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Mamaearth targets word of mouth through moms for marketing

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MUMBAI: When 26-year-old Ghazal Alagh was to deliver her first child, she learnt that there was no cure to her morning sickness other than to pop pills. Soon after delivering her baby, Ghazal and her husband realised that the market was full of toxic products for babies and new mothers. India does not have any baby care regulation like in other countries such as the US, UK, Japan or Canada. The only regulation Indian baby care manufacturers abide by is that baby skin is three times softer than adult skin so the products should be formed accordingly.

It was then the husband-wife duo decided to take it upon themselves to create toxin-free and natural products for new born babies and their moms in India. Launched only in December 2016, Mamaearth claims to disclose all its ingredients on product labels. Run by Honasa Consumer, it is the first company in Asia that has been certified by Made Safe - a US-based non-profit organisation that provides a comprehensive human health-focussed certification for making non-toxic products. The brand has unique products for kids such as easy tummy roll-on, SLS-free natural toothpaste, talc-free dusting powder, cleansing shampoos, diaper rash creams, mineral based sunscreen lotions, insect repellents, soothing massage oils, body washes, and daily moisturising lotions for babies.

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Mamaearth co-founder and a proud father Varun Alagh says, “We are a generation of Google parents, and every choice that we make for our child, right from feeding bottles, shampoos to the paediatrician, is made after thorough research and Mamaearth is a solution to parents who are globally connected, ever evolving and want to make the safest choices for their child.”

With over 35 products in its kitty for moms and babies, people can shop on the company’s website along with Firstcry, Nykaa, Flipkart and Amazon. Over 90 per cent of the sales are through online channels, and a mere 10 per cent through offline stores. As of March 2018, the company had a customer base of over 100,000, which it plans to expand to 250,000 by the end of the year.

The company has its own lab in Gurgaon, and an R&D team which consists of scientists and doctors. Mamaearth’s first round of funding was led by Kanwaljit Singh and the promoter couple along with some of their friends who invested the seed capital in 2016. The company raised $1 million in the second round of funding led by Fireside Ventures and other investors in 2017. Last week, the company got a celebrity boost when actor Shilpa Shetty invested $250,000 and also came on board as an equity investor and brand ambassador.

With this partnership, Shetty will be completely involved in the process of creating new products and marketing the existing line of products. Digital will be its advertising target since the company does not believe in advertising on television. Alagh says, “Today, everyone is on digital and we are targeting mothers and parents who wouldn’t mind spending some extra money on toxic free products for their child’s well-being.”

Apart from using Shetty’s digital presence to reach the target audience, the company will also leverage social media through influencer marketing. It already uses influencers on social media who are mothers themselves and works with over 500 mom bloggers.

With baby care products in India being available for as less as Rs 50, Mamaearth products are priced at a slightly premium price of Rs 399 onwards. But it will also look at launching products priced at Rs 99 to target middle class consumers.

Mamaearth in a period of mere 16 months since its launch, is today present across 125 cities in India. Mamaearth co-founder Ghazal Alagh mentions, “When we started, we imagined Gurgaon, Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai would be our primary markets, but we are present across 125 cities today. Although the metro skew remains higher but we have received phenomenal response from mini metros and tier 2 cities.”

Mamaearth products are available in over 300 stores across Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Ahmadabad, Surat and Pune and plans to reach over 10,000 stores in the next two years, including chemists and modern trade outlets.

While launching a new product especially in the category of baby care, brands generally tend to partner with doctors or chemists who recommend the products to mothers and parents. But Ghazal says they believe in ‘mum-power’ and want to target mothers directly and are a strong believer in the power of word of mouth through them.

In addition to its small manufacturing set up in Delhi, the company’s primary manufacturing unit is based in Himachal Pradesh which was chosen due to the state’s clean water quality and easy availability and accessibility of essential oils, herbs and flowers.

Although the company has an array of unique products including baby wipes made from bamboo, it still does not have diapers, which is the most sold item in baby care category. On this, Alagh says, “Manufacturing eco-friendly diapers is difficult as its requires a large amount of investment and R&D. We are actively looking at it and will hopefully be able to get it right soon.”

Though India will continue to remain the primary market, Mamaearth is also available on Amazon’s global website amazon.com to cater to Indian moms living in other countries.

The company faces stiff competition from Johnson & Johnson, Piegon, Mom&Me, Huggies, Pampers, Himalaya baby care among others. But Mamaearth’s organic and natural route may help the brand to carve a niche for itself as today’s consumers are careful about choosing natural and safe products. But that’s the case only among the educated urban youth. The company will have to push itself hard in smaller pockets of India where local players still hold a majority of the market share and it will be difficult to get people to understand the importance of organic products and the higher price they command.

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