Interview: Dolly Kumar, Cosmetic Engineer and Founder & Director at Cosmic Nutracos Solutions
Ms. Dolly Kumar, Founder & Director, Cosmic Nutracos Solutions Pvt.Ltd – a 500cr. parent company to leading FMCG brands Skinella and Gaia shedding light on her enriching entrepreneurial journey and how she has been disrupting the beauty and wellness space with her superfood and fruit based innovative products solutions in skin care, health food products and nutritional supplements category.
A Cosmetic Engineer by qualification, Dolly Kumar holds extensive industry experience and has held leadership positions at several leading organizations before making her entrepreneurial venture with Cosmic Nutracos in 2007.
As the Founder & Director, she has been at the helm of all business strategies and decision making in the organization.
Over the years, Cosmic Nutracos founded in 2007 by Ms. Dolly Kumar has expanded to international markets along with growing B2B partnerships as a private label manufacturer.
The company is now providing unique formulations to brands like Dabur, Faces, HUL, Lakme, Mama Earth, Purplle, Sugar, etc.
Tell us a little about yourself
Dolly Kumar: By profession, I am a Cosmetic Engineer and an entrepreneur. As the Founder and Director ofCosmic Nutracos Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (the parent company of leading FMCG brands, Gaia and Skinella), I am responsible for the decision-making for the company and spearhead the business strategies.
As far as my educational qualification is concerned,I pursued B.Tech in Cosmetic Engineering from Nagpur University and then went on to manage leadership positions at various corporates.
My career trajectory began with a homegrown manufacturing company, Herby International, which made hair oil, shampoo, hair dye, etc.
After starting in quality assurance and production, I eventually took charge of the sales and marketing department at the company.
Soon, the urge to leverage my industry knowledge and build my own brand prompted me to embark on my entrepreneurial journey, and I founded Cosmic Nutracos in 2007 and went on to establish the Gaia brand in 2009.
My journey has been a rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs. Amidst it all, my family has been my pillar of strength.
My husband works with Siemens India, and I am a proud mother to a son who is currently pursuing his Masters from the University of Bath, London.
In my downtime, I prefer socializing and connecting with like-minded people. This is why I am also a member of the Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO), Gurgaon Chapter.
When I am not occupied with personal or professional commitments, listening to music and reading are my go-to activities as they are therapeutic for me.
Please tell us a little about your entrepreneurial journey.
Dolly Kumar: In my entire professional journey, I have either built brands or launched them. Even though I never planned to be an entrepreneur, the knowledge and insights I gained in my initial years pushed me to pursue it. I have always wanted to know the pain points of the consumers and offer them solutions with my products.
Around 10-12 years ago, we started researching the market and doing background work to build Gaia, and we noticed a rapid, increasing trend of active health-consciousness amongst a large section of the population.
We realised that people were showing a keen interest towards becoming healthy in different ways. They were proactively going for regular health check-ups and exercising (at home or in gyms and parks).
There was also a shift in their dietary preferences and people were switching to healthier alternatives. Therefore, we wanted to address this need and bring a positive and healthy change in people’s lives by meeting their demand for mindful eating.
We also found that no other retail brand focused exclusively on health and wellness, or offered the complete range of products that we had in mind.
Therefore, in an attempt to fill this gap, I incepted Gaia as a brand that would cater to people’s needs for healthy eating throughout the day, right from the time they wake up till the time they hit their beds.
With this brand, we were in forefront of the era of the health and wellness in India and this is one of the remarkable milestones in my entrepreneurial journey.
Gaia, in Greek, is the goddess of Earth. In keeping with its name, we ensure that our products are made up of only natural ingredients.
We source our ingredients from certified organic facilities located across the globe. It has become a highly successful brand with a strong distribution system at a pan India level and has even reached the international markets of Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Cambodia, etc. The brand is now aiming for exponential growth in the future.
After making a mark in the health and wellness industry, I wanted to contribute to the skincare market. During the R&D process, I realized that there were very few brands catering to the needs of the young population.
Since power foods are the new trend, I thought integrating them with skincare would be an innovation. This concept formed the foundation for Skinella and we were sure from the start that the products have to be chemical-free and vegan.
What service(s) or product(s) do you offer at Cosmic Nutracos Solutions?
Dolly Kumar: Gaia is the only FMCG brand in the country that offers a wide range of health food products and nutritional supplements.
The product line ranges from specialized nutritional supplements to everyday healthy snacks. Currently, with over 80 products in its portfolio, Gaia has a robust presence in 40000+ retail outlets, over 600+ modern trade outlets, Central Police Canteen, and even canteen store departments.
The products are also available online in major marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, Cred, Smytten, etc.
After Gaia, we launched Skinella, a skincare brand to cater to teenagers under the same parent company, Cosmic Nutracos.
The idea behind building Skinella was to introduce a skincare brand preparing products with power foods and targeting specifically youth.
With its chemical-free, vegan, and PETA-certified formulations, the brand has been received very well among the target audience.
The journey from a humble brand to an INR 5 billion business has been quite enriching and fulfilling. Having received a phenomenal response from the market, we are now preparing for introducing innovations and exponential growth ahead.
What is unique about your label brand?
Dolly Kumar: One of the core USPs of Gaia is that it is one of the pioneers in the health and wellness movement in India. The brand provides a complete range of healthy food products and nutritional supplements with 80+ products in its portfolio, besides four specialised lines under Gaia Plus, Gaia Lite, Gaia Sport and Gaia Organic.
It has a robust presence not only in retail stores but also in key online marketplaces. This year, we even launched Gaia’s own e-commerce website, which offers all products, including the latest millet muesli – diet, millet muesli – cranberry & chocolate, quinoa, sugar-free ragi cookies, protein cookies, etc.
The brand is backed by strong in-house R&D, and the products are manufactured at the in-house health food and nutritional supplements manufacturing wing, Aar Gee Formulations. This ensures there are no loopholes and that products meet the consumers’ needs effectively.
For Skinella, prior to its launch, when we were researching the market, we realized that very few skincare brands were catering to the young population, especially teenagers.
Moreover, there was no complete range of skin care products for girls aged between 15 and 25. This motivated us to launch Skinella in 2017.
Skinella products are made with the power of superfoods and contain no harsh chemicals. They are certified by PETA as cruelty-free and vegan.
Its parent company, Cosmic Nutracos, also has a joint venture with Ancorotti Cosmetics, Italy – a leading manufacturer of colour cosmetics in the world.
This way various local and regional brands in the Indian subcontinent have access to international beauty innovations.
What made you choose this type of business?
Dolly Kumar: Interestingly, I got the inspiration for Gaia during my conversation with a middle-aged woman while travelling.
The inability to feel good about themselves and maintain a healthy life, despite substantial investments in lifestyle modification and appearances, sensitized me to the struggles of modern Indian women.
I realized that true beauty comes from living a healthy and joyous life. Eventually, Gaia was built on this very idea.
From a business perspective, along with my team, I also realized a huge future potential in the Indian market’s growing inclination towards health and wellness.
At that point, there was no brand in the country that came with a promise of good health for the urban consumer.
Gaia, focusing on this concept, was able to carve a niche for itself and eventually became popular in the market.
Since its inception, the brand is mindfully formulating its products to cater to the growing health and wellness needs of consumers.
For my other brand, Skinella, as I shared above, I had realized at an early stage that skincare brands were targeting female consumers, usually 25 years of age or older.
There was no brand for the young female segment. The moment I noticed this gap, I knew I had to do something about it and what better way could have been than to build my own brand?
What was your mission at the outset?
Dolly Kumar: Our mission is to become the first consumer choice for health food substitutes, nutritional supplements and skincare.
We want to be the go-to brand for consumers when it comes to making healthy choices, practicing mindful eating and using clean skincare products.
We aim to become a dependable entity where consumers invest in getting world-class quality products made with the finest natural ingredients sourced from around the globe while offering consumers the promise of good health and good skin.
How many employees are in your organization?
Dolly Kumar: Employees form the core pillar of our brands. It is due to their hard work that Gaia and Skinella have grown rapidly.
At Cosmic Nutracos Solutions , we have an employee strength of 1500 people, comprising the R&D team, skin specialists, derma professionals, sales force etc. In totality, each contributing in their own ways to drive the growth of the brands.
What are your company’s goals?
Dolly Kumar: Currently, we are growing at a rate of 30%, and looking for a steady growth rate in the coming years while expanding Cosmic Nutracos Solutions.
The brand will be going for a major overhaul in terms of operational expansion and improvements in infrastructure.
Alongside, we are also focusing on getting new clients onboard for our private label manufacturing business. The details of this will be officially shared soon once we have lined up everything.
For both Gaia and Skinella, we are looking to launch several innovative products in the times ahead. Adding to it, we are also in the middle of launching Skinella’s exclusive e-commerce website as well.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
Dolly Kumar: I have to say entrepreneurship isn’t an easy road but definitely not impossible too. Leaving a high-paying corporate job to start my venture was challenging.
At times, juggling between your personal life and devoting yourself to the start-up is tough, but again it is needed to attain success.
Arranging the finances, forming a team, and most importantly having an idea that could disrupt the market are the first steps on the entrepreneurial path.
This journey comes with its fair share of achievements, failures and mistakes. Cash crunch, inability to meet deadlines, executions gone wrong, are some of the failures that I went through during my journey.
Considering that the health and wellness as well as the skincare market is competitive and sensitive, the products had to be of premium quality and true to their promise of being healthy (Gaia) and clean (Skinella) and, most importantly, beneficial for the consumers or else the brands could fail to gain consumer acceptance.
What was the inspiration behind turning an entrepreneur
Dolly Kumar: Honestly, we are blessed to be living in a world of equality and the only factor considered to be a mantra for success is the quality and formulation of your products.
I am managing both my personal and professional lives smoothly. I think this is what every woman is entitled to but very few are able to live it. And by God’s grace, I am amongst the fortunate ones.
I strongly feel that balancing is the key to maintaining a healthy and peaceful life. My family has always been the pillar of my strength. They have supported me during my journey.
Key things to consider before starting a startup?
Dolly Kumar: I am a firm believer in the quote from the book called The Secret – ‘positive attracts positive!’ When your intentions are right and optimistic, all you attract is the positivity that helps you overcome those challenges gracefully.
This is what motivated me to deal with the roadblocks in my entrepreneurial journey. I took things in my stride and converted my weakness into strengths.
For instance, hiring good talent was a huge problem since people do not trust a start-up set up. However, this taught us a great lesson about people management, and now, I feel this has become one of my greatest strengths.
Your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs?
Dolly Kumar: I believe for any aspiring entrepreneur, communication and collaboration are key elements of success. Not only does it lead to proficient results for the company, but it also helps build trust within the team.
You must also remember that learning is a continuous process and leads to growth. So, one should never stop gathering knowledge and sharing the same.
Besides upskilling yourself from time to time, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and taking up new responsibilities beyond your roles will contribute to your holistic development.
These activities might sound small but have a huge impact and motivate you to climb the success ladder in your career.
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