"We will add 30 more stores by 2016" says Rahul Agarwal

"Chemicals are for laundry, not for skin," says Rahul Agarwal, CEO of the two-year-old company, Organic Harvest, while discussing with Retailer Media the challenges in the personal care industry, why the customer is always the king.
Rahul Agarwal, CEO, Organic Harvest

The increased shift in a customer’s mind to use organic products instead of regular products is what led to the rise of organic skincare brands in the last two years, but what separates the men from the boys in the fiercely competitive segment is a well researched plan, chemical-free products and International certification.
“Chemicals are for laundry, not for skin,” says Rahul Agarwal, CEO of the two-year-old company, Organic Harvest, while discussing with Retailer magazine the challenges in the personal care industry, why the customer is always the king and how franchising can help the brand expand exponentially. Excerpts:

How did the concept of Organic Harvest take shape?
It came into existence after we witnessed an increase in the shift from regular to organic products in India. Everyone desires their skin to stay beautiful naturally. In recent times, we have been noticing a growing number of beauty conscious consumers who are moving towards a safe skincare regime.
But, unfortunately the market is either flooded with mainstream beauty products that carry harmful skin damaging chemicals or international organic skincare brands which are not affordable for a basic consumer. Keeping this fact in mind, we thought of introducing our brand which is packed with the goodness of nature and the innovation of science and is also sensibly priced for the middle class consumer.

What is the business model?
We work under three distribution channels: General Trade/ Modern Trade: For general retail stores, we have a super stockiest at the state level, distributor at the city level and retail channel partners. We reach out to more than 5000 retail stores in general trade. We have also started tying up with the organised retail chains. We have recently signed up with a prominent beauty products chain of South, called Health & Glow, which operates around 100 stores in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Mumbai. Other than this, we are also present in Auchan & Pothy’s. We have started opening up Organic Harvest stores recently, in prominent malls and high streets. Currently we operate 9 stores in India, and have plans for opening another 30 stores in the next one year. And then we have export our products as well. We have recently started exporting them to UAE, KSA and Nepal.

There are many established brands in organic skin care segment today, how does the brand differentiate itself from the rest?
Organic Harvest is the first Indian homegrown brand which has an entire range of organic skin care, body care and hair care products to offer to its consumers. We launched the brand in June 2013 after a thorough R&D of over two years. Global organisations like EcoCert, OneCert & Natrue have certified the ingredients and raw materials that we use in our products which are free from any harsh chemicals, Parabens, Phthalates, mineral oil, PABA, petrolatum, paraffin or animal ingredients. This is what makes Organic Harvest stand apart from other brands in the personal care industry.

What were the challenges the company faced while rooting the idea in the market?
My biggest challenge was that I never had any prior experience of the personal care industry. When I thought of starting this venture, I was strongly discouraged by several industry stalwarts owing to the hugely competitive nature of the beauty segment in India. But I was determined to develop a good quality product with a reasonable pricing. We had to do a thorough research about the organic beauty segment in India and abroad for two years before entering this industry. Our problems did not just end here. Being a small start up enterprise, we had limited funds for marketing that could help in the brand awareness. We had to rely on our convincing skills. It was a tough task to persuade the retailers about our product to reach out to our target consumers. But in the end, our products managed to satisfy the consumers and today when we see our brand being accepted and referred by repeat customers, it’s all because of what our products have to offer.

Are you present online?
Yes, we are present across all major eCommerce websites including Amazon, Flipkart, PayTM, Puplle etc.

How many stores do you have? What are the expansion plans?
Currently we have 9 stores across India and we are planning to open 30 more in the next six months.

What're the store sizes and where all have they come up?
The sizes of each store differ from place to place and area to area. But most our stores are between 300sg ft to 800 sq ft. We have three stores in Delhi, then one each in Bareilly, Surat and Dehradun, and another three in Mumbai. 

Are you looking at franchising as one of the expansion strategies? Why/why not?
We will consider franchising our business in the long term. We believe in handling our brand ourselves, it will be too early for us to give the franchise. Also, we are trying out the retail model in 12 stores initially and once the retail model is established and successful, we will scale it up and look for franchising.

Rahul Agarwal