36th anniversary: business tycoon
Varun Alagh, 38 years, Ghazal Alagh, 34 years, Gurugram
Company: maternal uncle
Total assets 3,000 crores
Varun likes to read books, currently he is reading Satya Nadella’s autobiography. love to paint ghazals
Varun and Ghazal meet at their home in The Aralias Society in the Golf Links area of Gurugram. After waiting for a few minutes, Ghazal in a red business suit comes into the lobby and apologizes for the delay, smiling like a typical housewife, “Pets and kids!” This is the success story of Varun and Ghazal. Starts with a guess.
It is evident in the conversation that both the middle-class families have such promising Birwans whom the families dream of sending to institutes like IITs and IIMs. Growing up in Chandigarh, Ghazal studied BCA and Varun studied electrical engineering from Delhi College of Engineering. “But I soon realized that turbines and components weren’t my interest,” says Varun.
After doing his MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur, he worked in the field of marketing in Unilever and then in Coca-Cola. Ghazal started teaching at NIIT even before finishing college. But soon the family fixed her relationship with Varun.
Talking about the beginning of Mamaearth, Varun says, “Everything was going well. I was working with big brands. Ghazal had returned from the New York Academy of Art. We used to travel a lot, go to pubs, do fun things like bungee jumping. But after Agastya came into our lives, we were not the same. We had to choose everything very carefully for the child.
While googling which lotion would be better for baby’s skin or which oil to use for massage, she realized that almost all the products available in India were not safe for babies. Dangerous toxins (poisonous substances) were present in them. They started ordering products from abroad for their child.
Ghazal says, “We were tired of getting all these things from abroad. We were constantly thinking that we should do something about it. We were surprised that no one was even talking about this problem in India. Then we started our research.
But leaving a high paying job and starting a job that had neither much experience nor any idea of the future, it was not easy. It was very difficult to convince the family for this. Varun explains, “I didn’t want to regret that after crossing 50, I got scared of challenges.
In 2016 I quit my job and we decided to work on our product. Took chemistry class for this, understood things. Made a panel of many dermatologists. We gave ourselves one year that if we fail then it is okay.
But there were other difficulties too. Varun and Ghazal wanted to work with the best of the industry but why would they all choose Mamaearth? In such a situation, his passion came in handy. He convinced the people why it was necessary to make Mamaearth.
Varun recalls, “After family and friends, Kanwaljeet, the first investor to put his money into Mamaearth, just told us, ‘You are the right people, you will do something.’ The idea will evolve with time.
Along with creating a toxin-free product, they also had to see why mothers would trust that their products were truly toxin-free. For this, he contacted Medsafe.org, an NGO that certifies safe and chemical-free products.
After developing the products, the next challenge was to take them to the market. For this, initially they set up stalls outside shops selling children’s goods in South Delhi. Talked to mothers whether they would buy toxin-free products for their children?
But many times the answer would be that what would be free with it. Mothers who were writing blogs related to child-rearing were contacted. Thus the initial sales started after a lot of buzz about the company and its products. Then there was no shopping cart on Mamaearth’s website. Just the information about the product was present.
Varun wanted to create a brand that gives people solutions to their common problems and is also relatable. He says, “I’ve always loved brands for whom the ‘why’ was more important than the ‘what’. We paid attention to the ‘why’ while making Mamaartha. We listened carefully to our own needs and those of those around us, and realized that there was a huge market for toxin-free, natural ingredients.”
Mamaearth is currently launching a variety of products for everyday use, from Hing Roll On for small children, natural ubtan for adults to chemical free mosquito repellants. Babycare brand has now become personal care brand. His success can be gauged in such a way that despite the lockdown in 2020, the company’s revenue increased from Rs 17 crore to Rs 110 crore.
Varun and Ghazal have a lot of emphasis on planning in order to distribute the work both at home and in business. Varun explains, “We plan everything in advance. From feeding the kids to business meetings. Apart from this, we never hesitate to ask for help or say thank you to each other. Varun is very fond of reading and is currently reading Satya Nadella’s autobiography. Ghazal does painting but is not able to find time between children and business.