Kolkata-based Aakansha Modi says it was never her intention to start a business of her own. The former homemaker says her venture was instead shaped out of a need to help people.
Aakansha helms Roots & Herbs, a vegan, chemical-free cosmetic brand. A journey that began with an investment of just Rs 1,000 has today turned into a Rs 4 crore entity under her vision.
Aakansha says she was always fond of beauty products. “I studied Ayurveda for skin and hair treatment. So I used to make products such as ubtan — a mixture of herbs and powder made from turmeric rose, sandalwood and ingredients — for skin care at home. I did not have faith in commercial products and relied on home remedies instead,” she tells The Better India.
Starting from a small room
The idea of turning this homecare ritual into a business came to her when she accompanied her mother-in-law to the dermatologist in 2012. “She had developed an allergic reaction on her skin,” Aakansha says.
After 40 minutes of waiting, when her mother-in-law was called for the consultation, Aakansha turned to other visitors to talk. “We started discussing skin issues, and a few of them talked about skin problems they were going through. They said they had not benefitted or felt any relief even after months of medication,” she says.
She adds, “I suggested they try the ubtan I used to make for myself. I noted down their home address and delivered it for free. They said they saw better results and 80 per cent improvement in a fortnight,” she claims.
Aakansha says the women were impressed by the outcome and requested for more of the ubtan. Eventually, word spread, and as the demand for her home-made concoctions increased, she decided to start pricing the products at Rs 250 each.
“I started with Rs 1,000 as an investment to make eight products for different skin types. The products were made from natural but high-quality materials and worked as activators for the ubtan. The liquid and solid items were provided separately, and were to be blended before use. The method ensured the product remained fresh and did not require any preservatives or chemicals to prevent them from spoiling,” she explains.
She adds that the raw materials were plant-based which made them entirely vegan. “I used the concepts of Ayurveda to make the perfect mixes for different skin types,” she says.
Aakansha eventually decided to give her business the name Roots & Herbs. “It was what my aunt’s salon was called. I was always fascinated by the name, and it had been engraved in my mind since I was 12,” she says of her reasoning.
She started by making products from a kilo of raw material in a small room in the house. “By the end of 2013, I was more confident about my products and started participating in exhibitions in Kolkata. I rented small spaces which only fitted a table at times and struggled to convince the customers about the benefits of Ayurveda,” she says, adding, “The customers always perceived Ayurveda as a bunch of oils, and not beauty products.”
“In recent years, the growth of Ayurveda brands like Patanjali has raised awareness among people. The overall shift in trend has benefitted me. I started getting more attention from clients. By 2017-18, customers were showing greater interest in my products and returning to share feedback on the product,” Aakansha says, “The instant feedback and interactions helped me improve the products.”
She refined her products and increased the varieties depending on requests from customers across the country, she says.
Today, her business offers over 80 products such as waterless powder face masks, facial scrubs, hair cleansers, and toners, which range from Rs 650 to Rs 1,590. It has a customer base across India as well as abroad, which earns her Rs 4 crore a year, she says. “Along with an offline and online presence on Nykaa, Amazon and more, I have customers from the USA, Dubai and other parts of the world,” she adds.
Aakansha says 90 per cent of her employees are women. She adds that the transparency and genuine quality of her products have helped her achieve success in a short time.
“Many commercial products in the market claim to have neem or other Ayurveda elements in them. But a close look at the ingredients section will reveal that most of them have about 80 per cent of aqua or water and a per cent of the actual extract of neem. The remaining is fragrance,” she shares.
Aakansha adds, “On the contrary, our products are not creams or gels which require chemicals for preservation. They are in their most natural form. For example, our shower gel with saffron has strands inside the product. It is the authenticity and credibility that make them accepted in the market even in tier II and III cities.”
Aakansha says the company has certifications from AYUSH and Good Manufacturing Practice, as well as necessary approvals for being cruelty-free and vegan. She adds that products are free from harmful ingredients such as silicon, petroleum, alcohol, paraben, synthetic colour, fragrance and mineral oils.
A zero-debt company
Shravani N, a frequent user of Roots & Herb’s products, says, “Being organic was the primary reason I chose the brand. The products have no side effects or chemical reactions, and are convenient to use.”
She adds that instead, the ingredients work as coolants and soothe the skin. “I used Chickpea And Kasturi Turmeric Facial Hair Removal Ubtan, which was painless and effective. I would continue using the products,” Shravani says.
Besides creating a pool of satisfied customers, Aakansha says she feels proud of owning a zero-debt company. “Many companies and startups take loans or find investors for funding, but I have remained debt-free from the first day of starting the enterprise. I ensured I reinvested my earnings from the business,” she adds.
She says, “Though I was not financially dependent on my husband Krunal, he has always been a strong support. There were times when the business became overwhelming, and I felt like giving up. I could not give enough time to my children. They were about three and five years old. At times, I had to leave them and stay away for almost 15-20 days a month. But he supported me throughout the journey.”
Aakansha wants to take the brand to reach similar recognition of international brands. “People outside India know about big brands, but have limited knowledge about traditional Indian brands that use Ayurveda and its components such as gooseberry, ashwagandha and others. I want to build a brand that is at par with these global names.”
Global citizens understand yoga and aspects of Ayurveda such as gooseberry, ashwagandha and others. I aim to promote Indian tradition through the products,” she adds.
To contribute her bit to the environment, Aakansha is cutting down on plastic for her products. “I am working to create solid bars for shampoo conditions and other products to reduce the plastic packaging,” she says.
For more information or to place orders, you can visit their website.
Edited by Divya Sethu
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