Hi! I’m Megha Asher and I’m the co-founder and COO of Juicy Chemistry. We’re certified-organic skincare and personal care brand, based in Coimbatore. As a brand, we believe in championing and celebrating the potency and efficacy of organic and fresh ingredients.
Our products are preservative-free; Our brand is based on the belief that freshness matters a lot, and that fresh ingredients possess a rich nutrient profile and are more efficacious than their regular counterparts. This philosophy made us sit back and think - why do we need preservatives? Doesn’t a fresh glass of orange juice energize our mind, body, and soul in a way a packaged one doesn’t? How come the same rule does not stand with skincare and personal care products?
We are using natural ingredients. But what of the challenges and potential health concerns with preservative-free products? Well, our formulations are anhydrous and our manufacturing methods ensure that the products remain free of contaminants for a period of 6 to 9 months when stored right.
We take our commitment to giving our customers the best of organic skincare and personal care very seriously. That is why certifications are important to us. Juicy Chemistry was the first brand in India to have its entire product range certified organic by ECOCERT France, the world’s leading body in organic certifications. The certification process covers each aspect of a product lifecycle and we really want our customers to understand what organic truly is.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The idea of Juicy Chemistry was conceived when we came across a salesperson at a mall claiming to sell a natural skincare product that was filled with synthetic ingredients and fillers. The experience made both of us sit back and realize that there was something deeply wrong with how brands and consumers were approaching skincare and personal care. After months of arduous research and endless discussions with friends, family, and acquaintances we came to realize that there was an obvious gap in the market. It really seemed like there weren’t any really ‘natural’ or ‘green’.
Juicy Chemistry started in a 10x10 kitchen with a simple Facebook page. Our first product was body butter and we struggled for quite a while to get the formulation right. We’d attend exhibitions and fairs to showcase our products and gradually build our consumer base. Until the year 2019, Juicy Chemistry was bootstrapped. In the first year, we generated a revenue of 17 lakhs and it reached 6.5 crores by the end of 2019.
Despite our growth and progress, we felt handicapped. Our aim was and is to establish Juicy Chemistry as a leader in the organic beauty space and we felt we were no longer able to do so by ourselves. Thus in 2019, we began our first seed round. The extra boost helped us double down on our marketing initiatives. We were able to leverage social media effectively, increase brand awareness and reach a wider audience.
While the first quarter of 2020 was not the easiest for us in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, things began to pick up as we approached May. From 300-400 couriers a day we have risen to 1500-2000 couriers a day and an average cart value of INR1400. Our largely digital presence, across e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Myntra, MyTara, Nykaa, The Green Maven, Vanity Wagon, and Purplle worked well to our advantage as consumers became more digital-focused because of the pandemic.
Then again in 2021, we managed to raise $7 million.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Pritesh and I took our time with starting Juicy Chemistry and the reason behind doing so was to ensure that we were doing things properly. Pritesh has a background in business and I’ve studied criminology and journalism. We were entering a completely new field and wanted to be prepared. And so, for nearly 2 years, we solely focussed on researching and educating ourselves about the industry we were planning on entering into as well as our ingredients.
Our natural ingredients have always been the heart of our brand and we wanted to be able to deeply understand an ingredient’s chemical composition and physical properties. Our first product was body butter and it took a fair amount of trial before we got it right. We must’ve created hundreds of small batches before we actually managed to create something that had a stable shelf-life. That was really the turning point for us. We didn’t have a lot of capital - in the early days, it was just Pritesh, me, and our house help working tirelessly, day after day. Getting that first product right meant that we were headed in the right direction. It was only a matter of keeping our heads down and working harder.
While working on Juicy Chemistry, I was simultaneously working on my eponymous fashion line. It was all a lot of work but through my fashion business, I was able to reach out to clients and really understand the customer base we wanted for Juicy Chemistry. I’d talk to my clients about what kind of products they’d want to understand how JC could fit in the beauty market. As we began to create shelf-stable products, I’d send samples to clients and get their feedback. All this information helped us properly shape JC. When I’d go for exhibitions and tradeshows, I’d take our JC products alongside and slowly start marketing them as well.
As far as the packaging was concerned, there was no doubt in our minds that we wanted to be as sustainable as can be. But it’s often not that easy, especially when you don’t have sufficient capital and your product is not widely available. While initially, we did use plastic bottles along with glass tubs and pots, we’ve now almost completely phased out the plastic. Only our shampoo bottles and body washes are made of recyclable PET bottles.
Describe the process of launching the business.
With Juicy Chemistry, we took our time with our research. We were also careful to not spend too much money on marketing and to instead invest in our research, formulations, and ingredients. We attended trade shows and exhibitions. We intended to directly reach out to our customers, our target market, and understand their needs. When I’d go for exhibitions for my fashion line, I’d always take JC products with me and cross-promote the brand. At the time, JC was a simple Facebook page. I recall there were days my fingers used to get swollen from typing throughout the day, replying to DMs! Gradually we began to build our consumer base.
The influencer community also took interest in our products and how low-key we were. We wanted our products to stand out and let our customers do the talking. No over-the-top marketing, just word of mouth! We eventually began selling our products online via Amazon. It had occurred to us early on that a digital-first approach was the way to go and we thus later invested in our own website.
Later we also developed and launched our mobile application. Now, we’re also available on a host of e-commerce marketplaces in India: Amazon, Myntra, MyTara, Nykaa, The Green Maven, Vanity Wagon, Sublime Life, and Purple. We service over 20,000 pin codes in India and export to 20 different countries. We have 7 distribution channels in countries such as South Africa, Nepal, Australia, France, the US, Singapore as well. At present, the brand caters to 1500-2000 couriers a day.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our customer retention has always been north of 50%. The best way to retain customers? Consistent high-quality products. We don’t follow any trends. We just formulate for efficacy and our products speak for themselves. Once a consumer has tried our product, more often than not they’ll come to us again. We’ve always been a digital-first brand and that approach has worked rather well for us.
We started with a Facebook page, created our own website and mobile app, and are working towards building a larger community across social media platforms. Social media has been an important part of our marketing. As a brand, we’re deeply invested in creating meaningful content that communicates our philosophy, formulations, and approach. Social media is also a great way for our audience to reach us and give their feedback.
I also feel our honest and straightforward approach has certainly helped. We have always been transparent about our processes and what we’re trying to achieve. Our approach is fuss-free and honest. We work towards gaining the trust of our consumer base. We’re also a sustainable and ethical brand and that’s something consumers are looking for these days. At the end of the day, trust, traceability, and transparency are of utmost importance.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
It has been an incredible 7 years with Juicy Chemistry and it is incredible to see how far we have come. Today, our mobile app has over 100,000 active users and our website has over 500,000 active users. We have experienced a 400% growth in revenue in 2021 and Our JC family has also grown to a team of 55.
Focus on the product and on making it right, in the beginning. Once that is done, then look at how you can market it.
Going forward, we want to double down on our presence in India as well as overseas. We want to tap into American, European - particularly French - and Middle Eastern markets. We want to capitalize on our existing growth in Australia. At present, we have distributors in 6 to 7 countries including France, Singapore, Australia, and the US, and service around 20,000 pin codes in India and export to 20 different countries.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We started Juicy Chemistry in a 10x10 kitchen with just INR 5000 in our pockets. Two things Pritesh and I’ve definitely learned are - to never give up and that it is possible to do incredible things, even with humble beginnings. It doesn't always go smoothly. Nothing in life ever does, and that’s okay. You need to take failures in your stride and keep working hard. Double down, in fact. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. When we were trying to get our first product right, it was such a stressful time. We kept failing again and again. What made us successful was the fact that we were willing to learn from our mistakes. You need to have that attitude. You need to internalize the fact that things might not work out the way you want them to, that’s life. But just because one thing hasn’t gone right, doesn’t mean that the other one will too!
Pritesh came from a family business that dealt in industrial lubricants. The petroleum sector was unorganized and we suffered heavy losses. Needless to say, to move away from that kind of experience takes mental strength. As a founder and leader, you need it. You also need to be willing to take calculated risks. That’s how Juicy Chemistry came about!
Understanding all aspects of your business is something I can never stress enough. When I was expecting my daughter Meera, Juicy Chemistry was growing, we were understaffed and I couldn’t do much work. Pritesh took on my duties and worked 18 to 19 hours a day! 2 months after Meera was born, I was back at work as well. Similarly, during our investment phases - particularly our Angel investment rounds - I’d take on Pritesh’s share of the work. It’s crucial to have a co-founder or partner who understands you and whom you understand. A healthy working relationship is essential in building a brand and company that lasts.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use Shopify for our website along with aggregator and third-party tools such as Unicommerce, WMS, etc.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- The 7 habits of highly effective people - Stephen R. Covey
- Thinking fast and slow - Daniel Kahneman
- Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Focus on the supply chain. Being a beauty brand that relies on fresh organic ingredients, it has been imperative to create a robust supply chain. Juicy Chemistry is essentially disrupting the way the beauty industry has worked for over 100+ years! We’ve cut out all middlemen and work directly with small-scale certified organic farmers. This helps us eliminate any scope of adulteration, and ensure that our sourcing and shipping are ethical. In fact, the 20% of ingredients that are sourced from abroad are shipped in half-empty shipments - which would otherwise go empty - to lower our carbon footprint.
Marketing is important but it isn’t everything. People often tend to get caught up in the marketing side of things but it’s important to understand that marketing isn’t your product. Focus on the product and on making it right, in the beginning. Once that is done, then look at how you can market it.
Find a co-founder you can trust. It is important to have someone who is down in the trenches with you. To have someone you can rely on is something that has certainly helped Pritesh and me. But beyond a co-founder, it’s important to build a team that you can trust. Take the time to be available to your team and your employees. Nurture them.
Don’t run away from the hard work. We started the business from scratch. Every single aspect of the business - from formulations to packaging - is something Pritesh and I have done. Thanks to all that, we understand everything that happens, all processes, and all the work. We did the research and the practical part, and it has worked to our advantage.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We’re looking at a business development manager to expand our offline growth and for a senior performance marketing manager for our paid promotional channels. We might be looking for a CMO sometime in the future as well.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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