From procuring funds to assimilating the required knowledge, from building a team to getting consumers to put the word out, every stage of an entrepreneurial journey is nothing short of a roller-coaster ride, with challenges awaiting you at every interval. We don’t intend to only reminisce about the catastrophic times when the pandemic had just hit the globe and lockdowns had just come in. But we’d like to ask you – what was your mindset at that point of time? Kickstarting a business was certainly not a big priority for most people. However, some exceptionally strong, determined women took up the challenge of getting their businesses off the ground.
We speak to four supremely talented and ambitious women – Namrata Soni, a renowned celebrity makeup artist and founder of Simply Nam, Shamika Haldipurkar, a lawyer and the founder of d’you, Sween Garg, the founder of Ekavi Skin, and Romita Mazumdar, the founder of Foxtale – whose beauty brands saw the light of day during the pandemic and still managed to flourish.
What was that strong inspiration or idea that led you to birth your brand during the pandemic?
- Namrata Soni: At that time, there was nothing that specifically catered to the Indian skin tone, and this turned out to be the inspiration that let me start Simply Nam. I wanted to craft and create something that catered to the Indian climate and Indian skin tone. And, with 20 years of experience as a makeup and beauty professional, I felt that there was a need to start and get going despite the pandemic, so I looked forward to finally building a brand that would make an impact.
- Shamika Haldipurkar: The beauty industry in India was maturing and the market consumption in this sector was fast increasing. When I began working on d’you in 2019, we didn’t know a pandemic would be hitting us shortly that would derail our launch and push it by six months. While the pandemic didn’t have an end in sight, resilient human nature showed that people had quickly adapted to the new way of living. We didn’t see any reason to further delay the launch, and thus we unveiled our brand and our first product in October 2020.
- Sween Garg: The idea of Ekavi was born out of my resolve to solve the skin issues that I faced while carrying my second child. It was only when I started facing so many problems that I took a look at what I was putting on my skin. Later, after talking to my friends and family about this, I realised I was not alone. There are so many women and men who suffer similar skin issues. So, about six years ago, I decided to do this and bring Ekavi to life. Then the pandemic hit, but we decided not to let that get in the way of our launch.
- Romita Mazumdar: Sometimes the most difficult decisions are the easiest ones to take. For me, this decision was to quit my much-loved VC job to start my entrepreneurial journey. Those who know me know how much I value self-care and self-love. I have never shied away from saying
I need my space and I need my time. While my mother has ensured that I have that right, it was much later that I realised that self-care is a privilege for many. Unfortunate but true. My hope and vision were simple – self-care should be a right and I will do my part by offering products that are affordable, accessible and the absolute best.
Why did you think it was the ‘right time’ when you launched?
- NS: I didn’t know when it would be the right time to launch; all I knew was that I wanted to launch the brand. It is never the right time or the wrong time. You do what you have to do. I’m very glad that I launched it when I did because deep-diving into the Indian market has constantly helped me to grow every day and be able to birth something relevant in our country.
- SH: We observed that, with the abundance of time that people suddenly had access to, there was an increased interest in learning more about skincare. This only helped us launch a ‘science first’ skincare brand, where our messaging and communication – which was deep-rooted in nuanced and advanced skincare science – was better received by our audience.
- SG: During the pandemic, there was a wave of people trying to understand skincare, leading to the awareness of what they were putting on their skin, taking a look at their choices. That gave Ekavi’s launch more meaning; it reaffirmed to us that it was the right time.
- RM: I believe that ‘the right time’ is the moment you make a decision and work towards it. For me, it was just that – I knew that I wanted to build a results-first skincare brand that didn’t burn a hole in our pockets. I just knew I was going to work hard until I created this brand to make it reach all the households in India. When that realisation solidified, FoxTale began!
How did you manage to survive and thrive in these unprecedented times?
- NS: There was a big lack and lag in our market, and I think we just wanted to make sure that we filled those gaps to the best of our ability. And, of course, the fact that we have launched products based on research and development helped us.
- SH: We didn’t go aggressive with our marketing at the start. We took our time to establish the ‘product-market fit’ for our first launch, and only once that was established did we increase our marketing spends. Because the first launch was a very unique product proposition, the audience took a keen interest and the brand organically got a lot of traction on social media. The product became a huge success and that really helped.
- SG: The pandemic has hit everyone when it comes to work, even us. We’ve had good days and bad. We have faced delayed production times, long raw material procurement lead times, etc, and we had to work remotely while all this happened, but these are the things that have made us stronger.
- RM: We had our own set of experiences and learnings. In hindsight, the thing that kept us going irrespective of the ups and downs, was a laser-focused approach to our goal. We had committed to ourselves that we would be very disciplined with our formulation approach to ensure a high efficacy in products and we would be in the market by December. We couldn’t compromise on either. Some times were harder than others, but each step took us ahead.
What is the one thing that kept you going?
- NS: The fact that I could rely on two whole decades of experience I’ve gained in this (makeup and beauty) industry. Additionally, the hundreds and thousands of conversations that I’ve had with so many women over the past years about what they need and what they want gives me a lot of power to make this brand better and better every day.
- SH: Believing in our product and its value proposition kept us going. We are probably one of the only D2C skincare brands in recent times that’s remained in the market for over 1.2 years with just a single SKU. But we strongly believed in the value we were offering through our product, and the belief we have in its performance kept us going strong. Despite having just this one product — Hustle — we saw a high customer retention rate.
- SG: The amount of love that Ekavi has got from the community is overwhelming. It is what has kept us going along with the resolve to create thoughtful products that add value to our daily life.
- RM: My power, FoxTale’s power, has got to be my army of women. We are a women-only team and that has been an empowering experience. The beauty of this team is not only the incredible IQ they bring to the table, but the EQ with which they build relationships.
What can we expect from your brand in the near future?
- NS: This is just the start! There is so much more that is going to be up and running, and I am extremely excited to be launching many new products. I am here to make sure that we create what we require and what we need, living in this country.
- SH: With each product launch, we try to bring a unique proposition and product innovation to the Indian market and try to address market gaps that no other brand is addressing. This year, we hope to expand into newer international markets and launch a couple more products.
- SG: We have a few powerful formulations that are ready and the technology used for them will write a new chapter in our book.
- RM: A lot! We are launching five new products in April that are incredible. They solve very specific problems and are bringing some very advanced molecules to the Indian skincare market.