What are the brands that come to your mind when you think of makeup and cosmetic indulgence? For many, global brands like HUDA Beauty, MAC Cosmetics, and other Japanese and Korean products are likely the first ones to crop up.
However, 25-year-old Pooja Parkar says that massive popularity of brands does not necessarily vouch for the efficiency of their products, and rather, is buoyed by huge marketing budgets.
As a result, Pooja believes smaller Indian brands offering natural and clean cosmetics get little to no visibility. In October 2020, she founded Mumbai-based, a marketplace that now features over 22 Indian skincare brands.
Pooja Parkar, Founder of Root Natural
Pooja’s struggle with skincare started when she got her first bout of acne during Class X. After unsuccessfully trying different kinds of treatment and using foreign products recommended by dermatologists, it finally took Ayurvedic and natural skincare products to overcome her skincare issues.
While completing Master’s in International Management from National University of Ireland, she felt that most Indians had become blindsided by global brands and were unable to realise India’s rich repository of Ayurvedic knowledge that offers natural alternatives.
“The initial idea was to set up a manufacturing facility and design skincare products, but then I thought, there are already some 300 vendors in the market that people are unaware of. Seeing that there was no need to be another such brand only to get lost at sea, I decided to build a platform to promote the existing brands,” Pooja tells HerStory.
The entrepreneur is closely involved with the startup’s business development team that is working on the process of onboarding the brands.
The ecommerce platform asks skincare brands for videos of manufacturing processes, details on hygiene and ingredients used, as well as valid certifications. It enrols Ayurvedic experts to run stringent quality checks on sample products.
“I am there every step of the way, not only to ensure the product quality but also to learn from the experts as well,” she adds.
Bootstrapped so far, Pooja wants the startup to disassociate natural products with luxury with a price range of products between Rs 350 and Rs 5,000.
Going gender neutral
Root Natural hopes to transcend gender and age groups as it deliberately markets itself to boys, girls, and trans persons on social media.
However, they specifically target young girls aged between 16 and 21 in schools and colleges who tend to be more obsessed with international labels. “We hope to have them use the homegrown and chemical-free products,” Pooja adds.
The entrepreneur is now part of India’s booming natural cosmetics market that clocked $834.5 million in 2021, and is expected to grow annually by 7.83 percent CAGR between 2021 and 2025, according to Statista.
Pooja says that as Root Natural is a young brand, keeping pace with the market is a challenge.
“Platforms like Nykaa and Amazon have set a standard in how beauty ecommerce works and I cannot think of going slow,” she explains.
Add to this the responsibility of raising awareness among the public to ensure the natural products they use are certified through their social media platforms. It also wants to amplify different home skincare remedies that differ in every home and region of India.
Although starting up during the pandemic has been no mean feat, Root Natural is now looking forward to expanding within India for the next six months before exploring the international market.