[100 Emerging Women Leaders] How Nikita Deshpande is bringing transparency and sustainability in the beauty and skincare industry

By Nikita Bameta
August 17, 2022, Updated on : Wed Aug 17 2022 05:34:17 GMT+0000
Nikita Deshpande, Co-founder of Ilana Organics, gives a peek into her journey in building a brand that thrives on ethical innovation, transparency and sustainability.
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Twenty-one-year-old Nikita Deshpande never shied away from questioning things around her. So, when an assignment in college forced her to look at conscious consumerism, her curiosity led her onto uncovering the truth of the beauty industry. 


Nikita was in the final year of her Bachelor's in Industrial and Product Design from Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology, Bengaluru, when she was assigned a project as a part of her sustainability elective. The task was to dig deep into the packaging of a particular food product and decode its ingredients, listing on how easy or complex they were to comprehend for an average consumer.  


She struggled with understanding the ingredients. How would consumers be able to understand the effects of ingredients used in cosmetic products when even deciphering information on food-related products was challenging for her?


With this she started researching beauty, skincare, and personal care. 


“There was a huge gap; people did not know what they were putting on their skin, and brands were not being honest. I started conversing with people around me and realised how we are conditioned not to question. Consumerism is a phenomenon we need to be aware of, and this is when I realised my calling to get into the space,” she adds.


Fresh out of college, Nikita started curating skincare samples out of her kitchen and took them to open markets for feedback. 


“I have always been a beauty fanatic, which is why I chose this channel to channel and convey my feelings about sustainability and the same formed the core founding of the brand,” she says. 


One month into the journey, she took the manufacturing to an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved factory. Finally, in 2018, the young entrepreneur found the courage to launch her own brand—Ilana. Later, her friend-turned-co-founder Amit Patil and a team of experts joined this venture. 


Having grown exponentially since its launch, Ilana Organics has a portfolio of about 16-18 products, with new product launches around the corner. 


“The idea was to create a differentiator in terms of being ethical, innovative, transparent and sustainable. The market can be deceiving; brands tend to highlight a couple of ingredients on packaging of their products—especially organic—but mostly, the organic element forms just a percent and the rest is all toxic chemicals,” says Nikita.


With her brand, Nikita aims to change the common narrative that makeup is not good for skin. “It could be as good as skincare; it could be a superfood going into your skin,” she asserts. 


Nikita and the team have faced a steep learning curve in the past few years as they tumbled across various hurdles and worked on overcoming them. 


Elaborating on the same, she elucidates, “The team redid the packaging several times to keep the product transparent. The box information goes beyond ‘how to use’ and talks about what kind of skin it would suit better, what goes into it, where the ingredients are sourced from, why it is good for the skin, how ethically innovative it is and more.” 


“We are working on our objective to build something more than just a product. Most brands today are banking on peoples' insecurities rather than giving them a wholesome experience. We want people to recognise us for our product, and at the same time, know us for what we stand for as well,” she adds. 


Nikita doesn’t pay heed to biases or to being labelled as “too young or immature” to run a brand. As a young entrepreneur, her advice to fellow young women entrepreneurs is to be patient and allow things to unfold at their own pace. 


She concludes, “You can’t micromanage and must learn to delegate as a founder. Do not do anything out of spite or just because you want to do it in a certain way; you may end up messing it up.”


Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti