“No Job to Building Brands”: Mr. Nikunj Bali, Head-New Product Development at The Organic Forest.

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Not even in his distant dreams did the 25 years old Nikunj, who had just graduated from NIPER Ahmedabad thought that one day he would be front-ending the research in the Indian derma industry, a privilege only a handful get.

But fortune favours the brave as they say, I overcame a million obstacles, after getting rejected during over a dozen job interviews, various voluntary experiments failed and 8 months of asylum slowly engulfing my brain to an acute jobless state of depression.

As the light at the end of the tunnel came an opportunity in the form of Vyome Biosciences which was a start-up at that time and was building some amazing products. I still remember the interview, that one question that landed me the job: –

Director-R&D asked me “What were you doing the last 8 months (after PG)?
I replied “preparing for this interview;)” and that’s how this journey started. Then there was no looking back.

I learnt a lot from my time at Vyome. Our team developed a patented formulation and after the development, almost the entire team left for some new opportunity and I was the only one left in the R&D team. I was also the part of brand name selection, marketing strategy & overall launch process. It was a great experience especially, given that I was a fresher, getting an entire understanding of Legal, Packaging, Contact Agreement, Branding & Marketing Strategy, was very useful.

We launched the Brand “Olique” with the tagline “No Magic Pure Science”.

This is how my career took a turn from being a scientist to NPD (Product Strategy) and I enjoyed the work I was doing.

After Vyome, I moved to Pigeon India. Back then, Pigeon was importing most of the products from abroad, so, we started the “Make in India” Programme, and started manufacturing products domestically in India. Launched many products there for Babies and Moms.

Pigeon helped me to understand regulatory and documentation part. Being part of the Japanese company, you have to be perfect and this was the learning which helped me a lot in my career. It also made me hungry to learn and achieve perfection. This attitude made me get success in all my ventures.

At that time around May 2016, I got an email from Mohit Sadani (Co-Founder of The Moms Co.) and we had a long chat regarding the products & strategy and after few months, they asked me to join and I was a bit worried to start this journey and after that, had a discussion with Malika (CEO & CO-Founder The Moms Co.), She was so technically sound and had very clear thought regarding the products, ingredients and concepts then I decided, and took that flight. I was the first employee of the company, and it was a very amazing experience to start from no products and develop to almost 40 products; Received acknowledgement like Nykaa Beauty & Cosmopolitan Awards for some of the products.

One of the renowned brands was getting criticized by people because the brand’s baby powder is containing cancer containing ingredients and the thought of The Moms Co was to replace all the products which contain toxin and to make a safe environment for every living being. The Moms Co is the first brand in India who is Australian Certified Toxin Free

We launched India’s First Starch-Based Baby Powder and this is also a story, we have chased on a company which make the special grade of starch to give the feel of talc.

We found a company who make this special grade of starch; however, the problem is, they were not supplying in India. Hence, we asked one of the ingredients distributors to collaborate with them while promising the volumes to the distributor. It took them 6 long months to close the deal and meanwhile, we were doing our R&D and planned to launch the products once ingredients were shipped.

Adding the Organic Ingredients to the baby products was an Idea which was appreciated by Co-Founders and we wanted to ensure nothing but the best for the newborns. Have cracked some of the toughest formulations at the Moms co (Eczema Cream & Lotion are one of them).

After coming back from the U.K., Malika told me to make Face range with Kakadu Plum. I never heard of this Kakadu Plum and it took me few days to understand the ingredients and was able to find, “It is the richest source of Vitamin C”. FYI, It is an Australian Fruit and Difficult to find in India.

I got an understanding of Natural Ingredients in the Mom’s Co which helped to make natural, safe & toxin-free products.

Various brands are using chemicals which are banned in Europe like Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone. Some other ingredients which may harm skin & hair like NMNM Hydantoin, PEGs, Parabens, Silicones & Mineral Oil. Regulatory processes are not very strong in India & hence various harsh chemicals are being used. SLS/Paraben free is the only trend the companies are following. It is time to get rid of silicones, Polyquaternium, Keratin and add more natural ingredients in the products.

After 2 yrs with Moms Co, Good Opportunity came in and I joined Orbitpad. Again, the First employee of the company and made the whole Strategy of the brand “The Organic Forest”, even the name was suggested by me. We took certification from the PETA for Vegan & Cruelty-free.

I was the first employee of the Organic Forest and building a brand from scratch was my responsibility. We did a lot of research about the products and ingredients and at least screened 70000 ingredients to make these two ranges: Antihairfall and Antidandruff

This kind of product, one will not able to find in the world, It is silicone-free, Quaternium free and 100% Plant-based product made with the goodness of Organic Ingredients. Every shampoo is made either using quaternium or PEGs and am are able to crack without this & getting a good response.

African Baobab oil is way better than Argan oil although both are added into hair fall range. In 2018, Onion oil-based and Keratin free products were most searched by Indian Consumer while, everybody conc. on onion oil-based products however, we have made keratin free products with benefits of Keratin and I know that it’s confusing, we used three protein which mimic similar to the keratin.

For Dandruff, everybody is adding ZPT, Piroctone Olamine & Ketoconazole and these ingredients make hair dry which leads to Hairfall. We have used all plant-based ingredient which are safe to use and doesn’t make your hair dry. Yes, I cannot share the ingredients and their functionality which is a trade secret.

We were in the amazon choice within 2 months after launch and getting more customer queries regarding the new ranges which we are planning to launch.

All of the products which have launched till date 90% have rated more than 4 and customer satisfaction is very good. None of my formulations has the same ingredients (at least 80% Ingredients are different) and one confirms this by checking Pigeon, The Moms Co and The Organic Forest’s Products.

Repeat rates were high in the Moms Co. and so is, in The Organic Forest. I think that have already dig deepen in this industry and have a very good understanding of the industry. Now, am planning next 3-4 Yrs continue whatever am doing right now and, have developed a mathematical formula (which is not yet optimised) to create the formulation without hassle.

In times to come, I aspire to launch my own range one day were using technology and optimised design processes, products shall have lower than current market prices with 3X better quality and better margins. A win-win for buyers, makers and customers. Most of the brands are running on 60-80% margin and am able to create an optimised formula for all range to get 4X better margin on competitive MRP.

It goes without saying that I had a dream run so far and hence indebted to the payback to the industry with greater innovations and nimble product lines. Would end with my favourite Eminem song-

I don’t really know where I’m headed, just enjoyin’ the ride
Gon’ roll ’til I drop and ride ’til I die
I’m livin’ life in the fast lane (Pedal to the metal)
Livin’ life in the fast lane (Pedal to the metal)