Over the past two years, Dhimant Parekh and Anuradha Kedia, founders of digital media platform The Better India noticed that conversations around sustainability were gaining traction. On their website too, which reports positive stories, those about a sustainable living, reducing carbon footprint started getting a lot more engagement. As they dug deeper to understand this shift, they found that more and more people wanted to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, and were willing to go an extra mile to start living more consciously, but didn‚Äôt know an established brand they could rely upon for the same.
‚ÄúAs founders, Anuradha and I also try and lead a more sustainable lifestyle, where we really try to reduce waste we generate, recycle a lot of our waste, compost, etc. Through that, we realised that the products we use at our homes are the ones causing the most amount of damage outside,‚ÄĚ Dhimant says.
They then did further research and realised that they could be that brand and could start with products that are used for home care ‚Äď products used to clean floors, dishes, laundry and toilets.
‚ÄúIf you look at the kind of cleaning that you do at home, it's largely your floors, your dishes, your laundry and toilet. But products used are the main sources from where water is getting contaminated and getting into our sewage system. So, can we come up with products that do not contaminate the water? And even if they go into our sewage system, they do zero harm,‚ÄĚ he adds.
And that is how Dhimant and Anuradha‚Äôs Bengaluru-based eco-friendly home care products company The Better Home was founded.
The Better Home offers a range of plant-based home cleaning products that have bio-active ingredients such as good microbes, enzymes and plant-based surfactants, which facilitate natural cleaning. The cleaning products do not contain harmful chemicals, acids, bleach or phosphate. The water generated from these products are toxin-free and do no harm to both people and the planet, Dhimant says.
TBH launched its products in February 2020 but was hit by the COVID-19 lockdown, less than a month of launching operations. However, while several businesses faced massive launches due to the lockdown, Dhimant says that the company used this time to get feedback from its first set of customers and reshape its business.
This included creating customisable options for its home cleaner kits, which also meant re-building its website to allow customers to create their own kits. TBH created kits of 4, 6 and 8 packs. It also worked on improving its packaging, both in terms of how the bottles looked, how they were shipped, and reducing waste being generated through the packaging.
In addition to chemicals that other commercial cleaning products would contain, the plastic packaging also contributes to a significant amount of non-biodegradable waste.
In a bid to avoid this, Dhimant says that a lot of research went in to understand if glass, or metal could be used instead of plastic. However, they currently settled on using plastic packaging.
‚ÄúBut we realise that the cost on the planet from manufacturing glass bottles itself is very high. There's a lot of devastation that happens in the manufacturing process. Tin and metal also are limited resources, and they would start reacting with liquids that you put in there. So, plastic did seem to be the most efficient way. But we have an R&D team, which continues to look for more efficient options,‚ÄĚ Dhimant says.
The take-back strategy
However, to avoid plastic bottles from going into the landfill, Better Homes launched their products as a subscription program where the first kit comes as plastic bottles, and then subsequent refill is sent in pouches. TBH conceptualised a ‚Äėtake back‚Äô program, where the refill pouches came with an envelope allowing customers to send back the refill pouches so TBH can recycle the same.
‚ÄúThat way, our customers are also happy since they‚Äôre not visibly throwing anything into the garbage regularly,‚ÄĚ he adds.
Having incorporated all these changes through March and April, when e-commerce was allowed in May, TBH went live with its revamped product, on its new website, along with an additional warehouse in Chennai to make shipping easier.
The cleaning kits are priced from Rs 1,039 onwards, going up to Rs 2,078 for the eight-pack. The prices are discounted for customers opting for subscription. They are sold on platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart, as well as on the company‚Äôs own website.
Dhimant says that ever since they went live, they saw tremendous traction in sales clocking Rs 6 lakh revenue in May, and growing to Rs 70 lakh in August, and hitting over Rs 1 crore in revenue by October. Dhimant says that the company also saw a retention rate of 80% month-on-month. The company has shipped its products to 390 unique cities and towns.
Despite being a glitch initially, the lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a catalyst as well, with people becoming a lot more concerned about hygiene. However, Dhimant says that there always was a market for a sustainable home cleaning product, and the pandemic only accelerated the growth.
‚ÄúThe long term growth will continue because like I said, in 2019 itself, we started seeing conversations around sustainability start to peak. So, I think the market is already tested, and I think the pandemic accelerated the adoption, and made it a lot faster,‚ÄĚ he adds.
Riding on its success, TBH is now gearing up to launch more products in the homecare category. As it scales, it also hopes to be able to reduce prices.
‚ÄúThe pricing has been a function of the total costs that we incur, in sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, packaging and distribution. So, it's largely been driven by current costs. But once we start hitting scale, we will be able go back and renegotiate pricing from our raw material sources, manufacturers, etc. The goal is to continue to bring in reduction in pricing over the next six months to a year. But for that to happen, economies of scale have to kick in,‚ÄĚ Dhimant adds.
The idea, Dhimant says, is to provide a customer complete access to everything that they use in their home and replace it with The Better Home product.
By December, TBH plans to launch 3-4 more homecare products, and take the total count to around 20 by mid-next year and is open to expanding beyond homecare.
The Better Home‚Äôs goal is to disrupt the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) space in the homecare category, the same way personal care has been disrupted. ‚ÄúBy the end of next year, we want to get to at least a Rs 6-7 crore monthly revenue, and in the next 3-4 years, we want to build a 300 crore brand,‚ÄĚ Dhimant says.