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Ghazal Alagh and Varun Alagh, 

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AN OFTEN asked question at investor call of Hindustan Unilever is how it’s dealing with competition from start-ups, especially Mamaearth. After all, the seven-year-old brand, which introduced toxin-free baby care products, sulphate-free shampoos and onion hair oil, has shaken the mass-premium end of the market.
So, when HUL launched Dove baby care range last year, managing director Sanjiv Mehta said they would compete as fiercely with start-ups as with legacy companies. Mamaearth, which started with six baby care products in 2016, was by then on its way to becoming a unicorn. Over 35% of its revenue comes from 50,000 stores. Thousands of personal care start-ups have burnt their fingers. So, what did Mamaearth do differently? “We decided we would look at consumers and not competition,” says Varun Alagh, co-founder and CEO, Honasa Consumer. “We said we will build a consumer-focused organisation, even if we make just 1,000 consumers happy,” he adds.
Mamaearth’s told consumers it was a parent-driven brand. It got people to test its products through 7,000 bloggers. There was also a realisation that most brands, especially in baby care, were just importing products from global portfolios. Administering gripe water to babies when they get colic pain is a western tradition; Indians massage hing or coconut on belly. The popular massage oil is either gingelly (til) or coconut oil and not olive oil. Mamaearth Indianised its offerings–it launched a gingelly massage oil and a chemical-free mosquito repellent spray.