Mamaearth: Building and Scaling Brands for Millennials
Episode 08Visit Moonshot Series Page
- A personal mission behind personal care products (1:50)
- Using the three Ps framework to bring your brand purpose to life (5:30)
- It’s much easier to live with failure than to live with regret (13:15)
- The bedrock of a great founding team is trust (14:38)
- The benefit of starting a conversation with potential consumers (18:10)
- Be paranoid about quality (24:25)
- Disrupting FMCG incumbents with data and tech (25:32)
- Use your brand playbook to take on other markets (30:14)
- Perfecting your brand through purpose, quality and consistency (40:25)
Dewi: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rate of digital adoption. It also changed consumer behaviour, More people than ever are now shopping online. While many legacy brands, which usually sell their items in physical locations, scrambled to set up online stores or deepen their relationships with e-commerce marketplaces, direct-to-consumer – or D2C – brands were poised to ride the wave of changing consumer behavior. Mamaearth is a personal care startup that was launched in 2016 by husband and wife team, Varun and Ghazal Alagh. In just over four short years, the startup’s revenue has grown to over $100 million. On this episode of Moonshot – we’ll be talking all about brand building with Mamaearth’s Varun Alagh, and Sequoia India Managing Director, Ishaan Mittal. Varun, Ishaan, thanks for joining us today! Varun, first of all, Mamaearth is an all natural personal care brand. You sell everything from shampoos, soaps, creams, baby products, but there are many players already in the space. Why did you decide to get into it and why personal care?
A personal mission behind personal care products
Varun: The personal care story is actually a very personal one. It starts from a problem that we faced when Agastya, our son, was born in 2014. That’s when our platonic relationship with personal care became serious, and we had to find right products for Auggie, and that was, there was a challenge because India really did not have any regulation around use of toxins or harmful chemicals into personal care products; and when we searched for such products, we found that there were a lot of negative conversations going on around carcinogens found in personal care products. And that, just as a parent, it just scares you. So that fear firstly led us to buy certain other brands which were available in other markets, which were certified toxin-free and over time found that to be really challenging and stressful. And, you know, that is what led to the conversation that someone should do something about this and provide clean label, personal care for babies in India.
And from that someone, the conversation became , “Why not us?”. And that’s when in 2016 we quit our jobs and started working on the brand and launched Mamaearth as Asia’s first, made-safe certified brand. And coming to the second part, which is how from a baby care brand it has been, it has become an extensive personal care brand, which has solutions for the entire family; I think I’d say two things. One – clearly from Day One, as a marketeer, one of the things that I believed in was that this century belongs to why-based brands rather than what-based brands and millennials love to buy into brand’s purposes and love to buy into why they exist. Once they buy into why they exist, or why the brand exists, they actually buy whatever from the brand, not just a what. And that’s the big philosophy that I believed, and I learned while working with the likes of Unilever, Coca-Cola, who were building these purpose brands and which is what we started crafting Mamaearth with.
And hence, over time because the brand essentially stood for ‘Goodness Inside’, be it our products, all our processes, and people believed in that difference that we were making to both – on the product side, as well as on the environment side and they wanted to connect with us deeply. They themselves started asking for more, in terms of, you know, mothers started asking for products for themselves, and then they started asking for products for the fathers, and then, it just started rolling into a space where we were just listening to consumers and providing what they really wanted because listening was one of our strengths. Over time, we built a franchise, which was not just limited to babies, but for the entire family and it’s been accepted really well.
Using the three Ps framework to bring your brand purpose to life
Dewi: Right, and you know, you talk a lot about how millennials are buying into why-based brands. How do you craft that into your brand story? Can you give us some examples?
Varun: Yeah, so I think the best example would be to talk about Mamaearth. We have internally created a framework, which is a ‘three Ps’ framework, which is product, process, and perspective. And for any brand to bring their purpose to life, the purpose needs to come to life across these three Ps.
So, the first thing for any brand is to define what the purpose is. So for Mamaearth, for example, the purpose is to help people make those little choices which will add goodness to their lives. And in terms of the first P, which is product, we do that by providing goodness inside the product; so no nasties and only goodness of natural ingredients inside. On the process side, we walk the talk, by being plastic positive. So we have… We recycle more than two times [the amount] of plastic that we use. Just to give you a number, we recycled almost 250 metric tonnes of plastic just last month.
And then we have another initiative and a part of this process, which is plant goodness, where every time you place an order on our website, we actually link it back to a tree that we plant. And we share the image of that tree, the geolocation of that tree to you, so that you know your purchase hasn’t only made a strong impact on your own health and family because of the quality of products that you’re using, but also on the environment. So it’s a ‘me and we’ construct. And the third thing, a third piece – perspective, which is where you know, we believe that beauty is not about how you look or how you feel. The brand believes that beauty is all about what you do. And hence, Goodness Inside’s perspective is all about beautiful indeed. Which is what we are bringing in our purpose and emotional campaigns now, by telling people don’t just go by external beauty, but look for actions, and wherever you find good actions is where you’ll find beauty. So, I think that reinvention of the definition of beauty led by educating our kids in the right manner on what beautiful is, is what Mamaearth is building. So I think that the three Ps framework is helping us bring brand purpose to life.
Dewi: Right, it’s showing consumers that it’s really a brand that cares not just about you, but about the earth as well. Now Ishaan, what excited you about Mamaearth?
Ishaan: Yeah, a lot of things – but most importantly was the way Mamaearth was going after the industry. As you know, Sequoia partners with founders and companies who are essentially re-imagining the world. They are going after very large markets, but building their businesses in a different way, they’re disrupting the incumbents.
But one industry where we were watching very closely and had not seen enough disruption was, the entire FMCG space, which is a one trillion [dollar] plus market cap industry. We had not really seen somebody really go after the category as a disruptor. But, when we met Varun and Ghazal, I’d say in late 2016, we realized that they were really thinking of this business differently. They were not thinking of it as one more FMCG brand, one more brand with the same products that everybody has; but thinking about how the consumers of today and tomorrow are changing the way they discover brands, consume brands, talk about brands, right? And as we met them again and again, it started to show up, that for each of the three key pillars of this industry, which is product, marketing, and distribution, they were following a differentiated approach. For example, what seemed to us in the beginning as a gut-based or a field-based choice of products, became very evident that it was very scientific and it was very data-driven.
They were using a lot of technology to understand their consumer – their preferences, and the trends, and using that to then drive their, what is now a phenomenal new product engine. I still remember in one conversation; I met with Varun and we were talking about marketing and the focus he had on not just spending, but the measurability of every dollar that the company spent and how they were using technology to do that was mind-blowing. And that’s when we knew that we had to partner with them, and we knew that they were going to be a very important player in this industry and go after this big, big space in a very aggressive manner.
It’s much easier to live with failure than to live with regret
Dewi: You know, you mentioned, Varun had this very strong marketing background. Varun, you came from a brand role, and leaving that – you were already established in your industry – that’s a huge decision, and something that a lot of aspiring founders struggle with as they think about launching their brands. Tell us a bit about that.
Varun: So it wasn’t an easy decision for sure – especially when you have a one and a half year old, who you can clearly see, is going to sort of, you know, go to school, have more expenses, and you have, a very fast-growing career where you know that if you stay, you could eventually do exceptionally well on the corporate ladder. And then, your parents are also on the verge of retiring… So, I think all the angles were clearly sort of, making it difficult.
And, but I would say one (thing) – the passion for doing something of our own and starting something of our own and creating and making a difference has been there for long, and within both me and Ghazal. Ghazal had actually done one startup before this. So, I think there was this passion for creating a company and a brand which will create a lasting impact, and that passion just got summed up and got combined with the strong purpose when we saw that what we are going to do is going to make a difference to kids like Agastya. And being able to envision the difference that what you intend to do will make, just makes it so much more tangible and just the drive becomes far stronger. And so I think that was the drive. But again, then, you know, from a practical lens, I did a lot of pros and cons analysis. I talked to a lot of founders who had left their jobs and started something. I talked to a lot of search consultants to understand, “Hey, if I do this for three years and I fail, what will it mean for me then?” And the answers that I always got were, that the experience that you will get, these kinds of skills that you will add to yourself, the fact that you have demonstrated risk-taking ability are all going to act positively for you, and people are going to love to have folks like you in leadership who can create and craft businesses. So, don’t worry about what’ll happen if you fail. Something will work out.
But, I think the strongest driver for me would be… I still remember that one night where Ghazal and I were chatting and she was talking to me about the fact that, imagine you’re 50 and you’re on… For whatever reason, on a hospital bed, and you were asked, “Do you regret not doing anything in life?” And if that one answer is, “I regret not doing my own startup” or “Not chasing that idea that I really believed in”; that’s just something you can’t come back from. I could still live with failure, but I just don’t believe you can live with regret. And so that’s, I think, the most powerful, motivating moment or force, which then the next morning I resigned. And so, I mean it was that strong and it’s much easier to live with failure than to live with regret.
The bedrock of a great founding team is trust
Ishaan: And Varun you mentioned how this decision was not your decision or Ghazal’s decision, but you’re going through this together. And then eventually both of you made a choice to start this business with each other. Tell us, what does it mean to start a company with your spouse? How did you think through that?
Varun: Oh yeah, initially, we got asked this a lot and honestly, people were extremely worried about a couple investing in a couple-based business, etc. I think firstly, I would say the bedrock for a great founding team is trust, and I believe, who else would you trust more than your life partner? You trust her with all your vulnerabilities. You trust her with everything that goes on in your life. So, I think that has been the bedrock for our relationship in this company as well, that we had blind faith in each other’s commitment and intent. And the second thing that I would say has clearly been foundational and has helped shape us really well, is our understanding of each other. The reality is that before we started this business, we were already partners for five years. We know each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities really well. And, when you know that, you really can easily decide what each one of us can bring to the table, and what each one of us can do really well. And which is what I’ve seen going round in certain founder teams, which is, you can’t really divide work or one feels that, one is getting this on their plate, but they should be getting something else on their plate. I think that understanding was very clear – this is your strength, you focus on this. This is my strength, I’ll focus on this, and we will make sure we are covering up for each other’s weaknesses. So I think, that I believe is the second thing that clearly has worked for us.
And thirdly, I think all this negativity around couples not succeeding and building businesses, almost gelled us as a team, we were like, “Hey, we’re going to prove you wrong. This is just not true. We’re going to do this. And we’re going to show that couples can create fabulous businesses.” So I think we have thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, work goes home. We sometimes find [that] at midnight talking to each other about innovations or new working ideas, but I think that’s all good for the company. And we’re just looking forward to so many more layers of building this together.
The benefit of starting a conversation with potential consumers
Ishaan: Amazing, completely agree with you. Trust is the bedrock of a founding team, and who do you trust more than your spouse? Lovely. And Varun, let’s go forward from there. As you started, you were starting a brand business. This is not a space which was empty – there are a lot of big companies, a lot of big brands… What were the first few months or quarters like? How did you solve the cold start problem of consumers not knowing your brand, you’re not having enough reach. What were the challenges? How did you overcome them?
Varun: I think in our case, the cold start problem was even bigger because we were starting with a high level of involvement category. I mean, someone had to trust their baby’s skincare onto a new brand, and it’s not an easy decision to take. And hence, we were clearly climbing uphill and that’s the challenge that we had sort of taken. But I think in the first few months, and this rigorous focus on talking to consumers and trying to articulate their barriers properly, as to what is stopping them from having a conversation with us… Firstly, what is the kind of statement which will act as an icebreaker? Because the first thing that you need to do is not to sell – it’s to find a way to have a conversation with the other human. And what is that barrier? How do you overcome that? And I clearly remember, and that’s by the way Ghazal’s strength – talking to so many people. We’ve stood in, you know, so many malls, one trade stores, putting up small stands and just talking to people. And say, “This is what we’re trying to do”, and trying to read their articulations. By the way, even now, whenever we are launching a brand, our brand teams actually go in and set that up and do it. It’s a part of our learning exercise. But when we were doing that, we clearly understood that when we talked about the made-safe story, that we were Asia’s first made-safe brand, that was working as an ice breaker. And so, that is the first thing that we discovered.
The second thing that we then had to discover was once we have started the conversation, what does the consumer most warm to? In terms of the story that we’re telling, is it the product story that they are most warm to? Or is it the founder story that they are most warm to? Which is where again, we realized that the shared journey story of a parent trying to solve this problem, was a very strong motivator for people to sort of build trust in that brand. And so, that made-safe plus that parent story, clearly, was turning out to be the right story to tell, to get into consumer psyches.
The third challenge then we faced was, what is your communication insight? So how do you go about now spreading the story, right? Which is where you have to either figure out a media or you have to figure out a medium. In our case, we were more concerned about finding the medium because we believe that, you know, as a young brand, with limited capital doing media-based pieces can be a high burn game.
And so, when we were looking for a medium, we came across this insight, which told us that early mothers, which are mothers in the first six months, were clearly looking for doctor’s advice. And that’s not the space where we are experts. While mothers with six months plus babies were looking for advice from other mothers – so in their circle, on socials, on WhatsApp groups, and that is what we latched on to, which is this whole insight of ‘moms trust other moms’. And we said, “Hey, this is a medium through which we can tell the story”. And then I still remember in the first three months, Ghazal talked personally to 700 plus vloggers, influencers, and told them the story personally, as to what we were trying to do. That same story which we had crafted, and then used them as the medium to spread the word. And that was the first growth hack that we were able to sort of use to get over this challenge of getting our awareness going.
Ishaan: Very interesting. So I think Paul Graham says, “Do things that don’t scale in the beginning” – sounds like you did a lot of that as well.
Varun: We did. I mean, that said even now when that whole insight of ‘moms trust other moms’ has become insight of ‘millennials trust other millennials’. And we have been using creators and influencers to design the word-of-mouth around our innovative products or our philosophies or the brand purpose philosophy and in spreading that story. So, it’s actually something which has scaled.
Be paranoid about quality
Ishaan: Has scaled for you to this level. Amazing. And Varun, we often see that the journey that a company goes through are two distinct journeys. One is a zero to one journey, which is what you’ve talked about. And then comes the one to 100 journey. And they are very different in terms of the organization or marketing or distribution. So, tell us from being an upstart to today, where you now have 200 plus products, you’ve touched more than five million consumers. You’ve become the fastest ever brand to get to 1000 crores in four and a half years. What are the things that have enabled you to get here?
Varun: I think firstly, I would say the organisation and I have learned so much from partners like yourself who have, in our journey, clearly taught us about how important it is to build for tomorrow rather than building for yesterday. And I believe that is one of the strongest levers, which has worked for us, which is getting the right people on board and getting the right leadership on board, giving them independence and creating, really engaging as well as inspiring ecosystems and cultures through which they can operate and take us to that place we want to reach, so I think that’s the first thing.
The second thing that I would say is just the very basics of brand-building. I mean, starting with the brand proposition, which is as simple as you know – which category are you in? What is the point of difference compared to that category? And what is the reason to believe that consumers should believe you? And having that simple proposition crafted, and then taking that story in different manners, but in simple ways, through different mediums to the consumer. And that story needs to remain consistent across your funnel. You can’t be selling a different story in the awareness funnel, and then a different story in the consideration funnel. The story just needs to remain the same. I think we’ve just been consistent with that simple storytelling and have ensured that we continue to tell that to more and more people over and over again. And that story just then needs to talk to our product performance – which takes me to the third point, which is paranoia about quality.
I think that’s something that we’ve had from early on because we were in the baby product business. Everything that we were developing, we were first checking it on Agastya and not just at the developmental level. When it came, when the manufacturing was happening and it came to our warehouses, it used to first come home. And I still remember Ghazal applying body washes, shampoos in her eyes all the time and checking that there should not be any tears. And then used to apply it on Auggie because we were so paranoid about not letting anyone get a substandard product and that paranoia still stays.
We’re so large, we do almost four million units a month right now. But even today, after five QC checks, the final QC check is, the product comes home, Ghazal checks it personally, and then it gets open for sale. So that paranoia has just been driven down in the organization. Nobody takes shortcuts. And fourth, I believe in innovation. I mean clearly, what you talked about early on as well, that we’ve been using data, we’ve been using technology to learn more about consumers, to learn more about their preferences, to see trends and slopes of what they are searching for, what they’re looking for in our search bars. And on the basis of that, we’ve been innovating and those innovations have clearly fuelled business growth for us. So, I think those four as well, I would say.
Disrupting FMCG incumbents with data and tech
Ishaan: So that’s actually fascinating. Many times people ask us, what’s the difference between a founder-run organization and a professional company, and you know, this is right here. Show me thousand crore brands, where the founders are still testing products on themselves to make sure that consumers are safe! Amazing. But, I want to double-click on one thing you mentioned. You talked about how you are using technology for the scale. Tell us more. Where all is technology showing up in the business? Because this is a business which has historically been a manufacturing plant, a supply chain, then a retailer and the consumer, and then a bunch of TV marketing in the middle. How is this industry changing with technology?
Varun: In fact, Ishaan, I believe, data and technology are core differentiators of why this company is different from the incumbents which existed in the FMCG space. We actually call ourselves TDCG: Technology Driven Consumer Goods company. And you know, at the heart of it, the reason why we exist is because of technology. E-commerce and digital marketing have disrupted the core moats of the FMCG industry in India and for the last 50 years, the deepest moat for large FMCG players was one – numeric distribution and the fact that they could take their products to 25,000 pincodes in India and stores and have direct distribution, which required a very large sales team that a new brand couldn’t just copy. Secondly, the marketing was always available in large chunks and if you had to do TV [ad], you needed such large marketing investments, that that would act as a barrier to entry into the category itself. With e-commerce, where sitting out of one city, you’re able to service 25 to 4,000 pincodes and meet aspirations of consumers who want something sitting at their home – that numeric distribution mode got broken. And the micro and quantum marketing that we are able to do now by social marketing and media, and where we are able to target specific consumers who have a certain interest, where we don’t need to spend millions to reach there, is again a major disruptor. Now on the back of this, we clearly realise that at the heart of the company, we have to build productised strengths. All of the core strengths that we have, for example, if innovation is our strength and we have an entire pillar, or project pillar of products, which is under collaborative innovation, whereby we have the ability to ask consumers, dynamic questions and get over 1000 to 2000 data points every day around what they want. If we had to launch a new ingredient, we can actually dynamically check with them as to which of these ingredients do you love most in this product? If we had to understand from them, which shade of kajal (eyeliner) would they like to buy from us, we can dynamically check that. All of that information comes back to us and we can take the decisions much more intelligently around what to launch and what to forecast. Similarly, personalisation is a big pillar for us and from the experience that the person has when they come onto the app and how it will be differentiated for different people. Two, the fact that once they have taken an action, on our website or an app, how do we market it to them and how does that get automated.
Two – once they have purchased, depending upon the category that they have purchased, depending upon how much they have purchased, depending upon if they purchased in a sale period or a non-sale period, there is a different way we can communicate to them. And so, that again is a technology funnel which we believe clearly differentiates us from others. And three – is, I would say the whole piece of nano-marketing. I come from an FMCG background. I have been brand manager of Coca-Cola and multiple kinds of really large brands. I remember at most of these brands, we used to make these spend profiles, which is this one definition of the ideal consumer that we are targeting – “Tanya, who lives in XYZ city does X, Y, Z things”. And, “Hey, now there are a hundred different kinds of Tanyas who are there”. And they want to hear these messages in their own context. A Tanya who’s a housewife who’s sitting at home versus a Tanya who is a college student who is stepping out in the morning versus a Tanya who is a young jobber and is doing something else. They all need different kinds of context.
Similarly, there are so many different consumer cohorts. So the consumer; the data analysis that we do, and basis which we build these nano cohorts help us market right to different kinds of consumers. So rather than taking the same message to them, we’re able to take very customized messages. In fact, now, we are even customizing for weather. So if Delhi is cold, you will actually see the film which says, ‘“Are you feeling dry in Delhi winters? This is a lotion.”
If you know there are rains in some other parts, it’ll have messaging around mosquitoes, which sort of goes out. So now basis geography, basis weather, basis the kind of consumer preferences, the nano-marketing is just, you know, happening at a very different level. So I think those pieces are clearly going to differentiate us compared to some of the other FMCG companies in the way they have marketed to the consumer.
Ishaan: That’s actually very interesting. You know, when we partner with some of the FMCG companies in the traditional world, one of the key questions we have often heard in the boardrooms is that, we are a business, we’re selling to consumers… But actually we are not; because businesses used to be so far away from the consumer. There were stockists in the middle, a distributor, a retailer. But what is fascinating about your answer is that through each thread, you’re actually connecting better to the consumer – be it product or marketing or distribution. Super interesting.
Use your brand playbook to take on other markets
Ishaan: And Varun, lastly, so now you have this great purpose, phenomenal team, a great foundation, 1000 plus crore of revenue and this amazing technology platform, which is differentiated. What motivates you now? Where is this company headed? Where are you headed? What energizes you? What wakes you up in the morning to start running again?
Varun: We are just getting started, man. I mean, this is a great beginning. Something that I’ve always said to my team as well, is to have a healthy disregard for the past. Everything that you’ve talked about is all past. We have our eyes on the future and we believe there is so much innovation that can happen. There is so much opportunity that exists out there. The market is changing so quickly, and it’ll take time for elephants to move around quickly, while we can run faster and grab some of that. And we have backing of partners like you who are far more attuned to how this is going to shape up and are able to support us in our decisions, and we’re together taking those big risks.
So, I think all of that just excites us with the possibilities and, that possibility of what this could be in 10 years is just so exciting. That’s what makes me wake up every morning and say, “Hey, what’s new? How do we get this growth going? What do we do two years down the line?”
From a vision perspective, I think we would love to hit a billion dollar revenue within this decade. And I don’t think any FMCG company in India has done that in the time that we intend to do it. So I think that’s the bigger vision and we would like to do it in the exact same approach of building purposeful brands. Every brand that we build has a strong purpose and social agenda. So, as we grow and the impact that we will make, be it on the environment or on communities, will be even bigger. And that again is a big satisfaction for us. We are not doing it under the garb of just an ESG (environmental, social, and governance) initiative. This is business as usual for us, the more we grow, the more impact we make.
And secondly, what we want to achieve is to build a house of brands and establish a narrative that what we have built is not just a brand, but a capability to build more brands. And then the playbooks that we have built are replicable across brands – and we’re doing that with the launch of the derma company last year, and we’ve just launched another brand called Aqualogica. Each of these brands are focused on a very different niche, a very differentiated proposition, and they are going to make their own space using the playbooks that we learnt. And the third narrative that we would like to build is, establish the same playbooks in another market, and show how these playbooks are not just meant for India, but are meant for globally further markets as well. And that just then opens up the kind of growth we can see if we can execute this internationally. And fourth, of course, like we discussed, continuing to build all of this strength that we have built. In the form of products, which are technological products that help us execute these playbooks far better and far faster than anyone else. So yeah, these four agendas are the big ones on my list for the next seven years.
Ishaan: That’s phenomenal, Varun. I can tell you, you have the same energy in your eyes that you had many years ago when I met you for the first time, when we were maybe at one crore analyzed revenue. But the same ambition, same energy and more power to you.
Dewi: Varun’s energy and zeal are contagious. And it’s fascinating to see how Mamaearth is doing things differently from FMCG incumbents. Ishaan, based on your time working with Mamaearth, what’s special about them? There are so many things that Varun has just spoken about that makes them really different. But in your opinion, what’s special about them and what did they do particularly well?
Ishaan: Well, there are many things, Dewi, as you can imagine, and that’s why they are where they are. But let me pick three specific things, and Varun has touched upon them in different ways, but let me share what we are able to see as partners. First and right up there on that list, is culture and organization building. We firmly believe that finally people build businesses, and it has been amazing to listen to Varun, Ghazal, and hear their philosophy of what an organization means for them. What people mean for them.
It’s not business first, people second. It’s always people first and then business. That’s how they approach it. So many conversations I’ve had with Varun are about talent density. Which has nothing to do with today, which has nothing to do with tomorrow, as in the next quarter. But it’s true with, “Hey, this is what we’re going to want to be in five years, in 10 years, and are we ready for it? Are we building the right muscle organizationally to achieve that ambition?” And, that is terrific. The second is, a use of technology and we have spoken about that a lot. But let me reiterate. We’ve seen many businesses in this industry, but the way Mamaearth is approaching this and how technology and data is cutting through different functions is beautiful.
Varun talked about a few, but let me tell you, even in not so technology [driven] places, even how the offline sales works, is very technologically driven. It’s very data driven, and see, when businesses scale, gravity catches up. That’s the sole truth. Your mass increases and the gravitational force will increase. Technology is what provides that buoyancy for gravity to catch up slower – for businesses to keep growing, keep compounding at a much healthier pace. And I think that’s a big contributor to Mamaearth achieving this phenomenal scale so fast. I don’t think any other brand comes even close to this. And then lastly, but I would say most importantly is, you know, people say that building a business is a generational affair, and it’s very important for founders and teams to have that mindset. That, as partners, we’ve seen is what Ghazal and Varun have. Rarely any conversation with them is about next month, next quarter. It’s always, “Hey, we’re taking this decision. What will it mean for the long-term future, long-term success of this company?” Whether that’d be on hiring, whether that be on new brands, whether that be on expansion internationally, or new products, or a merger in acquiring new businesses. Every time, it is about the long term and that is really, really good because frankly that’s what matters. I would say those three are truly distinctive for Mamaearth, Varun, and Ghazal.
Perfecting your brand through purpose, quality and consistency
Dewi: Thank you, Ishaan. Now Varun, if you had to give an aspiring founder, just one piece of advice around brand building, what would it be?
Varun: I think my advice would be not to overcomplicate it and a brand is just simply put, an idea of purpose, quality and consistency. And that’s what one needs to get right. Don’t start with trying to build a brand – start with trying to solve a problem. And when you take the solution to the consumer, just hear them, listen to them. They are the ones who will craft your narrative for you. Just that listening would help you understand what they want to hear from you, when you take the pitch to them. And finally, all media and all marketing is human to human communication. If you’re not able to get your message across to another human being across the table in 30 to 60 seconds, then the message probably is not right. Refine it ‘til you’re able to simply put it across to a colleague, to a friend right across the table, in a human to human conversation. And just keep doing it over and over again. Don’t compromise on what your standards are and what you believe in, and the brand will get built over time.
Dewi: Thank you both so much for taking the time to join me here on Moonshot today, and for sharing the story behind Mamaearth and how you’re doing things differently and earning customer trust by living your brand ideals. I’ve been speaking to Varun Alagh, Co-Founder of Mamaearth, and Sequoia India Managing Director, Ishaan Mittal. I’m Dewi Fabbri and you’ve been watching Moonshot. For more interesting startup stories, visit our website sequoiacap.com or follow us on your favorite podcast channel.