SupportBiz presents an exclusive conversation with Dr. Neena Chopra, Director, Beauty and Technical, as well as Megha Sabhlok, Brand Director, Just Herbs.
How long has Just Herbs been in operation?
NC: Just Herbs has been in operation since late 2010.
What are the major kinds of products that you offer?
NC: Our range of beauty and spa products comprises anti ageing creams, 100 percent natural bespoke face-pack herbs mixes, therapeutic herb-infused clay masks and skin clays, face massage, cleansing and natural sun-protection lotions (for normal to dry skin) and gels (for dry to oily skin).
We also have 100 percent natural therapeutic hair-oils made from hibiscus flowers and expressed oils of various herbs based on classical Ayurvedic formulations.
We also offer luxurious shampoos and lotions made from blends of essentials oils and exotic herbs.
Which are your most popular products?
MSC: Our skin clays/face packs, facial massage gels and shampoos sell the most. Anti-ageing and skin treatment products also have a dedicated following.
What is your background? What were you doing prior to starting Just Herbs?
NC: I am a bio-chemist by qualification, before which I was a banker for over 20 years. I was lucky to discover the joys of Ayurveda, yoga and ancient Indian holistic practices just when the rat race was beginning to get to me. To supplement my biochemistry background with a thorough knowledge of plant based skincare, I studied Ayurveda and naturopathy. Just Herbs is an expression of all this knowledge and research done over the years.
MSC: I have been a marketer all my life. I’ve worked some of the biggest marketing houses and PR companies in India. This gave me a chance to launch successful brands, and a chance to learn to market ideas and products effectively. I’ve also been a Bollywood publicist in Mumbai, and have worked for a short while in the UK after I finished my master’s degree in Management.
How did the idea of starting Just Herbs come up?
NC: Our parent company, Apcos Naturals, has been exporting beauty-care products made from plant extracts, flowers and naturally-occurring minerals for over a decade to some of the largest beauty and wellness markets in Asia, including Japan and Korea and to South Africa. This history of being an OEM exporter earned us the expertise and the high-quality standards needed for making a premium luxury product palatable to a sophisticated and discerning consumer. With disposable incomes rising in India and more awareness for a balanced and healthy lifestyle, we spotted the opportunity to market our products under our own brand name - Just Herbs - in late 2010.
Do you have a retail outlet where you stock your products, or are most of your sales driven through your website?
MSC: We work with select luxury and lifestyle outlets in Mumbai, Delhi and Chandigarh at the moment. We work with partners who subscribe to our eco- friendly philosophy and have a discerning clientele. We are also on most of the large beauty websites in the country, which gives us access to the smaller towns in the country where people are increasingly becoming aware of the benefits of natural products.
Where else are your products available, apart from India?
MSC: Apart from most Indian cities, our products are also available in Singapore and South-East Asia.
Tell us about your team.
MSC: Behind each of our proprietary formulations is our team of Ayurvedic doctors, cosmetologists, bio-chemists and aroma-therapists, headed by Dr. Chopra, who have, together, spent many years practicing Ayurveda and aromatherapy to develop Just Herbs’ results-driven skin- and hair-care formulations.
NC: In addition to this wealth of in-house knowledge, we work with selected ingredient-growers and herb-collectors across the country, who provide us with the freshest and finest of their produce. We have also adopted some selective organic farms that follow sustainable practices in producing these ingredients. Several of them are certified as following organic processes by international organizations such as ECOCERT.
How do you cope with competition from similar businesses?
MSC: There have always been several Ayurvedic/natural players in the market, but we are unique in that we manufacture our own products as against marketing products made by other small companies, where there is no control on quality. That cuts down the competition considerably.
NC: Our product experience also sets us apart. We do not use strong artificial perfumes or any sort of toxins. All of our products have a faint fragrance and an aroma of the woods. Add to that the breadth of our offering, where we have products ranging from foot-care to hair-care, and you will not find anyone else in the market with all these attributes under one label, in the segment that we are in.
MSC: That said, we’re constantly innovating both our packaging and our formulations to meet the changing customer needs. So, in a sense, we are always competing with ourselves.
What are your expansion plans in the near future?
MSC: We want to add more innovative products, going forward. More than that, we want to partner with distributors/stores and lifestyle chains to get Just Herbs accessible to more and more people within India and overseas. Also, we are on the path to develop our franchisee programme.
What are the major challenges that you face?
MSC: It was quite difficult for us initially to adapt the internal culture within the company from that of a B2B manufacturer to a consumer-goods company. The products needed a marketing overhaul, which continues till this day. However, when you have a good product, your clients spread the word, and you benefit from word-of-mouth advertising - something I consider invaluable for any brand.
How do you get most of your clients? Do you advertise in any way?
MSC: Most of our clients come via our press coverage from beauty editors, beauty bloggers and, of course, word-of-mouth referrals. Paid advertising is relatively small.
What have been your proudest moments as an entrepreneur?
NC: We feel proud when our customers get in touch with us to thank us for the difference our products have brought to their lives. One moment that stands out is when a lady from the USA ordered our products, and was so happy with them that she sent us a hand-written greeting card to thank us. She was very impressed by the Indian Ayurvedic tradition that Just Herbs presents in a modern concept, and told us that she was going to travel to India to learn more about Ayurveda and other Indian holistic practices. That made us feel very proud.
What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
NC: If any business is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
MSC: There are no shortcuts to lasting success. Just keep at it!
Facebook page: Just Herbs