Hello and a Happy New Year to all of you! I have been busy planning new things for the blog and wondering what else I can do for all of you. All this while, you’ve been reading about the products I love and I recommend, brands I love and recommend, and I am taking this a bit further by talking about the brand itself. BrandFocus, is going to be series that will focus on some of the best organic and natural brands available in India and the story of the brand. My journey of over two years has introduced me to many brands and products that are now a part of my lifestyle.
The first brand that I will focus on my blog is Soultree. Soultree needs no introduction on my blog. I got to know about this brand when I was looking for products that would work for my “green living” quest. I was searching for an organic shampoo free from preservatives and all the chemicals. The product came to me with a high recommendation and before I realised it, not just the shampoo, but a lot of other products became a part of my lifestyle!
Here it is, the story of SoulTree by the man behind the brand, Vishal Bhandari.
PM: What made you start a brand like SoulTree? What is the philosophy behind your brand?
ST: The origin of SoulTree lies in my desire to build a business that could contribute to sustainable development. It led me to work with groups of Himalayan farmers who were organically cultivating organic Ayurvedic herbs in remote regions. In spite of their hard work, they were not getting just rewards due to the lack of a marketing channel which could be an alternative to the mandi system.
As I started to build a business to commercialize their produce, I became more committed to this objective. Our company became one of the pioneers of exporting Organic Ayurvedic products to Europe.We wanted to create more value-added products from the organic herbs and beauty products was a natural choice. Since we did not have the technical expertise to make cosmetics I approached some reputed manufacturers of Ayurvedic cosmetics to make these for us. However I was surprised to find a total lack of transparency in the ingredients used.
On looking deeper I found that most of the so-called herbal or Ayurvedic cosmetics contained a lot of synthetic ingredients which were petroleum derived. Further study led to finding a lot of information on harmful effects of these ingredients. This was becoming a big concern as skin absorbs up to 60% of a product applied on it. Unfortunately there was a total lack of awareness at the consumer end due to the belief that herbal or Ayurvedic cosmetics are by default natural.
At this juncture I decided to develop a brand of genuinely natural & organic products which would be harm-free and could be trusted completely. SoulTree was born on this premise. It has also given me the opportunity to raise awareness about the presence of harmful ingredients in cosmetics and the need for more transparency so people can choose what they use. It therefore is in line with my prime point of building a business that contributes to society and environment. Everything we do at SoulTree revolves around this founding principle.
There are so many brands in the market with the “We are all organic and natural, free of chemical ingredients” and a closer look at the ingredient list or a research always shows that one or two hidden ingredients in the permissible limit. I feel that such an action is about cheating a customer. What does SoulTree do to gain that clarity with the customers?
ST: You are quite right about this. I think that first and foremost, the brands need to be honest to their patrons if they want to be respected and trusted, as today’s consumer is very unforgiving. A long term vision and complete commitment is required. Having said that I am aware how difficult it is to follow this when it comes to natural cosmetics due to technical challenges involved and that’s why you do not see many brands which are completely honest.
Further an absence of external validation or accreditation also puts a question mark on the authenticity of the claims. At SoulTree this transparency is part of our DNA. Further our certification from BDIH of Germany acts as an external check and balance and gives added assurance to the consumer.
PM:Why did you choose to move into organic make-up? Do you believe that there is an audience there who will start to use organic make-up products in comparison to the other brands that have been around for so many years?
ST:Interestingly there are many women who have stopped using make-up because of the presence of strong dyes as well as animal derived ingredients in the make-up products which have been around in the market. They are quite delighted to discover Organic make-up products. Mohini range from SoulTree which consists of Kajals and Lip-wear are being liked very much for their all-natural ingredients. I am sure this number will grow as it is an innate human desire to look our best and SoulTree offers a harm-free way of doing so.
PM:Where do you source your raw materials from?
ST: Most of our herbs and oils are sourced from organic farmers with whom the company has been working for a long time now. All our extracts are made in-house in true Ayurvedic tradition. Other ingredients like foaming agents, emulsifiers which are also plant based are sourced from a hand-picked group of suppliers. Only those ingredients are used which have been evaluated by BDIH for their “naturalness” and there is an exhaustive process for these ingredients to pass this test.
PM:Why do you choose to only sell online? Do you not plan to open any flagship stores?
ST:We sell both online and offline. SoulTree products are available at over 150 outlets across India as well as various e-com sites like Jabong, flipkart, naturalmantra, ecotokri, greenngood etc. There are no immediate plans to open a flagship store although a certain concept is in a development stage.
PM:What are the other additions (in terms of new products) we can see in the SoulTree list and how do you plan to reach out to customers? I know I missed a bunch of the launches because I wasn’t aware of it!
ST:We have recently added two face-washes, one for dry to normal skin and another for oily & combination skin. Hair care ranges has been expanded to include an Anti-Dandruff shampoo as well as a nourishing hair oil. More skin care products are in the works. About reaching out, we need to increase as well as organise our reach.Hopefully we will also get some help from the blogger community there. 🙂
As I wrap up this post, I am glad to share with you that SoulTree also has an international presence today by being introduced to the Japanese market and is also available at select stores in Australia, Hong Kong, Europe and some CIS countries. That was the story of Soultree.
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*Most of the brands and products reviewed are what I have tried and tested and truly recommend! If it is a sponsored post, it is indicated. All Photographs are (C) Pratibha unless stated otherwise.*