In recent times, the organic industry in India has begun to take off, but the dialogue has mostly been limited to agriculture. Organic Harvest, a social enterprise, on the other hand is focused on organic beauty care range. The idea is to offer an affordable organic beauty range in a market that is dominated by foreign players. They have ambitious plans on opening 1000 stores in the next six months.
SocialStory’s Nelson Vinod Moses interacted with Rahul Agarwal, CEO, Organic Harvest Company over email to find about his journey and what the big goal for Organic Harvest in.
SS: Tell me a bit about your childhood and academic life: what did you want to become while growing up? Who influenced you the most?
RA: Like most other kids, I also wanted to become either a pilot and fly planes or join the army. But as I grew up, my focus shifted. I was always good in academics and won many prizes at both school & college level. I stood at 7th position in CA Final exam all over India.
I worked for 5 years in Ernst & Young, one of the largest accounting firms in the world. While working there, an entrepreneurial bug bit me and hence started my first venture in online education space in 2007. My father has always been my role model. He started his entrepreneurial journey with just Rs 5000 in 1978.
SS: Why did you quit corporate life? What did you do next?
RA: I quit my finance job because of my inclination towards entrepreneurship. I had this strong urge to do something different. “This can’t be done” is the line which motivates me the most. My first venture after leaving job was in online education space, which deals in teaching students worldwide with the help of Indian teachers. When I started this venture, online education was at a very nascent stage. Today, we are the largest company in its space, in India & in the United States, and we are working with the US Federal Government under a government funded program, reaching out to more than 20,000 students. After acquiring success here, I finally entered the organic personal care industry with Organic Harvest.
SS: What inspired you to start Organic Harvest? Do you compare the company to The BodyShop?
RA: Although nature has been my inspiration throughout but on a serious note, Organic Harvest 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.
BodyShop doesn’t have a full range of organic products. Its price range and presence, is also targeted at high-end customers.
SS: What gave you the courage to step into a business that you had zero experience in?
RA: Yes, I had no prior experience in the personal care segment. In fact, I was strongly discouraged by several industry stalwarts initially owing to the immensely competitive nature of the industry. But I had a vision of developing a good quality product that could restore the beauty of human skin in a mild and natural way. I always knew, if we could make good quality products, which are safe for the skin, there would be a space for us in the market. This vision gave me the necessary courage to step into the unknown. I wanted to prove myself on the basis of the products that my brand offers.
SS: What is the company about- vision and philosophy?
RA: Organic Harvest envisions to let you be-you-tiful organically, because we believe that chemicals are only for laundry and not for your skin. We foresee our brand to successfully match nature with beauty. Thus, we have embraced the organic power of plants and its botanical extracts in abundance combined with organic and natural ingredients. We have brought the ancient wisdom back to life in the form of our gentle and healthy line of beauty products.
SS: How do you ensure that the brand remains authentic and truly organic?
RA: We always carry an authentic approach while manufacturing our products. Global organizations like EcoCert, OneCert & Natrue certify the raw materials we use whereas every product is carefully conceived using eco-friendly practices. While manufacturing, we combine the latest scientific knowledge concerning the needs of the skin with excellent manufacturing to create a treasure of authentic and truly organic products.
SS: What is your current product range? Will you be expanding your product range- when?
RA: For all those who desire to retain the natural skin they are in, we have an impressive range of products comprising of about 26 hair care, body care and skin care products as well as 16 varieties of essential oils. Our best-selling products include Orgadyne Anti-Pigmentation Cream, Exfoliating Face Scrub, 3-in-1 Face Wash, Extra Conditioning Shampoo, Anti-Wrinkle Cream, Under Eye Gel, Daily Day Cream and Sunscreen with SPF 30. We will be introducing 7 more products within three months, along with the range for professional use in the leading salons, and beauty centers.
SS: How have your products been received? How many stores are you available in? What are your current revenues? What growth do you envisage in the next 2-3 years?
RA: Our products have satisfied the health conscious consumers of today, who believe in safe skin. Our brand has been very well accepted and in a very short span of time, we have got both repeat as well as referral customers. We began with the traditional distribution model by creating a presence in city’s A+ and A general trade outlets. We are soon coming in the modern trade, with presence in prominent retail chains, and exclusive Organic Harvest stores in malls and high street. The next 2-3 years will witness a tremendous growth of Organic Harvest as an organic personal care brand owing to the growing rate of health conscious Indian consumers. Last month, we did a business of more than 50 lacs. Meanwhile, we hope to clock a turnover of around Rs 6 to 8 crores in this financial year ending March 31, 2014.
SS: What are your future expansion plans?
RA: Organic Harvest is already enjoying its fair share of clientele in Delhi-NCR and Punjab. By the end of this month, the brand will be present in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Nashik followed by a launch in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. We are also planning to launch Organic Harvest across Goa, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal within the next six months with an aim of taking Organic Harvest’s national retail presence to 1,000 stores. We initially concentrated on the traditional retail channel but will now be looking at modern trade and malls as well. We are scouting for locations in leading malls and high street markets for opening exclusive Organic Harvest stores. In fact, two such Organic Harvest stores will be launched in Delhi by March end. Furthermore, we will launch a professional range of products for premium salons within 3-4 months.
SS: Would you like to add anything else?
RA: I would like to ask the consumers not to judge us by presence in electronic, or print media, or by celebrity endorsing the products. We have made a very honest effort to make the best personal care products available in the market.