Self-Starter: Megha & Pritesh Asher On Setting Up A Desi Organic Skin & Personal Care Brand

By | October 11, 2021
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The shampoo you use that your friend recommended or the trendiest lip balm you couldn’t resist can contain ingredients that you have no idea about. Did you know that the fruit-flavoured soaps in the market do not contain fruit but rather a chemical ingredient called Parfum that mimics its smell and colour? Consumers rarely have an idea of what their beauty products are actually made of. The inviting ads, celeb endorsements and deals, reel in customers and get them hooked on. But all of these can have devastating effects on your body in the long run. And one brand is making sure that what goes on your body is 100% natural.

TC46 connected with Megha & Pritesh Asher, founders of Juicy Chemistry who are childhood buddies turned life partners. Here, Pritesh talks about researching the potency of natural ingredients, the importance of good vendors and creating products that offer a more holistic organic-powered outlook.

1. What’s your educational and professional background?

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Megha has studied Criminology and Journalism while I had to drop out to take over my failing family business due to my father’s ill health. 

Prior to starting Juicy Chemistry, Megha worked and managed her own fashion line whereas I led my business of manufacturing industrial lubricants. At the time, the petrochemicals sector was quite disorganised and, as a result of many factors including poor management, we suffered heavy losses in the family business. I felt frustrated and was looking to create something that would be more impactful and meaningful. Both of us wanted to create something that would positively impact a much larger audience. 

It was then that the idea of Juicy Chemistry dawned upon us. Up until 2019, we were completely bootstrapped. It took us 2 years of research and study before launching our first product, a scrub. We created a Facebook page, attended trade shows and exhibitions, and spent the remaining time researching and developing more products. Gradually, we moved onto Amazon to sell our products and later created our own e-commerce website.

2. What prompted the idea for Juicy Chemistry?

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The idea of Juicy Chemistry originated from the need to make products that harnessed natural ingredients and that could deliver results. We also felt a strong need to educate and sensitise the Indian consumers as to what terms such as ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ even stand for.

3. Did you always know you wanted to work in this space?

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For quite some time, we had been toying with the idea of a beauty brand but it wasn’t until a while later that we decided to formally work towards the same. It took over 1-2 years of research before we officially launched the brand in 2014.

4. What was your first milestone and how did you get there?

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Juicy Chemistry, as a brand, is deeply rooted in research and a thorough understanding of ingredients and their properties. Before launching the brand, we took our time in doing research and really understanding what it took to harness the potency of natural ingredients. I’d say our first milestone would definitely be our first shelf-stable product. It wasn’t easy to get to that point. We had to constantly go back to the drawing board, rethink and rework our formulation, identify what was going wrong, and deeply study processes. It took a series of trials and errors but we finally managed to get there! We tested hundreds of small batches and eventually succeeded.

A fact such as this may seem insignificant now, given how far we’ve come, but Megha and I always think back to that moment and how it gave us the courage to move forward.

5. What are your tips for an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to enter this space?

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Understand your product well. Megha and I learnt everything from scratch. Initially, it was just the two of us and our domestic help. We learnt all aspects of our work. From formulations, processes, to packaging. It was a lot of hard work but we learnt what’s what. 

Be honest. Consumer awareness is on the rise and your average consumer knows quite a bit about the products they’re using. Be honest about what it is you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Honesty most definitely is the best policy. This is the age of transparency.

6. What were the 3 best business/financial decisions you made?

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I’d say bootstrapping the business for the first 5 years definitely makes the top 3, for us. We didn’t rush into anything, we took our time to understand our product, our community, and our customers better. We developed an understanding of the market and the industry and didn’t push ourselves too much. It was all about taking those small steps and I feel this helped us establish a solid foundation. 

The second best decision would be to not get overly invested in marketing. We didn’t try to create too much hype around our product and Juicy Chemistry. Instead, we invested in our back-end – our supply chain, our research and our formulations.

The third best business decision we made was to invest in the right kind of employees. For us, aptitude comes second, attitude comes first. We weren’t interested in flashy degrees. We wanted genuine people that wanted to work hard, whom we could groom. Our employees are the foundation of our brand and are quite literally like family to us now.

7. How long did it take you to monetise your venture? What was the turning point?

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Once we developed the understanding that we had a product-market fit, we wanted to get a sense of what the consumer wanted. We attended a lot of tradeshows and exhibitions to understand this. Megha was working at her fashion line at the same time. Her work involved deep interactions with clients and Megha would often send small product samples that we were making, to get feedback. This allowed us to collect relevant information and develop shelf-stable products. It was at this point that we started to think like a brand. Then we started monetising seriously.

The turning point for us was when the influencer community took note of our product, despite the fact that we weren’t a big brand; we didn’t even have a website at the time. Nevertheless, our products were popular in tradeshows and helped us gain traction on our Facebook page. 

8. Are you looking for funding/have-acquired investment/intend to bootstrap your business?

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In 2021, we successfully raised $6.3 million dollars. Prior to this, we’d undergone our first round of funding in 2019, having raised INR 4.5 crore. 

9. Who are the key employees/vendors you need to secure to work in this space (the first 3 hires/vendor partnerships)?

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As far as hiring was concerned, being someone from a manufacturing background, it was important for me to have someone from a similar line, who clearly understood the physical and chemical properties of the products we were dealing with. We needed someone who had a thorough understanding of products and processes. 

The next key employee was an accountant. One must never underestimate the power of having a clean and structured book of accounts. This was something I’d learned the hard way when I was a part of my family business. The accountant we hired early on is now heading our accounts department and it is definitely an assuring feeling knowing they’re around because you know they’ll do their work with diligence.

The third and final position would be to have a co-founder who understands you and with whom you can work with. Building a great working relationship is key to working well and Megha and I work well together.

Needless to say, it is important to have good vendors. Being a D2C brand, it is imperative that we collaborate with vendors for efficient last-mile deliveries. It was crucial that our entire supply chain was robust and was functioning well. We work directly with certified-organic small-scale farms and took our time in building a healthy and trustful relationship. Courier partners are just as important in ensuring deliveries happen on time and things run smoothly.

10. How do you intend to scale up/expand your business in the next 5 years?

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We’re looking to increase our offline and online presence. We’re also looking to expand our global presence. Being certified by ECOCERT, we do feel we have an advantage given the increased level of consumer awareness overseas. We want to enter American and European markets – particularly France and capitalise on our existing growth in Australia as well. 

While we have an eye on international markets, we’re not ignoring our local presence. Presently, we want to reach out to different marketplaces and grow there. We’re also looking at growth in terms of different categories. At present, we’re only in the skincare and personal care segments. We want to create more products that offer a more holistic organic-powered outlook.

Our next target is to grow to a 100 crore revenue in the next 18-24 months.

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We spotlight inspiring women who are entrepreneurs or have skill-based passion projects and are willing to share knowledge, advice and tips about getting started in the space. Each Self-Starter’s story will be highlighted in a prime slot on the Homepage for a whole week, after which their story will appear under the ‘Work’ category on The Channel 46.

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