Vedic's Sandhya Sakuja Spills the Beans on the Secret to Creating a Successful Personal-Care Brand in India

A veteran in the Indian skin-care and retail sector, Sandhya is currently the Director of Vedic Cosmeceuticals, a contract manufacturer of high-quality personal care products. In an in-depth conversation Sandhya takes us through the most impactful trends in the Indian personal-care industry and her journey of leading Vedic.

Indians take personal grooming very seriously; as is evident through the phenomenal growth in the Indian personal care and cosmetics industry. In 2021 India ranked fourth globally for the highest revenue from the beauty and personal care market. A lot of this growth has been brought on by the drastic change in lifestyles along with increased consumer awareness. A contemporary consumer is much more aware about global market trends, products and self-grooming than his/her older counterpart.

Sandhya Sakuja, Director of Vedic Cosmeceuticals, a contract manufacturer of high-quality personal care products in the skincare, hair-care, baby care, and intimate care segment tells us more about the industry’s growth. “The cosmetics market in India has a market value of $6.5 billion and is predicted to increase at a rate of 22 percent by 2025. It makes up more than 20 percent of India's consumer packaged goods market,” says Sandhya.

These inflating statistics are riding on a number of market factors. Sandhya further explains, “Today we see an increase in new product developments in the market and a host of multi-purpose products have been launched. There are low entry barriers in the market for new brands, fluidity of funding is on the rise and there is an increase in Research & Development activities. Over the past few years e-commerce has also grown stronger bringing access & reach to tier 2/3/4 / cities and even rural areas. These factors combined have provided a massive boost to the Indian personal care and cosmetics industry”.

Sandhya also believes that other than these market forces it is today’s consumers who are also adding to the said industry’s growth. People today are exposed to international lifestyle content which has caused a widespread increase in awareness about self-grooming trends. Men especially have become a part of the personal care segment. With consumers being aware of global trends the demand for organic cosmetics and innovation in packaging has been on the rise as well says Sandhya. 

Homegrown Brands & the Need for Innovation

Armed with over 15 years of experience in the skin-care and retail sector Sandhya is uniquely positioned to understand the pulse of the personal care and cosmetics industry. Speaking about industry trends and the influence of international brand in the Indian space she explains, “The global cosmetics market is ruled by a few conglomerates. Although these brands were hugely successful in India, domestic competitors are starting to catch up, with newer, organic products. She further says that foreign brands were unable to meet the demand for products suitable for Indian skin types, opening the door for local businesses to promote their homemade cosmetics and personal care products.

India is currently witnessing a boom in terms of homegrown cosmetic brands. “As the beauty and personal care industry is booming, many young entrepreneurs are establishing cosmetics and beauty businesses to gain market share, establish themselves and earn more profit. Therefore there are plenty of beauty and cosmetic brands available in global and domestic markets with a variety of features and options,” says Sandhya. However, she believes that quality and performance is what differentiates these thousands of brands and millions of cosmetic products.

In order to establish themselves these brands require a lot of product innovation says Sandhya. There must be an aggressive focus on clean beauty and the products must be made more affordable as well so as to hit the bottom of the pyramid. “The Indian market lacks innovation in packaging; we have to work towards sustainable packaging for the beauty and personal care product market,” says Sandhya.

Cracking the Code to taking an Idea to Product

Founded in 2002 by Mohit Goel, Vedic Cosmeceuticals works with such upcoming brands and entrepreneurs by rendering end-to-end service, right from the idea and concept to the inception of the product.

Sandhya came on-board Vedic in 2012 and since then has built upon her knowledge of consumer behavior theory and brand trends in the personal care industry to help the company go from a manufacturing-first B2B to one that provides holistic solutions, beginning with ideation and product development before we enter the production stage.

“Vedic, with its location, always had the disadvantages of better price offering, vis a vis competitor, on grounds of applicable excise,” narrates Sandhya. Upon coming on-board she realized that there was a need to work on creating a competitor advantage. “Most of the startups and new entrants required more than just production. They needed hand holding with product formula, positioning, mapping of actives and storytelling, and guidance on packaging, and regulations,” she adds.

Expounding about her core focus at Vedic, Sandhya explains, “The core focus post joining was on creating formulations in line with existing trends to capture more and more customer share in the B2B space. We have been able to offer ready product lines for instant go-to markets for not only start-up businesses but also established brands.”

Coming from a hard-core retail background and product experience, Sandhya understood what is required from start to finish for a new brand to launch and take off. “Hence, we started to focus on developing in-house formulas bearing global trends. With an understanding of brand positioning and expertise in retail regulation, we were able to set up a competent team and provide more than just production service,” adds Sandhya. In a short period, she was able to steer Vedic into becoming a one-stop-shop solution for startups in the personal care space.

Sandhya has also been instrumental in setting up robust R&D infrastructure, Vedic labs, with a future vision of having it off as a separate business model.

Approach to Problem Solving

Every business leader has a unique process for solving challenges and roadblocks. Sandhya believes in focusing on solutions and not on problems. “It is always better to work on a solution-oriented approach and invest energy in solutions. We have believed in forward-looking teamwork and a people-centric approach to optimize your team’s morale and productivity. Treating Vedic as an incubator for self-driven entrepreneurs and independent thinkers and helping develop problem solvers, and not mere employees has been our approach,” explains Sandhya.

Looking back at her journey Sandhya reminisces, “We have started from the kitchen of our house using a mixer and grinder for creating the right combination, so for us learning through mistakes is important. Everyone tends to make mistakes, so we prefer to learn and re-learn from our mistakes and reach the right decisions.”

Speaking about her advice for young entrepreneurs she says, “Let your fears not take over your decision-making capabilities. Always have faith and persistence; keep doing what you’re doing – keep at it. Discard all inhibitions about any fears you have from past failures”. 

Her parting words are sound advice for business and life in general, “Be ruthless in your business, but maintain your empathy in people management.”