Starting with Rs 5 lakh and one product, this skin and hair care brand now offers 28 products, clocking Rs 7 Cr turnover
In India, the skincare industry is seeing massive growth, owing to a rapid transition in trends, consumer behaviour, as well as the numerous international and homegrown skincare brands, which focus on producing organic and sustainable products.
In the COVID-19 times, when Ayurveda and wellness are taking precedence over everything else, the skincare industry also is slowly adapting the trend.
Founded by Rupali Sharma, Delhi-based Aegte Lifescience is one such brand that caters to consumers looking for natural and holistic products. A mompreneur, Rupali was not familiar with how to run a business, but she was confident about her idea.
Started with an initial investment of Rs 5 lakh made by her husband Dhiren Sharma, Aegte Lifesciences is present in India and other countries, including the US, the UK, and the UAE. The skincare brand which competes with the likes of MamaEarth, Teal and Terra, Wow, and others, clocks a revenue of Rs 7 crore annually.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
SMBStory [SMBS]: What inspired you to start Aegte Lifescience?
Rupali Sharma [RS]: I faced acute hair fall after I had my second child. I tried several products to treat it, but none of them proved to be effective. As a last resort, I tried my mother’s home remedy, consisting of onion juice, which immediately stopped my hair fall. This led me to formulate my first product Aegte Onion Hair Oil, which was launched on Amazon’s Great Indian Sale, and was completely sold out. Soon, a lot of queries started coming in. So, we decided to further pursue the idea.
Dhiren Sharma [DS]: Oil is a good component to stop or reduce hair fall, but the process of extracting onion is very cumbersome. This is where a product like ours comes in. When Rupali started, we realised that this idea can take us places.
SMBS: As first-generation entrepreneurs, what challenges did you face?
RS: When we started, everybody stopped us, saying that the skincare industry is extremely crowded. Additionally, patriarchy is deep-rooted in our society, and I used to face a lot of challenges as people would not take me seriously.
I would take my son, who was very young at the time, to meetings, and I saw people with questioning eyes, wondering my capability of running a business. Although Dhiren was helping me, he soon joined me full-time.
DS: I was working with an IT company when I saw the brand gaining traction. With Rupali struggling with a lot of things, I decided to quit my job and join the business full-time. One of the things that I learned was how to protect our brand. Any product can become a trend very quickly, so it is important to safeguard it. Gradually, I started to understand how intellectual property, patents, and trademarks work.
SMBS: What is the core of your business, and what does the name of the brand mean?
DS: We had named the business ‘Shop Authentic’ earlier, and later changed it Aegte Lifescience. ‘Aegte’ is a Danish word that means authenticity. We wanted customers to connect with our products that are authentic.
RS: I have seen how natural ingredients always work wonders for skin and hair. However, in today’s time, when everybody has a busy schedule, a readymade solution like the one we offer is of great help to women. After launching the Aegte Onion Hair Oil, we also launched an Onion Shampoo. We also have some skincare products that contain beetroot, which is amazing for the skin.
We started with just one product in 2018, and today, we are offering 28 products with effective botanical ingredients, priced between Rs 500 and Rs 2,000.
SMBS: Tell us something about your online and offline presence.
DS: We are a digital-first brand, and are present on Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, and 1mg. We also sell through our website. We have also partnered with Karmaplace.com to sell our products in the US.
We are also present in the UAE, the UK, Singapore, South Africa, as well as New Zealand.
For our offline presence, we may not have a dedicated distribution channel, but we are connected with about 50 retail shops, whom we supply as and when the demand comes.
SMBS: Do you manufacture the products yourself, or outsource it?
RS: We outsource the contract process, but I supervise the manufacturing of the products very closely.
After brainstorming sessions, Aegte’s product development team shortlists the ideas and key ingredients. Our third-party manufacturer and technical team further work on the unique formulation of the product. The raw materials and packaging are sourced from partners and supplied to the manufacturing team who assembles the final product. Our manufacturing units are located in the Delhi-NCR.
SMBS: What kind of disruptions did you face in the wake of COVID-19?
DS: Many people were surprised when the lockdown was announced, but it was always on the cards.
March was challenging as operations were completely closed, but things started opening up in April. Moreover, we had moved quite a bit of inventory to the Amazon and Flipkart warehouses, so we were more or less taken care of.
Being a digital-first brand helped us during COVID-19. The market is maturing now, and the focus on retail will not be so much as it was earlier.
Further, a lot has changed in our operations now. We had to sanitise all our packages, and create an atmosphere within the company that can bring greater acceptance among workers.
SMBStory: What are your plans moving forward?
RS: We have been bootstrapped until now, but we are looking at raising funds in the coming years to diversify our operations.
Further, keeping in mind the purchasing power of consumers and affordability, we will soon be launching a new range of products under Rs 500. We will also be venturing into the health supplements category, in addition to our personal care product line.
Edited by Suman Singh