keep India smiling
As she turned 50, Seems Arora leveraged her management skills as a homemaker to start a venture called Rad Living that makes hand-poured, natural soy wax candles, along with her son Vineet.
Seema Arora, a native of Agra, moved to Delhi when she was 23, a year after getting married. She spent the next 30 years managing her family and raising two children. As she crossed 50, however, she wanted to create something outside the confines of her home. In the words of her son, Vineet, she wanted “a space where her ideas and opinions were valued and included”. (Image above of Seema Arora on the left and Rad Living candles on the right.)
That space came in 2020. So while COVID-19 was bad for commerce, it did allow Seema to apply the management skills she had picked up as a homemaker to start her business venture. Along with her son Vineet, she started Rad Living, a startup that makes hand-poured, natural soy wax candles backed by “premium hand-picked fragrances” in October 2020.
Finding That Inspiration
For Vineet, the pandemic was an extremely exhausting time, both physically and emotionally. Like for many Indians, it impacted every facet of his life. He felt distant from everyone close to him. Making matters worse was a back injury that left him bed-ridden for a couple of weeks.
“It was two months into the first lockdown when I decided to order myself an oil diffuser. One day while I was sitting all by myself, I realised how the warmth and light from the candle in the diffuser made me feel less miserable. It made me feel like I had some comforting company and that I could spend hours just observing and enjoying its presence. It also made me feel how a little flame can light up an entire corner and completely change the room’s aroma. So I wanted to share the power of that small flame of light,” he recalls in a conversation with The Better India.
“One day, Vineet came up to me suggesting how we should start making candles. I wanted to support him as a mother even though I was a little clueless about it. But he assured me that just like how I know the right recipe for what to cook and my hands have that magic, I would know intuitively about these recipes too. He started procuring raw materials and finding vendors to start testing. We commenced our extensive research and realised that I had this in-built understanding of flavours, fragrances and taste palettes,” recalls Seema.
While Vineet spent time sourcing raw materials and building an online store, Seema and her daughter Radhika spent evenings testing fragrances and creating blends.
“Candle making isn’t as easy as YouTube videos show. It needs precision, accuracy, and experimentation to understand the nature of wax you’re dealing with and how it blends with fragrances. Nevertheless, I found the process therapeutic. We started it as a family project, but the response was phenomenal.”
It took them nearly three months to arrive at the right formulation.
”Through our testing, we derived a formulation which is a blend of soy wax with other vegetable waxes and essential oils to bring it to the right melting temperatures and keep the fragrance flow consistent and pleasant,” she adds. Meanwhile, Vineet saw this as an opportunity for his mother to spread her wings beyond the confines of the household.
“It also struck me how my mom had been that comforting light all through my life. I discussed it with her, and eventually, over some time, we realised this could be that one thing she had wanted to do all along—create things that make her loving presence felt everywhere. Seeing mom do something that gives her happiness and a sense of self is what inspires me to leverage all my brand-building knowledge for something meaningful,” explains Vineet.
Seema and Vineet wanted to build an environmentally-conscious brand. Hence, they chose natural soy wax as their main product. Conventional candles on the market are made of paraffin wax. After extensive research, they arrived at soy wax. Rad Living isn’t the first in the world to employ soy wax. It’s extensively used in the candle making business today.
“It is an environmentally friendly wax. Lighting a paraffin candle in the room is harmful to the environment. Soy wax candles also burn slower than paraffin candles, last longer, and are better carriers of scents or fragrances. In its entirety, soy wax is a sustainable option. Even after deriving the wax from soybeans, the leftover flakes are used for animal feed. Even though paraffin is quite cheaper than soy wax, it’s less eco-friendly,” says Vineet.
Rad Living sources soy wax from different vendors in India. Each candle is handmade, and no machine-based process is involved.
“It is more detail-oriented, authentic while machine-based candles or products, in general, are about producing faster instead of adding a personal touch,” he adds.
“Meanwhile, the texture of soy wax and other waxes is prone to sinkholes, can get rough at the surface, and these tend to get missed when produced via machinery with chemicals and additives. When hand-poured, one takes care of this and hence avoids such performance issues. Also, this ensures no toxic materials are being utilised when being made by a human. Factories are most likely to use harmful chemicals in the production process. As a small business, if a mistake happens in the production process that is based on machinery, there is a lot more waste and loss of revenue. Hand made candles are made individually; hence they are produced on a smaller scale. Any mistake in this handmade production process can be rectified with minimum revenue loss. This also gives us the opportunity to customize candles for our customers and deliver lower MOQs (minimum order quantities) for bulk orders,” says Seema.
All their hand-poured candle containers, from their signature collections to festive ones. are reusable. The leftover wax can be cleaned off by placing it in warm water and wiping them with a dry cloth. The containers can be repurposed as a T-light candle holder, pencil holder, mini flower vase and much more.
“The decorative candles from our range like Nazakat, Heer etc., come with crochet and pearl cloth covers that can be removed easily while washing the jar and can be put back on the container to use them as a decorative item for other aesthetic décor purposes,” she adds.
In terms of fragrances, they’ve employed up-beat fragrances like Cappuccino, Mixed Fruit, Hot Cocoa and Seaside, The Morning After, Mountain Trail, Forest Hike etc., and are currently running two signature collections called Truth Bombs and First Love Yourself apart from a range of candles that double up as home decor pieces too.
Building a Business
These candles are being manufactured at their residential quarters in Noida, where they have a commercial space dedicated to the production process. A team of 10, they’re all set to move from their ‘workshop’ to a ‘manufacturing unit’ in Noida by March 2022.
Their pillar candles start from about Rs 380 and go upto Rs 1400 for combos, while their container candles begin from Rs 699 and then go upto Rs 2500.
“Yes, it is a bootstrapped venture. Once we set up our manufacturing unit and reach a certain scale, we might look at external funding. We are presently focused on improving product quality, creating scalable product lines and increasing our online and offline presence through various retailers, re-sellers and marketplaces. Sales have grown 8x since the first quarter, while last quarter (Q4 2021) was about 8x of our first quarter (Q4 2020). We have observed that our repeat customers are about 45%, who buy again within three months,” claims Vineet.
For Seema, however, it’s more than just a commercial venture. Rad Living has given her the opportunity to start her second act in life, and so far, things look good.
(You can check out their eco-friendly candles on their website.)
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)