In our effort to share more about ourselves we sat with our Founder and asked her five key questions about the brand.
1. What inspired you to launch Kanai?
AG: I was travelling in the Himalayas on one of my meditation retreats and came across a group of women farmers who showed me some of the products they had created with their bare hands. From growing the ingredients on their small patches of land to drying them and hand pounding them, they had maintained beauty secrets that had been passed down to them by their grandmothers. Faced with economic challenges, which is a harsh reality in the rural sector of India, they asked me to help them create a sustained source of income and I decided to draw up a business plan for Kanai. These women farmers live the old adage, "There is beauty in simplicity" and coupled with time-tested ingredients and secrets it was easy to believe that we could create a business that not just supported them but also turned a profit. I knew from the start that I wanted to present something unpretentious and authentic but in a way that resonated with a new, emerging India. Kanai is all of that.
2. Has it been that easy?
AG: Far from it. But working towards a goal despite the obstacles makes success all the more sweeter. Even though I have had entrepreneurial experience and come from a business family, it took me close to two years to launch Kanai. We struggled with supply lines especially since I wanted the raw materials to be certified and I only wanted to manufacture in facilities that had GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certification. I discovered that organic supply lines remain largely skewed in India, making it hard to be certain if an ingredient would actually be 100% organic or not. While natural certification came with more of a guarantee, organic certification proved to be a challenge and I did not want to claim something that wasn't based on the truth. So we decided to go with our claim of being at least 95% certified natural for our skincare line and 90% organic for our upcoming make-up line. It was important to me to be transparent and honest with the customer and I believe they appreciate honesty. Manufacturing in India is truly a test on all levels. We got mislead and cheated and I had to move manufacturing more than once after discovering I wasn't really getting what I was paying for. This meant starting again from scratch and I have to say it has indeed, been a true test of grit and patience for me. Trademark and IP remains a bigger challenge and we know as we grow we will be faced with more on that front as well.
3. Why did you decide to launch the brand internationally?
AG: Having studied and lived abroad for a while I always wondered why the West insisted on a westernised interpretation of India. As a yoga practitioner, I see this happening a lot with Ayurveda. I thought it was time to just present our beauty secrets in an authentic way to the world rather than go with a diluted interpretation of it. I always cringe at so-called 'Ayurveda' brands that throw in some turmeric or anything that's trending in the moment as a marketing gimmick to sell more products. Most of these companies don't realise that Ayurvedic ingredients lean heavily on a chemistry that involves compatibility of ingredients for efficacy, they just think that throwing in something will make it 'Ayurvedic' and its misleading in a way. I also believe that today the world is one big marketplace and its time an Indian company got a seat on the table, especially when it comes to beauty secrets that are native to our culture. I think it is our duty to keep the beauty secrets of our ancestors alive and I want our farmers to benefit from it as well so Kanai was structured to be a 'based in India' brand that uses indigenous ingredients and gives back to local farmers here. Even our make-up range is based on the inherent wisdom of Ayurveda backed ingredients. The R&D proved to be a real challenge and I had to keep pushing our launch date, but we've finally come up with something that is safe, time-tested and most-importantly, efficacious.
4. What makes Kanai different from the other Indian brands?
AG: I have never understood this question. Why does one have to be 'different'? When I go into a retail store and see the shelves lined with products filled with toxic chemicals I see the opportunity that lies for all organic and clean beauty brands. Wouldn't it be great if we cleaned up that aisle and replaced all those brands? Can one company do it alone? No. I genuinely believe that its impossible for one company to provide solutions for everyone, I think there is room for everyone to co-exist. Skincare and colour cosmetics are so unique because of the many variables that exist - skin tone, undertones, etc that they give room for companies to cater to different customers. Kanai will always stand for clean beauty, which means we will never use ingredients that are carcinogenic and harmful to humans. This includes, Parabens, Sulphates, SLS, Dimethicone, Synthetic fragrances, etc. It's harder and more expensive for a small, self-funded company to grow within those parameters but we'd rather grow slowly than unethically. We want to pay attention to what the consumer is asking for, what they're concerned about and we will always keep that dialogue going because it is the only way to grow and evolve. For me, profit with principles and transparency is really important and in that lies our uniqueness.
5. Lastly, where do you see Kanai five years from now?
AG: In five years, I see Kanai established as a trustworthy Indian brand that stands for high quality and gives back to those who need it the most. We will have a stronger presence in the colour cosmetics segment which is an exciting area to be in. And we will do it while maintaining our clean beauty premise. We are already talking about herbs and plant-based sources of colour that we are finding via Ayurvedic doctors and there are many possibilities that lie before us. It would be great to use the wisdom of our ancestors to drive innovation in make-up and colour cosmetics. I am really looking forward to that.