche brands coming into the market, but it validates opportunity. There is so much competition because the market is big," she says.
Started with an initial investment of Rs 20 lakh, most of it was dedicated into research and development as well as ingredients of the products. CITTA is now focused on marketing online through social platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
However, for the young brand started during COVID-19, the pandemic’s effects are still felt when it comes to logistics. Lockdowns placed in various locations from time to time slows down their business. The goal, Monisha says, is to be present in every Indian household through both online and retail channels, and then look at export opportunities.
For now, CITTA is focused on developing more products to cater to various needs in the babycare market.
Edited by Megha Reddy