Ghazal Alagh (32) was deeply concerned when she had her baby – Agastya, now five years old. She didn’t want to use baby products that were loaded with carcinogenic chemicals, and to her surprise, there were hardly any brands in India offering safe products . Eventually, they had to source products from the US.
“We had become these ‘Google’ parents; we would search for everything online. We were clear that we didn’t want to use any products that had chemicals, which were banned abroad but were being widely used in India. At that time, there was not even a single brand that was talking about toxins,” she recollects.
And that’s how Ghazal and her husband Varun Alagh decided to launch Mamaearth. In December 2016, the startup was born as the solution to their problems related to baby care and, over time, started catering to mothers’ needs too.
The journey of Mamaearth
Ghazal claims that there are several reasons why Mamaearth is a cut above the rest - it is Asia’s first Made Safe certified brand, cruelty-free, PETA-certified, and plastic-positive (they recycle more plastic than they consume). There is an exhaustive list of 800 ingredients that they stay away from.
Yet, one of the biggest challenges that the brand faced was to convince different stakeholders, be it mothers or manufacturers.
“It was difficult for people to trust a new brand coming into the market, instead of just going for the age-old brands. Also, convincing manufacturers to work with a limited set of ingredients was no easy task,” explains Ghazal.
As an organisation, they also believe in being compassionate towards the environment, and has a plantation drive steered by employees. “Every employee who joins the organisation has to plant a tree and take care of it,” says Ghazal.
Today, the brand claims to have sold over one million products to more than 500,000 customers across India, and counts actor Shilpa Shetty among its investors.
Before launching Mamaearth, Ghazal got her first taste of entrepreneurship in 2012, when she started Dietexpert.in, a health and wellness website that provided customised meal plans to consumers. The bootstrapped venture failed, but Ghazal got her fair share of learnings.
Prior to that, she was working at NIIT Chandigarh (her hometown) as a developer, and then moved the ranks, to become a corporate trainer.
She left her job in 2010 when her husband had to move to Manila for work and she wanted to move with him. “That’s when I decided to delve deeper into my passions,” says Ghazal, who graduated in Information Technology from Panjab University.
Born into a business family, Ghazal was conditioned to take risks from the very beginning. But if there’s one lesson that has stayed with her - it is about women taking charge of their own lives, and being independent.
“My mother would always say it is difficult for women who are not independent to survive in a fast-changing world, and that stuck with me,” says Ghazal.
Love for arts
The mompreneur also has a romantic side to her. As a child, Ghazal had aspired to be an artist; but as she grew up, she decided to venture into the corporate world.
“I was termed the best artist of my school, and I took that very seriously. I always had a passion for arts, I was doing graffiti at the age of 10 and 12. But as I grew up, you want to experience the corporate life, you want to be competitive,” she says.
Much later, her husband, Varun sent some of Ghazal’s best works to the New York Academy of Arts, and she received a call for a summer internship in 2013. That’s where she studied Modern Art, Design and Applied Arts.
“When I came back to India after six months, I started exhibiting in India. Even today, I have a small gallery, which has all my artwork. Whenever I get a chance to paint, I do it,” says Ghazal.
Striking a balance
On being asked if there are any similarities between Ghazal, the entrepreneur and mother, she says, “As an entrepreneur, I am more strict with myself and people around me, compared to Ghazal, the mother. But I am resourceful and compassionate, both as a mother and entrepreneur.”
As a new-age mother, Ghazal ensures that she gives independence to her child, provided he is in a safe environment. She still looks up to her mother for tips, and wants to adopt her style of parenting as much as possible.
“The way my mother took care of us, she was so open - she was like a friend and I could talk to her about everything. I want to be like that,” says Ghazal.
Like most mompreneurs, she has had her fair share of guilt, but advises other women not to be hard on themselves. “I always felt I was unable to give my son enough time, when I would be at work. I used to have this guilt that other mothers are devoting the entire day to their children; but I have realised there are two sides to the coin,” says Ghazal.
Today, she tries to strike a balance between her entrepreneurial and mommy duties, but if there’s one thing that Ghazal swears by, it is “taking help whenever you want to.” And that’s what she advises other women to do as well.
(Edited by Athira Nair)