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You are here: ET Home » New s » Emerging Businesses » Startups 31 DEC, 2012, 08.00AM IST, MILAN SHARMA,ET BUREAU

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How 'Rustic Art' has tapped Indian market for organic, bodycare products
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The setting is rustic, but there seems nothing artistic about making bodycare products. So, the name Rustic Art seems rather incongruous for a firm that makes sunscreen lotions, healing oils, shampoos, biodegradable washing powder, bathing soaps, baby lotions, baby massage oils, hair oils, etc? The art, however, lies in nurturing a concept that has enabled the production of eco-friendly products and Rs 12 lakh in the first year of operations. The company is the brainchild of 43-year old Sunita Jaju, who has a master's degree in sustainable development from Manipal University, and her 25-year-old niece Swati Maheshwari. The idea took root in December 2010 and it took barely a month to formalise it into a company based at Satara, Maharashtra. "My aunt has been involved with eco-friendly activities, and in fact, we make and use sustainable alternatives to chemical-based products at home. We only had to find someone to do it on a large scale," says Maheshwari, who completed her MBA from the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management in Pune, in 2011. They found what they were looking for at Auroville, Puducherry, in the form of 12 local women. The process started in December 2010, when they travelled to Auroville, and on talking to the locals, found that they made eco-friendly products of high quality, all of which were exported. Realising that they could tap the Indian market with these products, they immediately commissioned three women to make organic bathing soaps for them. Since the soaps don't use preservatives and are made by cold processing, the first batch was ready in three weeks. Jaju invested Rs 1 lakh from her savings and the company took off in January. Since their's was a new brand, it took a lot to convince the retailers to put up their products on shelves. Another issue that cropped up was regarding bar coding. "We should have researched on it, but didn't, and ended up wasting a lot of time since we had to redo the packaging from scratch," says Maheshwari, who looks after packaging, branding and marketing. Their first retailer was a store, Either Or, in Pune, while the first big order, worth Rs 97,000, came from a retail chain in Bangalore, in June 2011. Thereafter, word spread and they started getting repeat orders, which resulted in a revenue of Rs 12 lakh for 2011-12. Today, they earn Rs 4 lakh a month and their products have found a pan-India market, including Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Dehradun, Chandigarh, among others. They ship to 100 retailers, including online stores. Since Maheshwari stays in Pune, and Jaju at Satara, the two meet once a week to take stock, even as Jaju makes frequent trips to Pune to source handmade paper for packaging. Jaju also has a 3,000 sq ft godown at Satara to keep the stock and has employed four people to look after supply and shipment. They've also hired a designer and a distributor in Bangalore to take care of the south Indian market. Since the rest of the work—brochures, website and shipping orders—is done from home, it helps cut down operational costs. The duo expects to break even in two years and is expecting a turnover of Rs 50 lakh in the next fiscal year. They are working on perfecting their packaging, even as they plan to enter the cosmetics space and expand operations in rural India.

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