Ankita Kureel, a resident of Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, is a one-woman army. Founder of Astral Kind, a sustainable skin care brand, she takes care of making the products, marketing them, social media engagements, stock keeping, sales and even after sales follow-ups. She also finds time to be a studious Class 11 student, who spends her weekdays studying very hard.
Having launched Astral Kind on 23 May 2019, as a 14-years-old with an initial investment of Rs 10,000 from her parents, the brand today makes close to Rs 11,000 month-on-month, dispatching close to 30 orders every month.
Speaking to The Better India, she says, “Creating Astral Kind has been one of my biggest personal achievements that I am very proud of. The idea of launching a brand that is 100 per cent natural and sustainable came to me over the summer of 2019.” It was a YouTube video of a lady making soaps at home that caught Ankita’s attention. What started as a personal experiment turned into a passion, which turned into a business idea.
Ankita says, “Astral means relating or resembling the stars and given how much I love the study of stars, it caught my attention.”
“Astral Kind to me signifies the beginning of something wonderful.”
The sustainable skincare brand in which all the products are free from any harmful chemicals or preservatives. She adds, “I have ensured that none of the products I make contains any SLS [Sodium Lauryl Sulphate] or parabens. I have also ensured that I make alternatives to the traditional water-based products like lotions and shampoo. The introduction of lotion and shampoo bars was an instant hit and helped remove the need to use preservatives completely.” What’s also interesting is that none of the products are packed using plastic.
While the first few months Ankita did use plastic to package her products, she was quick to move away from it completely. “I now use brown paper to pack the soaps and then as the business grew and more products got included, I started looking for good sustainable packing options. It was this search that led me to glass and tin containers for my products,” she says.
Currently, there are more than 20 products that Astral Kind offers, which include body and face scrubs, bath salts, lip scrubs and balms, face masks and even body butters.
“The bestseller is the aloe vera gel, which costs Rs 470 for a 120 gm jar. This is such an in-demand product that one of my clients has a standing instruction of sending her two bottles every month. She says it has done wonders for not just her skin but also her hair and cuticles,” says Ankita.
Every step of the way has been a learning experience for Ankita. From not being social media savvy to learning how to effectively use hashtags to promote her posts, Ankita says she has come a long way.
‘A great time to be an entrepreneur’
In 2019, when Ankita launched the products and the brand, she says that for close to six months there were no sales. “Amid the COVID pandemic and the lockdown last year is when my business picked up,” she says. With her online retail business growing through word-of-mouth, the demand for new products also started picking up.
“From nothing, the brand became something and today when you search for Astral Kind on Google, the first result that you will see is my Instagram page,” she says with pride. Ankita feels that with reels picking up on Instagram she was able to reach a larger audience and utilised it to her advantage.
She sources a lot of the raw materials from South India and with the imposition of the lockdown every now and then, getting the materials proved to be a challenge. “Many times the raw material order would get cancelled at the last minute and that was a challenge that I had to deal with,” she says.
“I have always been a person who has her hand in many pies. I am very social and enjoy having conversations with people. That was one of the reasons I have managed to thrive in my business,” she says. With everything going virtual now, Ankita spends her mornings and evenings attending classes, after which she says she dedicates time to her business. “I usually stay up until late packing my orders and keeping them ready for dispatch the next morning,” she adds.
Astral Kind caters to customers in several parts of India via India Post and courier services.
She supplies to Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand.
The commitment that she makes to her customers and the consistency that she has built into the brand are the key attributes of her business. “I am exhausted when at the end of the day I am sitting up packing the products, but I put on some music and get on with my work,” she says.
She concludes saying, “It is a great time to be an entrepreneur and a woman at that. There is a lot of support for young women entrepreneurs and I am glad to be among them.”
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)