Tanushree Ishani D & Pooja Karegoudar: New Faces in the Indian Beauty Products Industry

Tanushree Ishani D & Pooja Karegoudar,Co-FoundersThere is a lot more than the usual `Neem Tulsi' `Honey Almond' combinations that they see on every body-care product label. Tanushree Ishani D and Pooja Karegoudar observed that the people deserve to be aware and to understand this. Thus began their entrepreneurial journey. Tanushree alongside Pooja Karegoudar laid the foundation to a body care startup and called it BodyCafé. Having entered the industry on their own merit, using their own savings, the duo did not have any god father or mentor to give them a launch or that `push'.

It's interesting the way two mavens, despite their distinct backgrounds, found their way into building a brand and a culture; thanks to their passion for natural grooming products. Tanushree was introduced to entrepreneurship when she started leading the Entrepreneurship cell `Initium' in her college, Mount Carmel Bangalore, where she was pursuing B.A in Psychology, Economics & Sociology. She joined Goldman Sachs in 2010, soon after her under graduation and quit in 2012. She pursued her MSc in Organisational Psychiatry & Psychology from King's College, London and her research dealt with “How Appraisal affects motivation in India & UK” Her Postgraduate research was published as a book by Lambert Academic Publishing. Soon she headed to India and joined Lookup as the country head HR. Later, Tanushree learnt that women entrepreneurs were being stereotyped of not being SMEs in departments like Sales or Business development or Strategy. Nevertheless, now with Body Café, Tanushree Ishani is getting an opportunity to change that perception slowly and steadily.

Pooja Karegoudar the Co founder of BodyCafé, is an engineer by qualification and was previously the founder of an event management company called CircleTheDate. A self-taught home baker, she loves to innovate with ingredients and come up with new recipes. This motivated her to study more about for-gotten ancient Indian ingredients and how they can be brought together to make grooming and wellness products. Her extensive knowledge and thorough understanding of ingredients enable her to come forward with unique creations for BodyCafé.

Comprehensive Suite of Products
BodyCafé offers a wide range of products that are categorised under beauty, wellness, home range, child-care and pet care. Under the beauty section the startup caters to three major categories, viz, Facial Care, Body Care and Hair Care. These products are further classified under Lifestyle range for everyday use, and Spa & Luxury range to help one treat oneself to a revitalising spa experience. BodyCafé also provides bespoke hampers and travelling kits of its products so that nothing comes in between them and a healthy lifestyle.
What is unique about the products is that they apply the science of Healing Aromatherapy which means that in addition to catering to users' grooming needs, they also aspire to offer them an overall sense of emotional well being via their products. "Mental health is severely ignored. We wanted to come up with products that help one strike a fine balance between Vanity and Sanity", says Tanushree. Pooja added, "For instance, we have a Lily of the Valley Body Butter that has a calming aroma to help you get good sleep, lessen feelings of anxiety".

What is very impressive is that every product is handmade which ensures there is no compromise on the quality of the ingredients used.

What is unique about the products is that they apply the science of Healing Aromatherapy which means that in addition to catering to users' grooming needs, they also aspire to offer them an overall sense of emotional well being via their products

Overcoming the Odds
The journey so far has been challenging yet nurturing for the founders. "It is tough to mention all challenges that we have experienced so far, but the toughest challenge is undoubtedly going to be the one yet to be encountered." says Tanushree (Founder), BodyCafé. It was not easy for them to start their journey in an otherwise risk aversive environment. Both the founders were concerned about the fact that as a startup they have a huge financial crunch or bandwidth. But they are moving ahead slowly and steadily. As the company was launched a year ago, founders faced few challenges such as lack of accountability and commitment from vendors, a generic lack of passion or enthusiasm, time not being respected and the most important of all, financial crunch- given its a startup. The biggest challenge and learning has been the global pandemic Covid19 and the founders had to up their game manifold overnight. "It was not an easy task but we decided to test our limits. We were the first and only brand amongst our contemporaries to introduce 80% alcohol hand sanitizers. We also kept in mind the geriatric population and expecting mothers. So we infused the goodness of Aloe Vera, Basil & Oregano extracts that are known for their antiviral and antibacterial properties. While most thought we wanted to cash in the opportunity, we actually brought down the prices on humanitarian grounds", says Pooja. The duo employs victims of domestic and marital abuse to bottle and package their products.

"Ever since the onset of Coronavirus, we have been packed with orders for our hand sanitizers. We have catered to reputed corporates, state police departments, hospitals and pharmacies and to direct clients across India. It is heart warming and overwhelming to have users send us their pleasant experiences and how we have helped them during times when most pharmacies have been out of stock. We have had mothers thanking us for making sanitizers suitable for kids under parental super-vision, we have had clients ordering for their parents and helpers. Though not publicly, we have also donated sanitizers to orphanages and old age homes. Our e commerce platforms have seen a sharp spike in their sales as well because of our hand sanitizers. But there is a flip side as well. Our staff who help us in packaging and bottling are victims of domestic abuse so we had to take care of them as well. The prices of raw materials quadrupled which means we are in acute crunch to keep the show running. Logistics have been an absolute nightmare for us as we had to incur heavy losses due to delay in response from their end," responded Tanushree.

On asking them about their expansion plans the duo responded that it is very challenging to keep a self sustaining business running. "We are looking to raise funds. Our company has witnessed a 6x growth since last year, we have recurring clients, our clientele is completely organic. This minimises a huge risk on investors because we would be utilising the funds for expansion and client acquisition", added Tanushree.

Tanushree and Pooja are constantly studying about Indian ingredients and understanding their benefits. They have planned to launch a new face serum soon and have spent a lot of time on research and testing its efficacy. They are confident and hoping that the product is going to be one of the best face serums in the market.