CARING FOR BABIES THE WAY A MOMMA SHOULDBY Shwetha Satyanarayan | comments ( 0 ) |
Although baby-care products make for the fastest growing category in the Indian market with an estimated growth of 17% CAGR in the time frame 2014-2019, it is rather surprising the industry does not have any safe-checks. Not only do most of the baby-care products have toxins and chemicals that are not fit for babies, there is not a single agency to control what goes or doesn’t in the making of these products. When his journey as a parent began, Varun Alagh, co-founder of MamaEarth, knew it cannot go on like this anymore and it was time to do something. With this mission in mind, today, MamaEarth is Asia’s first baby-care product range to be certified by MadeSafe, a US-based agency that verifies and testifies international products. Varun speaks about his journey so far and how the company plans to enter the international market shortly. Excerpts from the interview.
Could you brief us about MamaEarth’s brand presence and the journey so far?
As we started our journey as parents, my wife and MamaEarth co-founder Ghazal Alagh, discovered that most of the products we used for our little one were unfit in the sense that these products contained hazardous chemicals that were not prescribed for babies and there was no regulatory body to overlook and approve what goes into making the products like baby soaps, creams, moisturizers, and so on. Soon, we discovered there were no exclusive products for women in post-pregnancy phase, while what we look for in local medicines with local ‘dadima’ recipes were completely unavailable in the market. For many parents looking for safe products like us, we decided to embark on this venture in 2016. Now, we are Asia’s first brand to be certified by MadeSafe and all our products are toxin-free. We are present in 300 baby stores in 120 cities across India.
In India, even today, when we think of baby products, only foreign brand names come to our minds. What gaps do you find in this industry?
It is quite true. Whether it is Johnson & Johnson or Himalaya or Chicco, we only think of products of foreign brands to treat our baby’s problems. For instance, we never think how ‘hing’ or ‘jeera’ can be used as a medicine to treat a baby’s digestion problem and that’s what MamaEarth does. We have a ‘hing’ and ‘fenugreek’ roll-on to cure a baby’s tummy problems. Most of the foreign brands have brought their global portfolio to India and their products are not customized for local consumers. There is no innovation to make products locally and neither does much thinking happen in that direction.
You are probably one of the few brands to introduce a range of mother-care products. How is the market?
We have sold over 1 lakh products since the launch of our brands and we only expect to grow more. From what we see, consumers are open to brands that experiment with local remedies and are completely safe. The market is good and most of the new mothers who have accepted our products are now becoming loyal customers.
Although there are plenty of baby-care options, nothing comes cheap in the domestic markets. Why the steep prices?
With foreign brands the concern is that there is lack of options and there are no alternatives. However, producing locally is a lot cheaper and can help cut down a lot of production costs and import taxes.
What major challenges did you face?
Although we were a new brand, gaining entry into the market was not difficult as there are various channels to enter the market. Brand building exercise and marketing was fairly easy through social media and word-of-mouth publicity. However, the biggest concern is to scale up and maintain the volumes. With 35 products in our portfolio and having sold more than 1 lakh units, we are now only focused on expansion.
Are parents label readers yet and do they understand what’s going into the products?
Though not many parents are label readers, there is definitely broader knowledge among parents, thanks to Google. Parents read, choose and buy. Most are now aware about the need to use toxin-free products and are willing to make the switch.
What are your expansion plans?
We have recently launched an oral care line of products and are looking at expanding in traditional trade. While we are looking at more innovation in our products, we are also pilot-planning our launch in the US market. We are now working towards international expansion.