We Are Aiming To Change The Conversation In The Beauty Business: Arush Chopra, Ceo, Just Herbs
In an email interview with BW Businessworld, Arush Chopra, CEO of Just Herbs, talks about the beauty trends, competition and more
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34-year old Arush Chopra is a second generation entrepreneur who joined his family business in November 2013 and has since then transformed it into one of India’s fastest growing internet-driven natural beauty brands. When he joined APCOS Naturals, the Chandigarh-based venture that his parents had started in 2002, Arush decided to shift the company’s focus from contract manufacturing for natural cosmetics companies to launch their own label ‘Just Herbs’.
In a very short span, Just Herbs has flourished immensely under Arush’s able leadership and has emerged as an innovative and customerfocused brand; in fact it is India’s first premium beauty brand that is launching products through crowdsourcing.
In an email interview with BW Businessworld, Arush Chopra, CEO of Just Herbs, talks about the beauty trends, competition and more.
What made you start this?
While I was working in Singapore a few years ago, I noticed a trend towards ‘conscious-consumption’ wherein customers were carefully reading the text on the back of a product label and not just the description on the front. This trend basically cuts across all consumer categories- food, beverages, personal care, etc.
This was also a time when there was a huge gap in the beauty segment in terms of customers’ needs and the products that were available in the market. Although consumers perceived Ayurvedic beauty products to be safer than their chemically laden counterparts, most of the so-called ‘natural and Ayurvedic’ beauty products did not stand the test of effectiveness, thereby compelling consumers to turn to chemical-based alternatives. That’s when I realized what a treasure I had at home, as the products being developed by my mother defied industry norms by being safe as well as highly effective. Hence, it made sense to come back to India to launch our customer-oriented beauty brand ‘Just Herbs’.
How difficult is it to convince people for a new brand when they are already comfortable with the other beauty products?
It was quite difficult to convince people to try out a new brand, when they had already grown comfortable with the existing brands. But we were well prepared and knew that we needed to communicate effectively with the consumers and convince them to give Just Herbs a try. We never used blanket terms such as “Chemical-free” or “Preservative-free” to describe our products. Just Herbs became a hit amongst our customers for being a ‘clean’ beauty brand with honesty and full ingredient disclosure at the heart of all we do.With an efficient utilization of the digital platform and positive reviews from customers, the brand grew and spread at a supersonic speed.
How much investment you have made till date?
Just Herbs is a bootstrapped venture. We invested our own personal wealth and savings. We did it in parts over a period of time. Till date, we have invested 6-7 crores in the business.
How do you explain bespoke in a beauty brand? Give us some examples of the same.
Just Herbs is the country’s first crowd-sourced beauty brand and we follow a customized approach to product creation, hence the word bespoke. For us, every customer is unique and so should be the care that they receive. Our brand is bespoke at multiple levels. In a typical Just Herbs ‘6-step beauty’ regime, the third step is a moisturizer. For that moisturizer, we have the same product in two different formats, i.e. gel format and cream format, which the customer can choose based on their skin type.Also, most of our products can be altered using food, so as to change their energetics. Like, if you take an ubtan and mix it with honey, it becomes moisturizing in nature, whereas if you mix it with natural yoghurt like dahior a few drops of lemon, it suits a person with oily skin.
What is the source of Ayurveda ingredients? How easy or difficult is it to purchase the same? Who all are your suppliers?
In every Just Herbs product, there are basically three types of ingredients:
* Certified Organic: Herbs and plants procured from farms that hold an organic certification.For example, being a popular herb, Aloe Vera is commercially farmed. Wehave long term supply agreements to sourceAloe Vera from farmers who have organic certification.
* Wild Crafted:The demand for herbs such as Ashwagandha is not as much as for Aloe Vera. Hence, for sourcing Ashwagandha and other such exotic Ayurvedic herbs, wild-crafting is the way to go. These herbs are not grown commercially, thus no certification is possible for them. Instead, the tribesmen and herb collectors provide us the ingredient and we source it directly from them. Since the ingredients come directly from forests, they are organic by default.
* Safe Synthetics: Safe synthetics are the replacements for the potentially harmful ones. For example, for a product that foams, brands generally use SLS or other sulphates but we use coconut derived ingredients such as decyl glucoside, which is a coconut derived surfactanti.e. a foaming agent. Another example would be using a proprietary blend of herbs and essential oils instead of parabens.
Who all do you consider a competition?
At one level, every brand out there, both Indian as well as imports, is competition! But when we look at a more granular level, we are aiming to change the conversation in the beauty business. While all other brands are trying to be trend driven, we believe in working towards changing the status quo. Our major achievement in this goal would be launching the Just Herbs Herb-Enriched Skin Tint last year through crowd-sourcing. The super effective and magical Skin Tint has been created from scratch through feedback from our customer base that is made up of ‘real’ women. We further went on to launch four new shades of this product earlier this year, through the same process.