Soulflower eyes international expansion; to enter UK and UAE markets

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Soulflower, India’s leading brand for skin, hair, wellness and personal care products, has successfully created a market for niche lifestyle products in India. The company stocks over 250 products derived from pure, natural and organic herbs, fruits, vegetables and flower extracts. The 100 per cent vegan company’s products are free from harmful chemicals, halal certified and made of natural ingredients which are sourced from sustainable locals resources. Beside being available through the brick-and-mortar stores and e-retail portals, it also retails through its brand e-commerce site.
In an interview with Salon International, Managing Director, Soulflower, Amit Sarda shares the future plans for hair and beauty category:-
What inspired you to foray into the Hair and Beauty category?
Soulflower as a brand has evolved from my love for nature, and that we can all benefit from nature. Soulflower is not just a products-based company, but a solutions-based brand that addresses the concerns and provides natural solutions in the form of products. We realised that most products available in the market in the hair and skin category were chemical-based. Also, the body and beauty products were either Ayurvedic in nature or were artificially scented, and soaps that were extremely harsh on the skin. Our hope was to make consumers aware about the ill effects of using them, and instead wanted to offer natural and organic options. Our foray into personal care was in anticipation of the need of the customer for quality products that they did not know even existed.
What is Soulflower’s USP?
The idea behind Soulflower is to bring delight in people’s lives through our natural personal care products. We Indians love aroma in everything, and as a brand, we noticed that it was sorely missing in personal care. We saw an immense opportunity here as people wanted to indulge in it, however, the only option that they had was heading to a spa. We decided at this point to create a range of products, which would give them the feeling of being in a spa, but within the convenience of their homes, and we coined the [email protected] Over the years, we have evolved to broadly cover hair and skin care solutions for the aspiring urban populace. The USP is not just about our products, but the way it brings smiles to the customer. Soulflower believes in designing experiences that address the health and wellness aspects of life, while adding a wow element to it.
There are several players in the beauty and hair category. How do you plan to stay ahead of competition?
A decade and a half ago when Soulflower began its journey, we had the conviction that nature has the answer to our daily personal care issues. We knew that consumers will gradually understand the benefits and value of using an all-natural product versus the chemical induced products. So today, many FMCG players have entered this segment having realised that people are re-orienting their choices towards healthy and better offerings. This trend is working in our favour, as it only reinstates our position as the pioneer in the hair and skin care category. More importantly, our existing customers have experienced the efficacy of our products and are loyal to the brand. We will continue to make products that are based on natural science and have pure ingredients, including essential and carrier oils, as against a majority of chemical-based products that have Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS), paraben, and ammonia.
Besides being true to our ideology, we are also reaching out to our customers by expanding our retail presence. We are already available at many of the general trade outlets including local stores, retail outlets and pharmacy stores. What was previously perceived to be as ‘aspirational’ is today ‘need based’, and Soulflower is making itself as accessible to its customers as possible.
When you were launching the new range, what were some of the challenges you were up against?
When we first launched our soaps, since they are 100 per cent vegetarian and handmade soaps, they appeared so beautiful they were misunderstood for candles by many. However, it was more of a compliment than a challenge and with the right kind of packaging, customers were able to identify with what it actually was.
What does the product portfolio comprise of?
Broadly, under personal care Soulflower’s product portfolio comprises of solutions for skin care, hair care, and aromas. For each of these, we offer an array of over 200 natural products including soaps, essential oils, carrier oils, massage oils, hair oils, oils for skin, and bath salts.
How many SKUs are there?
We have around 150 SKUs
What is the marketing strategy adopted?
The marketing pivots strongly around clearly communicating the value proposition of our products with the associated efficacy. We work on delighting consumers through experience, which begins right from the product selection stage to after having used it. We also study the behavioural patterns of our consumers based on their star signs, weather data, and more, and suggest appropriate products to them.
How have you priced the products in the new category?
The pricing across all our products including any new introductions are aggressively priced at par with the market. The economies of scale have always helped us in remaining cost competitive and pass the benefit of reduced pricing to the consumer while never compromising on quality standards.
Where all will they be available?
Soulflower products are available at Shoppers Stop, Hypercity, Westside, and One Stop stores, among other modern retail outlets. Besides these, we are gradually penetrating the market locally and Soulflower products will soon be available at your nearest general retail outlet as well. They are also available across all popular e-commerce sites, along with our own experiential website www.soulflower. Biz.
Please tell us about the manufacturing unit.
We have two manufacturing units in Andheri East in Mumbai, and Pondicherry.
There is a demand for ‘organic’ skin care products. What are the certifications that Soulflower has garnered?
Soulflower is Halal certified, and is compliant to US FDA, India FDA, and PETA.
What is the market size captured by Soulflower?
Since a bulk of our products is sold online, we can confirm a 25 per cent market share in the hair oil category. Also, we are the second in selling volumes at Shoppers Stop, located across India.
What are your plans for the brand in FY2017-18?
We are all set to become a household brand, and in this pursuit, we have begun expanding our market network. We plan to become available through 6,000 local stores, retail outlets and pharmacy stores, which is a first of its kind retail expansion in the segment, in the country. This will mark Soulflower’s entry into new regions across India, and we aim to accomplish this goal within this financial year. We are eyeing expansion in the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates, initially through the online channel. It is our goal that our consumers experience Soulflower at least thrice a day through our products.
What are your views on the skin and hair care industry of India?
Skin and hair care are both niche categories in the FMCG personal care segment. There is wide choice of products available, however it is unorganised. Skin care needs solutions that factor in a variety of dynamics such as the weather, the topography, the pollution levels, the types of skin of the user, among others. Many of the products available use chemicals and artificial preservatives that are toxic for the body and health. Interestingly, skin is the largest living organ of our body, but it is grossly neglected by humans and the makers of skin care products in the country. Today, the outlook of the customer is changing, and a significant percentage of people are switching to products that are better for their wellbeing. We see a huge potential in this category with products that are natural, and efficient.

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