Imagine replacing your harsh soap for the pure fragrance of Arabica coffee grains in a body scrub. Or using some beautiful neem in your face wash and sweet papaya in your shampoo, instead of a mix of unknown chemicals.
Going organic is the newest trend in the beauty business. As we are already exposed to a lot of pollution and chemicals, due to the increase in traffic on our streets and the growth of industries in our city, most of us don’t want to add to the damage in our bodies by applying chemically formulated moisturisers and sulphate-based shampoos.
Organic Beauty is the future of the beauty industry, growing at a rate of 52 percent every year. Globally, the industry is expected to reach $19 billion by 2024. With the numbers looking right and the lack of niche organic beauty products in India, there is great scope for organic beauty products in the country.
Husband and wife duo Prateek and Naina Ruhail and their Co-founder, Sahil Shrestha are tapping this opportunity with their company, Vanity Wagon, which is an online marketplace for organic beauty and personal care products. With up to 60 percent customer retention rate, this beauty startup adds five to 10 new brands to their repertoire of products every month.
This Delhi-based online marketplace made its soft launch on August 1, 2018 and its website went live the following month.
Never too late to dream
Talking about her entrepreneurial journey, Naina says that after she completed her MBA in 2012, she worked with the IT sector for two years. Later, she decided to pursue her love for beauty and makeup, by studying at the London School of Makeup and the London School of Styling.
Prateek, on the other hand, comes from a banking law foundation. After working with a law firm for three years, he joined the family business. Later, Prateek went on to specialise in entrepreneurship at Oxford University in the UK.
Later, the couple joined hands, leaving behind their respective endeavours to start their own venture – Vanity Wagon.
“Beauty for me is about soothing your soul and pleasing yourself. Skincare, on the other hand, is a means to an end - to look beautiful and keep your skin healthy. Our skin is the largest organ in our body and taking care of it should be on the top of our to-do lists every day. This is what motivated me to pursue a venture in this industry. With Vanity Wagon, I aim to keep the Indian community informed about clean products to help them keep their skin glowing and healthy,” says Naina.
Prateek heads the business strategy and financial management at the company.
All things organic
Before listing any product on its website, the team at Vanity Wagon carefully researches the product and the ingredients. Vanity Wagon selects its partner brands with the same attention to detail.
Some of Vanity Wagon’s partner brands are Raw Nature, Auli Lifestyle, Biotique, Cocomo, Disguise Cosmetics, Ilana Organics, Just Herbs, MamaEarth, Khadi Naturals, Tea Trunk and Yoga Bar.
“Our information-based portal stands apart from any other portals out there, and our service portfolio – which includes a subscription box service called, Belle Box makes us stand apart from other startups,” says Naina.
As for her favourite product on her portal, Naina says, "I have a quite a few favourites to be honest. But one product that I swear by is Indulgeo Essentials Rose gold oil. It is a miracle product for all skin types and works on pigmentation, fine lines, ageing skin and gives a natural glow to the skin."
Tips for fabulous skin & hair
It is very important to take care of your skin as it is prone to acne and other skin problems. During the rainy season, make sure you do not use oil-based products on your face as they tend to block the pores. Use a gel or water-based moisturiser and opt for matte sunscreens and makeup products to avoid excessive shine on the face. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking 8-10 glasses of water and eating fruits and vegetables with high-water content.
As for your hair, it’s important to wash your hair at least thrice in a week and not skip conditioner as it helps in moisturising the hair and minimising frizz. Also, use a hair mask once or twice a week to keep the hair smooth and healthy.
India’s beauty business trends
The Indian beauty industry has seen trends that will amaze and astound you, says Naina. According to her, product transparency triumphs over everything else.
“The birth of Vanity Wagon was based on a bad experience I had while shopping for natural skincare products in India. One of the larger portals suggested a product that they said was natural. Turns out, it was chemically formulated,” she says.
This was the reason, why Naina decided that Vanity Wagon would offer a trust-worthy platform for its users where transparency and information would be at the centre of its customer journey.
Similarly, impeded sustainability and climate change have given rise to zero-waste packaging and “rightly so,” says Naina. She believes that the beauty industry is now taking responsibility for everything, right from sourcing of ingredients to formulation, packaging and biodegradable disposal.
Another emerging trend in the beauty industry is the increase in clean beauty retailing.
“There is a great demand for organic products in the country and to bring equilibrium in the economy, major online and offline stores have curated clean beauty sections for its customers,” Naina says.
India has a long way to go
While there is a huge market for organic and natural products in India, the country doesn’t have enough dedicated stores offering them. Also, there isn’t enough information available.
“Consumers in the West are more aware and well informed as compared to the Indian audience when we talk of organic beauty,”
“At Vanity Wagon we not only provide a one-stop platform to consumers, offering natural and organic products, but we also impart information on clean beauty and why everyone needs these products,” Naina told YS Weekender.
Vanity Wagon has listed videos in a section of their website called, ‘Vanity Watch’, besides which they also have a monthly magazine called ‘Vanity Mag’ and several blogs to help their customers make informed choices and purchases.
When it comes to her leisure hours, Naina loves to read everything, from motivational books to biographies.
“I also enjoy writing during my free time. There is a myth that if you switch to organics you will have to do away with a lot of categories of products such as concealers, foundations etc. I am currently writing an article on how this is not true at all. You have a clean alternative for every product in your current makeup routine. Travelling is another hobby I have travelled to over 15 countries across the world,” she says.
Onwards and upwards
Vanity Wagon has four revenue streams – the online sale of organic personal care products, offline sales, subscription boxes and their supply of beauty products to hotels.
The beauty startup’s current annual Gross Merchandise Value or GMV is in tune of Rs 1.2 crore, with 80 percent of the revenue flowing from online sales. According to Naina, Vanity Wagon is growing 40 percent month-on-month.
They are expanding their Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) to an average of 100 a month and are partnering with up to 10 new brands every month. They have a retention rate of over 60 percent.
“The overall growth of Vanity Wagon with the constant retention of customers should see us scale our GMV by 10x by the end of this financial year,” Naina says.
The team is now looking to bringing international labels on-board and shipping Indian products to neighbouring countries. “This should benefit us on the financial front and enable us to become a global marketplace,” she says.