How Amit Sarda and Natasha Tuli have built skin and hair care brand - Soulflower

#founder - India's 1st Preservative Free brand providing cruelty-free skin & haircare solutions for over 20 years.

YC - What is your background? What motivated you to start the company and what is it all about?

Amit - I had an early entrepreneurial start, founding the apparel brand Ruf & Tuf at the age of 16, becoming the youngest CEO of a BSE listed company. This early start built on my experience and saw my entrepreneurial journey navigate a wide spectrum of industries such as apparel, automotive, textiles, handicrafts, and personal care. Natasha, our co-founder, is a formally trained architect specializing in landscape design. Her extensive work travels introduced her to the world of essential oils and the benefits of natural extracts. This knowledge coupled with a need to make such benefits accessible to everyone led to the conception of natural beauty and aromatherapy brand that broke the adage of natural ayurvedic skincare being boring and smelly is how Soulflower came to be

Introducing people to the benefits of nature in beauty offerings while addressing their skin and hair concerns at competitive prices was the driving factor behind Soulflower and 20 years later, we are still motivated by providing our customer’s efficacy-driven solutions to all their skin and hair concerns.

YC - Could you please share with our readers about your core team and their roles:

  1. What is the current Team Size - Our current team consists of 70 members. 

  2. Team Roles - Our Team is divided based on functional roles and channels. Primarily, our business is subdivided into Retail Channel, Online, and B2B.

Manufacturing, raw material procurement, NPD, and design aspects are taken care of by Natasha. While I handle Ecommerce and Retail Sales, for both domestic and international marketplaces. 

YC - As a founder what primary functions are you responsible for, basically how typically you spend your day in the office?

Amit - My day starts with reviewing our business marketplaces and channel-wise reviews. Team reviews and scrum meetings are a must both internally and with external stakeholders, I believe the key to business growth is our relationship with our partners. As mentioned, my responsibility is to make sure the team reaches its target and numbers. Every day I work towards ensuring that we have the best realization possible and work on our annual target plan. 

YC - Have you used social media platforms to promote your products or services? Which channels have been very effective for your business? Which marketing channels have been super flops for your business?

Amit - Yes, we have ensured visibility on all social media platforms. We promote our products through Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube primarily. We use Facebook and Instagram to increase reach and drive business, Youtube however has worked the best for us in terms of return on investment. Video content has worked well for us and has a longer lifetime value.

YC - What according to you is the USP of your product or service, for which your customers come back to you?

Amit - Our USP remains efficacy-driven Beauty and Personal Care made of natural ingredients and simple processes that make sure the key benefits of the formulation remain intact. Besides this, customer delight is integral to all our activities. Curating enjoyable customer experiences and delivering exemplary services is extremely important to us &  NPS is a key performance metric for all our managers.
Our methods and values have remained unchanged since our inception and we have always been motivated by delivering the best to our customers and that I feel has reflected in the consistency of our offerings, building a trust which keeps our customers coming back. 

YC - Can you elaborate on the challenges you faced in promoting your business?

Amit - As mentioned above use the platforms above to promote the business along with other channels. The challenge with promotions today is vying for customer attention in a period of limited attention spans and content overload everywhere. Ascertaining to the right target audience is difficult and can often be a hit or miss situation. Besides that, providing information about the brand and product in ways that stick is something we are always thinking about.

 Also, the costs of promotion are very high. Ironically, increased spends have seen a decreased return on investment, therefore non-linear optimization of promotional activities is key. 

YC - Do you use any tools or software to manage your business? Is there any problem in your day-to-day operations which you wish could be solved with the help of software?

Amit - We use multiple tools such as HRMS – Human Resources management System /CRM, MRP - Material Resource Planning.  Each Platform or business function requires a unique tool to streamline the process and make the best use of the information we have. This helps us make better and thoughtful business decisions. I think it’s key for business owners and businesses to utilize software and tools that help them empower decision-making. Considering the complexities involved in the FMCG business and Omni Channel presence with a diverse product portfolio, these tools are integral for our business. 

YC - What is the current traction? Can you share some numbers on your order volume, number of customers, and revenue?

Amit - We do not share numbers because of the sensitivity of the information, however, we get anywhere around  5000 daily visitors on our website. Considering a bare minimum conversion rate of 10%, we fulfill 500 orders per day on our website. Our performance on other e-commerce platforms is in constant flux and managing this multi-platform presence definitely keeps us on our toes. 

Overall, the beauty market has immense potential, and the traction has been wonderful. It's high time ECOM first brands zero in on reaching out to the customer with ease and while making the best use of the technology to penetrate the market.

YC - Based on your experience so far would you have any advice for new Entrepreneurs.

Amit - Be fearless, but make more rational decisions. Entrepreneurs of today need to really think about whether their idea truly provides solutions to any existing pain points in a service or product. Strong business frameworks, team strength, and a sense of ownership among team members, an analytical mindset that is preparation-oriented and foresightedness that enables you to envision the future of your business will help you navigate your entrepreneurial journey. 

“To sum it up – A strong concept backed by a rational approach is key to entrepreneurial success. “