This IIT-Kharagpur alum gave up investment banking to launch a night skincare brand

Investment banker Sonia Sahni launched Mumbai-based organic night skincare brand Ethiko, which offers serums for different skin types. She aims to expand the product range to include all products needed for the nightly skincare routine.

Sonia Sahni was studying in Spain when she developed a skin problem. The doctors prescribed topical steroids. But tired of that, she began to study organic skin care formulation and started making her own serums in 2017. 

She formulated the serums herself and started using them. The difference in her skin was so evident that her family and friends started asking about the products she was using. They started ordering and that is how the business started.  

In 2018, when Sonia returned to India, she noticed a lack of quality night skincare products in the Indian market. This led to the birth of Ethiko. 

She knew that people in Spain had liked the products and thought it was the right time to launch them in the Indian market, especially as Indian consumers were now becoming more conscious about their skin

Sonia started selling the products from her house to family and friends in late 2018. However, there were approvals that were needed to get the business to a commercial level.

Also, the manufacturing and operations that had to be put in place. This process started in January 2019 and the company was incorporated in August 2019 in Mumbai with a team of three people. 

Sonia Sahni, Founder and CEO, Ethiko

The brand 

An IIT-Kharagpur and IE Business School, Spain, alumnus, Sonia has over 15 years of experience in corporate and investment banking, and has worked with GE Capital and ABN Amro.

“Our skin heals at night and that is when it needs good quality skincare products that can deliver ‘skin food’ deep into its layers. While most brands have different products for different skin types, they offer just one ‘night cream’ to suit all skin types. Hence, users are not completely satisfied with the product as it is a generic and does not work for their skin type. This is the problem that Ethiko addresses,” Sonia says

Ethiko has designed night serums for different skin types. The age-defying range is inspired by the Egyptians and contains geranium, which was used by Cleopatra for maintaining her youth. 

“The geranium oil used in our serum is actually from Egypt. Our oil control (anti acne) range is inspired by the ancient Greeks, who used peppermint to cleanse their skin. And our brightening range is inspired by Mayans, who used rosehip oil to heal their skin after it was exposed to harsh environmental conditions,” she says.

The products are PETA-certified, cruelty-free, and do not contain any chemical preservatives. All formulations are effective and are anhydrous (do not contain any water). The shelf life of the serums is two years.

“The products are packaged in unique Miron violet bottles that block visible light. This allows our products to be effective even without the use of any stabilisers and preservatives,” Sonia says

Making and manufacturing 

Setting up a manufacturing facility has its challenges. Sonia says the first challenge was to find suppliers of high-quality organic ingredients, who would want to support a startup and supply small quantities. 

“I was introduced to a supplier by a friend who has been a passionate skincare formulator. The supplier, in turn, was from my alma mater IIT-Kharagpur, which helped us trust each other more,” Sonia recalls

The next task was to find a contract manufacturer who could support them by making smaller quantities per SKU. Sonia was introduced to a manufacturer in Ahmedabad who provided support to Ethiko. 

He helped the team navigate the entire manufacturing process with ease. “He has a GMP-approved facility, meaning all our serums are manufactured in hygienic and safe environment,” Sonia says.

The serums are priced between Rs 790 and Rs 1,890, and the average basket size is about Rs 1,500. Apart from its own website, Ethiko products are also available on Amazon, Nykaa, Smytten, and Purplle.

Currently bootstrapped, the company claims to be growing at 15 to 20 percent per month.  

Market and the future 

The market for organic and chemical-free products is fast growing. According to RedSeer consultants, the beauty market in India is estimated at around $7 billion, and is seeing healthy double-digit growth.

Apart from Ethiko, companies operating in the space include skincare brand Vilvah Store, and Mumbai-based 100 percent vegan brand Plum, and online vegan cosmetic brand Disguise. However, Ethiko is differentiating itself by focusing on night care serums. 

On future plans, Sonia says Ethiko plans to expand the product suite to include the entire night skincare routine.

"We are currently working on new formulations and intend to launch more products in the next three to five months. The decision on which product to make is crowd-sourced. Our customers and community tell us what they need and we start working on it,” Sonia says.  

(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)