Bindu Chopra dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur at the age of 52, and five years ago she ventured into the handmade and natural soap business.
“I started with 8,000 rupees from my pocket. I had no support – neither physical nor financial – to run the business. I thought “I have to”. It was a challenge within me. If the product is good, how does it sell? ”Says Bindu Chopra, founder of Ahad, a natural cosmetics startup that she runs from her home.
To begin with, Bindu converted two rooms in her house into a studio for herbal and organic products like soaps, creams, face washes, etc. Bindu says that she is sourcing her products from her friend, who is now a business partner and makes all the products in her kitchen.
“I am a Passionpreneur.” I just can’t sit idle. I have to do some work. So I will get a new opportunity everywhere, ”says the 59-year-old entrepreneur, who was moving from one city to another as her father used to transfer due to her job.
Bindu told Yourstory that at the age of 42, after marrying her son, he decided to fulfill her desire to get further education. She was unable to study earlier due to family responsibilities. Later, she studied for four years and became a clinical hypnotherapist specializing in aura and cycle healing. She also established her own clinic. However, she had to close the clinic and relocate because her husband got a lucrative job in Africa.
While in Africa, in 2008, Bindu was introduced to a woman who sold handmade soaps. He developed an interest in these small aromatic and natural blocks of soap and established a little retail business. To begin with, she would buy from the woman and sell to others.
After returning to India, Bindu decided to venture into full-fledged entrepreneurship and started Ahad in Delhi-NCR in 2015.
A glimpse of Ahad Studio which Bindu has set up in her house.
For Bindu, the desire to launch its own line of skincare products was also ignited by the need to create affordable skincare products that are natural and pure.
She was replaced by the marketing “Fair is Beauty” which the brand employed. She followed this beauty standard because being a shade darker than her brother often led people to question whether they were in fact siblings. For them, beauty was the opposite of market hype, and it inspired them to enter this highly tattered competitive market, in which big and small players are emerging very rapidly.
According to a Nielsen report, the natural segment constitutes one-third of the personal care segment and is expected to have 45 percent of the market share in 2020.
Entrepreneurship is a difficult path. There are innumerable challenges and obstacles, but it is not easy to build a business in such a tight market. Especially for Bindu, the challenges were tough as she was flying solo in this journey. But he never gave up and her confidence in her products made many fine customers.
Talking about starting a business, she says, “It was very difficult. At first, my family felt that it was not going to work. They felt that no one would come home to pick up the products and that what I was selling at home would be known. So that was my biggest challenge – to tell them that my product was good and if someone likes it, they’re going to get me more customers and that’s exactly what happened. ”
“I have ten first customers who have made 210 customers for me today,” she says, referring to her WhatsApp group that now has 210 women who have become her regular customers.
Bindu faced other challenges when it comes to packaging and pricing. They had minimal packaging and used kite papers to make carry bags for products. They invested their money in products rather than “wasting” them on the packaging. They also found it difficult to convince some consumers why their products were slightly more expensive than everyday products. They did not have the capacity to buy in bulk and make 400–500 soaps at a time, and thus, the prices were high. Her100–125 grams of soap is sold for Rs 235, while her cream is sold for Rs 250 and above.
Bindu started with just soap and a new category was added every year to gradually expand the business. Today, they have 30 varieties of soaps, 13 creams, four shampoos, face wash and uptan. They have started using social media to expand their orders and courier products.
Products of Ahad
However, in four and a half years of conducting the business, Bindu has never kept a tab of profits. She says that its amount can be around 3 lakh rupees.
“When I say that I have not been able to save anything, I am very honest. I never kept any record. For me, if I sell for Rs 20,000, then around Rs 15,000 goes back into business, and I keep Rs 2,000 for myself, and Rs 3,000 for stationery. ”
In November this year, Bindu will turn 60 years old. While most professionals may think of retirement, Bindu is not letting age become a hindrance. She still continues to do the bulk of all business from morning to night. She starts work at 10 am, takes a 20-minute lunch break, and often finishes work at midnight.
Pasting labels on products, clicking photos, putting them on social media, packaging, cataloguing, paying, making couriers, communicating with customers, etc. are all things they need to tickle every day.
“I don’t think anyone realizes how much work it does when you handle business on your own. But then you sleep well because you know your customers are loving your product and So you’re doing a lot of work, “says Bindu.
Even though in the epidemic she did not manufacture and sell for three months, she had eager customers who wanted to re-stock. In June, when they resumed work, demand was out of stock, and their shelves emptied in the blink of an eye.
In June the sale lasted for three months with no sales. Bindu has new plans and strategies for Ahad and hopes that one day she can get investment to expand the business.
She is introducing new products such as pottery, candles, and soap designed for children for the festive season, etc.