Every once in a while, I imagine what my life post retirement would be like – would I spend hours in the morning pouring over the newspaper? Would I have all the time in the world to devour all the books on my TBR (To Be Read) shelf? Perhaps Bengaluru-based Suchita Ullal also thought of all this before she retired. However, it would be safe to say that post retirement, this 64-year-old and her husband, Pradeep Ullal, have managed to stay busy, just to the right extent.
So, what do they do?
Suchita and Pradeep are an entrepreneurial duo who make, market and sell natural soaps, creams and shampoo bars under the brand name – ‘Suchi’s Handmade Skincare Products’.
An erstwhile PR and corporate communication specialist Suchita wasn’t one who wanted to while away time after she retired five years ago. She says she either wanted to start a tiffin service catering specifically to the needs of senior citizens in Bengaluru or wanted to learn how to make natural soaps.
Speaking to The Better India, she says, “I always wanted to learn how to make natural soaps and the workshop seemed like a great opportunity to do that. My son, who was then in Switzerland would always ask for one thing to be sent across to him from India – natural soaps. While I would buy them by the dozen and send them, I always wondered why I couldn’t just make them for him.” She then decided to enroll for a soap making class that changed her life.
“The intent when I attended the workshop was never to start a business,” she says. The business was just something that ‘happened’ along the way. With an investment of about Rs 15,000, which includes the fee for the first workshop, the venture was born.
“I attended the workshop, enjoyed making the soaps and went on to spend the next one year doing online research. That was an interesting time period because I spent a lot of time making soaps and failing in equal measure,” she says with a chuckle. At the end of one year Suchita was left with 100 odd soaps from her year-long experiment. “Those were also pre-COVID times when there were many flea markets that would be set up across the city,” she says.
In 2016, their business began at one such flea market where the duo took up a stall. “It was wonderful to see that at the end of the day we had completely sold out. This flea market was set up at a city hotel so we had their in-house guests walking into the market to buy the soaps. There were also some who tried it and came back for more.” This success was the trigger that pushed Suchita to make more and look at this as a probable business venture.
From the first flea market where Suchita managed to sell all her 100 soaps, today they dispatch close to 500 products every month.
The venture expanded to include a wide range of natural formulations, which include shampoo bars, ultra moisturising all weather body butters and lotions, underarm cream deodorants, lip balms, and a range for men with beard butters and shaving soaps. “All our marketing has happened only through social media channels and by word-of-mouth. The growth has been completely organic and one that I take immense pride in,” she says, adding, “Ours is a story of passion, deep research, superior quality, and thoughtful execution. After all, we deal with skin, the largest organ of the body.”
Each batch is handcrafted with utmost care and is created in small batches in the couple’s home. “The one thing that we are very particular about is what ingredients we use. After all, our biggest marketing tool is the quality of the products we are putting out. Only the best branded natural and regional vegetable oils, butters, ghee, herbs, flowers, fresh milk, fragrance/essential oils, fruit and vegetable purees find their way into the making of our products,” says Suchita.
Their natural soaps are often locally produced with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
“The soaps we make are free of parabens or sodium lauryl sulfate,” says Suchita.
Some of the bestsellers include the charcoal soap followed by the sandalwood soap, kasturi manjal (turmeric), tender coconut soap and the peaches, a cream one and a Himalayan pink salt bar, which is Suchita’s personal favourite. A 100 gm soap bar will cost you upwards of Rs 120, with the most expensive soap bar priced at Rs 200, which are all sold on Suchita’s Instagram and Facebook page.
The high point of running this venture for Suchita has been the constant positive feedback she gets from her clients. She says, “It’s not just about the skin feeling supple and clear but it’s great validation when mothers tell me it helped their child’s skin condition. It is just this feedback and their goodwill that has kept me going.” Asked about the low points, and pat comes the reply, “I love what I am doing.”
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)