No competition from Himalaya or Patanjali: Nyassa founder

No competition from Himalaya or Patanjali: Nyassa founder

MUMBAI: Working at a renowned financial company like Ernst & Young may be what most youngsters dream about. But not Ishween Anand, who left her cushy finance job in New York to pursue her passion for fragrances in India. 10 years down the line, she does not regret her decision one bit. 

Anand was always inclined towards soap-making, the process and various fragrances. And once she came back to India, she decided to pursue her dream and combine all things she loved by launching Nyassa in 2007. The word has its origin in Sanskrit that means healing through touch by chanting tantras and mantras.

At that time, there were barely any exclusive natural soap brands in the country, and she sensed a huge opportunity. But the Indian consumer was alien to buying bath soaps worth Rs 100 when a standard soap bar was available at the cost of just Rs 20. 

Knowing the challenges she might have to face, Anand went ahead with her initial investment of Rs 15 lakh into the business. She didn't have to spend a lot of resources on machinery and setting up a plant as natural soaps are made by hand. But it isn’t all that easy to launch your own company and manufacture products and Anand had her own hurdles in getting the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) licence from the government.

She recalls an incident when she reached out to the FDA seeking necessary documentation to launch bath bombs, a concept which was pretty foreign to India at the time. “The executives were baffled on which category do we put bath bombs under as it was something they hadn’t heard about before,” she says.

She began her entrepreneurial journey by selling only soaps and body lotions at the food court of Atria Mall in Mumbai. This proved to be a masterstroke for her, as within three months of launch, she had already partnered with 15 stores who were willing to sell the products. 

Anand's company broke even in just about a year. The soap-maker tasted success without actually investing in conventional ATL (above the line) advertising. With a y-o-y growth of 30 per cent for the last three years, Nyassa does not believe in advertising on traditional media. “If we ever do anything on advertisement, it will be on digital,” says Anand. Another natural brand, Soulflower, went ahead of its time to advertise on social media when the medium was just catching up and Anand now realises that it’s time to buck up.

Today, the company advertises on social media platforms Instagram and Facebook with its own in-house marketing team due to budget constraints. But Anand now realises the importance of having a full-fledged agency on board. “We haven’t really gone out and marketed ourselves but I think we will have to do it now as the competition today is cutthroat and it’s important to distinguish your brand from the rest.”

The appetite for beauty segment is huge is India and Nykaa’s Rs 600 crore revenue just by selling bath and beauty products goes to show how cluttered and interesting the segment is.  

The bath and body brand sells 80 per cent of its products through offline channels and a mere 20 per cent through third party e-commerce websites Amazon, Flipkart and Nykaa. However, 30 per cent of the company’s revenue comes from online sales and a staggering 70 per cent still comes from people who visit the stores to buy products. Even though Nyassa has its own website, a major chunk of the sale comes from Amazon, Nykaa and Flipkart and that’s where the company wants to focus.

With a strong presence in Mumbai and airports across India, Anand now wants to expand the company to other locations in India, next up being Delhi. 

What e-commerce has enabled the company to do, is reach out to consumers in smaller towns and cities with orders pouring in from Kochi, Patna, and the eastern and southern belts as well. On this, the entrepreneur says, “I think our consumers are everywhere. But with the limited resources that we have, we have to prioritise whether we want to open a shop in a tier II town or Delhi. We will eventually open shops everywhere.”

The beauty and bath segment has begun seeing an uptick only recently but the international market is extremely cluttered as every local city has soap makers along with high-end premium soap manufacturers. The consumers there also have an appetite for fancy products and money to spare. It will be interesting to see an Indian manufacturer tap that market with Indian fragrances and products. Anand admits that she would love to enter the international market eventually, but does not have an immediate plan for the same. 

It is pretty fair to assume that any consumer today is willing to explore his options when it comes to soap bars as we have over 500 different brands opening in the segment. The recent trend being of buying herbal and natural soaps after yoga guru Baba Ramdev popularised Patanjali by selling its soaps for only Rs 10.  Anand does not believe in positioning the company as either ayurvedic or natural and rather opines that the positioning is about offering fragrant products which are chemical free. 

However, Anand does not see competition from brands like Patanjali or Himalaya. “Brands like Himalaya and Patanjali are not our competition because a person that uses these products is not our consumer. We don't get deterred by a brand like Patanjali. But if we were a Hindustan Unilever, we would definitely be worried,” she adds.

Going forward, Nyassa is all set to launch customised perfume bars where consumers can walk into the store and create their own perfumes with the fragrances they like. 

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