#Interviews

How Entrepreneur Eesha Bhatia Is Changing Narratives In The Beauty Industry

Eesha Bhatia interview
Eesha Bhatia grew up in a household of strong women who empowered her to respect generational ideologies and establish new life approaches. When it came to understanding what beauty meant, she learned from her grandma that the first step to navigating it was learning to love oneself and then finding ways to take care of everything we have.

From creating natural products out of her mom’s kitchen at age 6 to building a company that embodies everything she learned along the way, Bhatia has come a long way. She started her company Myra Veda, a mindfully curated marketplace for homegrown, handcrafted & earth-friendly products, that not just supports communities but also shatters delusions of beauty standards.

In an interview with SheThePeople, Eesha Bhatia shares her inspiration behind Myra Veda, how she sticks to authenticity in the ever-evolving beauty industry, and why helping women become contributors to the economy is the way forward.

Eesha Bhatia Interview

What led you to start Myra Veda Organics?

Starting Myra Veda was unplanned and never the intention when I started creating basic natural products out of my mom’s kitchen from the age of 6. I belong to a big joint family with an Ayurveda practitioner grandmother and a world traveller mother. While my grandmom is a priceless knowledge hub, my mother always made it a point to bring back local ingredients traditionally used for beauty and health from every single country she has ever visited. There was always a lot of emphasis on natural techniques to enhance health and beauty in my family. That is not to say that I didn’t have a rebellious phase where I coloured my hair purple but, by and large, Ayurveda played a major role in my upbringing.

Back when WhatsApp mass messages weren’t the guiding force behind major life decisions of people, we had mass forwarded emails and I was truly shocked reading one such email with fear-mongering undertones about a huge list of common chemicals that go into personal care products that are carcinogenic. I was around 12 at the time and had already witnessed a couple of seemingly healthy young people around me pass away from different cancers. Suddenly, everything my family had been saying for the longest time about commercial products made a lot of sense and I walked around with this list to every single store I could find in search of everyday use products that did not contain the said ingredients. Reading product labels became second nature to me and when I couldn’t find a single one without these ingredients was when I knew I had to rely on myself to create them.

My first shampoo substitute was a powdered blend of Shikakai, Amala, Reetha and Bhringraj which was hard to use, time-consuming, messy and drying so that wasn’t a sustainable method. This led me to start studying professional cosmetic science, interning under cosmetic scientists and chemists and reverse engineering commercial formulas while replacing harmful chemicals with natural and nature-derived ingredients. This not only created easy-to-use products that could be compared in terms of ease of usage with commercial products, but they were natural, safe and effective all without the nasties I was hell-bent on eliminating. It became the passion I kept improvising on for years through studies, research, practical experience under experts and experimentation. I had my laboratory by the time I was in my final year of law school. All this time I would share my creations with loved ones mostly because I always had extra and would hate wastage.

Before I knew it, I had people coming to me asking me to create products for specific skin and hair concerns and that only challenged me further. Gradually, via word of mouth, I had a customer base that I was always hesitant to charge. I was then pushed by my loved ones to make my products publicly available through a brand and they seemed quite confident in me. All of it meant switching my career path altogether and dedicating my life to something I wasn’t sure would even work.

There was an article published a couple of years ago that stated that I wanted my own business since I was 6 and while that sounds amazing, it wasn’t the case so I’d like to take the opportunity to rectify that miscommunication through your article.

What were the initial challenges when you first started, and what are the challenges you now face with respect to the Indian market?

The initial challenges were that I was a young girl whom vendors and manufacturers refused to take seriously at first but when I was accompanied by my then-boyfriend (now spouse) to trade shows and meetings, these same people happily entertained us although I was the one with deep knowledge in this field and not him.

What really got frustrating was when I was trying to identify the right FDA-approved manufacturers with whom I’d have to share my intellectual property, and my formulas for them to recreate in their GMP-certified units for the products to be retailed legally. I was deeply disturbed seeing the reality of the Indian beauty industry from the inside whether that was a complete lack of knowledge of many manufacturers or unhygienic conditions in which some of the most popular brands are manufactured, or their highly demoralising opinions on how my formulas were very different from the rest and would never work in India because of high production costs.

The challenges further evolved when a couple of my best-selling formulas were stolen from under one of my few manufacturers, by a competing brand. That’s when I decided I’d set up my manufacturing unit so I wouldn’t have to limit myself based on what a good majority of this industry had to offer.

The challenges I now face are very versatile given that the brand has been in existence for almost 3 years. Since we source our ingredients from all over the world, they sometimes get stuck in customs for far longer than we anticipate thereby disrupting our production plans.

How do you contrive to continue aligning your vision of authenticity given the ever-changing trends in the beauty and skincare industry?

New customer acquisition in an industry full of unethical marketing is a challenge for us since we’re barely left with any marketing budget after we’ve allocated everything to make our products the very best we possibly can. So far, Myra Veda mainly sells on word of mouth of actual product users who love and believe in the true worth of our products.

We’ve been approached by various big investors and some have insisted that we reduce our production costs, but compromising on the quality of our products is something I can never agree with even if that means we might always remain an exclusive niche brand with relatively limited but loyal customers. In that sense, I don’t feel like a true entrepreneur because I’m absolutely not open to making any profit-motivated changes that diminish the very essence and soul of the brand – the finest this world can offer. I’ll say this is a big challenge we face but I’m sure we’ll find more creative ways to reach the right audience and our products will always help us stand out.

My top priority is maintaining the authenticity of the brand, our vision and our philosophy despite all the noise around us that sometimes doesn’t work in our favour given our slightly higher price points and low-profit margins in comparison to most other Indian brands.

Beauty fads just like diet fads come and go so we don’t particularly concern ourselves with new TikTok trends since most of them are not based on science or research, some are harmful and the rest are simply unnecessary. We always keep our eyes open to what is happening but don’t rush to bottle everything we see on the internet just because others have fallen on the bandwagon. A couple of months into the global lockdown we could suddenly see hundreds of new products and brands pop up selling everything that was originally limited to the professional practice of dermatologists, becoming the hottest homecare trends.

The pandemic has seen a shift in the beauty industry with people executing chemical peels, micro-needling and more from the comfort of their homes based on influencer recommendations. While this is empowering in many ways, it has the potential of going seriously wrong and one must be careful using high concentrations of AHAs, BHAs and other potent chemicals on themselves without proper knowledge or guidance. We recognised this shift and started working towards creating advanced formulas with active ingredients for specific targeted action and still haven’t launched them three years later only because we need to be certain of their safety and efficacy, which is why we created them under the guidance of Dermatologists, Trichologists and Ayurvedic doctors. While we strive to keep ourselves updated with the latest global beauty trends and innovations in speciality active ingredients and formulations, we also take our time before launching anything at all. Our main aim is to deliver safe and effective skin and hair care based on Science and Ayurveda with consistency in quality to achieve as well as maintain healthy skin and hair with realistic expectations of the results. Every single launch is preceded by hundreds of people testing the products voluntarily along with professional safety tests.

Our products are gender-neutral and effective with over 50 innovative products in the pipeline currently undergoing microbial and stability tests as we speak, their launch is scheduled for July 2023 onwards. Consumers are far more aware today but there is an equal amount of misinformation as well so we as a brand wish to empower our customers with the right information so they may make an informed choice without falling prey to everything they see on the internet.

How do you plan to revolutionise the Indian market with your business philosophy?

Caring for the skin is as important as caring for any other organ in the body, in fact, our skin is our largest organ that acts as a zip lock bag for our very being. Myra Veda takes its responsibility of creating the most exceptional skin and hair care products very seriously. We invest heavily in our R&D and under the expert guidance of Dermatologists, Trichologists and Ayurveda Doctors create our products that go through hundreds of voluntary human trials by way of focus groups segregated on various parameters, before launching them to the public at large.

We hope to continue doing what we do best in terms of creating honest, clean and transparent beauty, focusing on sustainability which includes our Green Goddess Recycling Initiative and keeps supporting the education of girls in rural India, skill training and employing women in achieving financial independence as well as supporting the welfare of animals. We often try to raise awareness in customers around individual ingredients, common marketing gimmicks they should look out for as well as how their decisions impact their health and well-being as well as the planet in the hope that they make wiser choices, be it with Myra Veda or anyone else as long as they’re making conscious and informed decisions.

What is the way forward in ensuring people don’t get swayed by delusional beauty standards given the boom of social media influencing and a minefield of information available on the internet?

I’m so glad you raised the topic of delusional beauty standards because I’ve fallen victim to it by not just allowing, but loving excessive airbrushing and editing of my first professional photoshoot for a magazine cover. While the outcome looked fantastic and I got showered with compliments, it felt fake and artificial because that is not how I look on a regular Tuesday. I’m not flawless and neither is anyone else for that matter.

A lot goes into even creating these unrealistic standards set by celebrities, influencers, social media, magazines and the whole beauty industry for that matter including, but not limited to professional makeup, lighting, editing, Artificial Intelligence based filters, surgeries and more. These unrealistic beauty standards are dangerously toxic because they have the power to seriously impact one’s mental health, especially younger minds since they automatically get into a comparison mode causing anxiety, negative self-image, poor self-esteem, fear of rejection, depression, anorexia, eating disorders and serious health issues.

This issue is not limited to any gender and pretty much affects anyone spending a significant amount of time scrolling social media. While I started realising this soon after my mild newfound popularity, what made me regret the over-editing was when I realised how some young girls whom I’ve never personally met looked up to me as their role model of sorts and I instantly felt guilty about setting such delusional expectations of how they must look to be socially accepted or perceived as beautiful, powerful or successful.

All my photos and videos of public appearances or anything I’ve posted on my profile thereafter are unedited and I seriously hope that counts for something because you never know whom you’re unintentionally influencing.

“We need to start by not passing judgment on ourselves or others so that we can rightly condition our minds into affirming that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and skin tones, so it starts with us.”

As an entrepreneur, how do you suggest the Indian market can empower more women in leadership positions?

Unfortunately, women in our country are used to ignoring sexist and lewd remarks from men in their workspace. Sexual harassment in the workplace is also far more common than reported because of threats to reputation (victim shaming), life or unfavourable circumstances. By addressing each of these issues with sensitivity and empathy, the Indian market can empower more women to contribute to the economy as well as be in leadership positions. Employees are glorified for not having a life outside of work so the work-life balance that women seek to achieve to manage other responsibilities go out the window.

“Honestly speaking, the work culture in our country is designed around men where unmarried women of ‘marriageable age’ don’t get hired easily, there is general negativity around maternity leave and benefits as well as a clear gender discrimination issue of unequal pay for equal work.”

As an all-women organisation, what transformations have you closely seen with respect to women getting agency as contributors to the economy?

I’ve been fortunate enough to closely observe the transformation of many women gaining agency through financial independence. One that stuck with me, in particular, was that of Parvin Didi, the first hire we ever made. She’s a lovely lady in her 40s who joined as a warehouse executive. Financial independence was of utmost importance to her after she lost her spouse in an accident and was left to support her three children, one of whom is physically and mentally challenged. Her marital family removed her from her rightful property and she was almost willing to get into another marriage for security but, instead, her financial independence helped her sue her toxic family and provide support and shelter to her children again without the need to depend on a man to provide her conditional marital benefits.

“If you look at it, every single independent woman out here has her own inspirational story and I absolutely love being a part of this sisterhood.”

What advice would you give women on their path to entrepreneurship in the field as yours?

Stop listening to naysayers because they will only limit your dreams so get out of your comfort zone, generate employment and be the amazing entrepreneur you’re born to be. If you wish to find a decent and ethical manufacturer with in-depth industry knowledge and advanced formulation support, hit me up and I’d love to collaborate with you!

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