We live in a world that is getting more and more polluted every day. The water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat is degrading in quality due to urbanization. Though no single person can solve it, each of us can protect ourselves from its harmful effects by using products that promote good health. However, in these busy times, you hardly have the time to take care of your body properly, let alone your skin. Recognizing this predicament of fellow urbanites, Ms Susmita Manandhar came up with the idea of Luniva Soap”, a skin-friendly non-corrosive soap devoid of harmful chemicals typically found in other beauty care products.
Ideating From Scratch(Literally)!
Scratch! Scratch! Scratching through the skin of the arms was the fire that ignited the search. It is strange to hear, but the irritation in the skin after the use of popular but chemical-laden soaps in the market forced one inquisitive mind to look for a solution. After years of struggle coping with skin allergies and rashes, the solution was Luniva Soap: an organic soap that not only soothes your skin but also gives your skin a pleasant glow and a sense of comfort.
“I used to suffer from skin allergies all the time and none of the chemical products were of any help. That was when we decided to find out a solution on our own.” says Mr. Bijay Bhakta Manandhar, father of Ms. Susmita Manandhar.
The journey started with self-experimentation. Their own bodies were used as labs. As per the nature of the scratches, researches were conducted for the possible ingredients. Thorough experimentation on their family members’ skin is how they have finally succeeded in coming up with the right combination. Their hard work finally paid off, for it has proven to be the ultimate solution for skin-friendly cosmetics in the Nepali market.
A Family Team
Undeniably the main struggle for any start-up is investment. “How does one raise money? What if one fails and is unable to sustain the business?” are some of the questions that plague every entrepreneur’s mind.
As for Luniva Soaps, the young entrepreneur Manandhar was fully supported by her family and that was how her dreams became reality. With the additional benefit of having a degree in business, along with ample research conducted on soaps, Ms. Manandhar was able to structure her ideas even better.
“My father helped me immensely in terms of research for the correct ingredients and experimented on his own body. Without his drive and motivation, Luniva Soap would have remained just a pipe dream” shares Ms. Manandhar.
Indeed her father was the main person during the initial days of the startup. Today he stays as the business partner who helps with the operational aspects of the business. Furthermore, she shares that the feedback from customers, especially her family members, encouraged her to make the product even better. Therefore all credit goes to her family for maintaining a stable economic and emotional foundation on which she could stand confidently and look ahead.
Blending In With The Competition
After struggling through for more than 5 years on research, self-experimentation, and testing, they finally brought the product to the market in 2018. The market for organic soaps then was very scanty. Even now people do not readily trust handmade soaps, but they had trust in their research and faith in their struggle.
In this demanding field of entrepreneurship, it is generally difficult to come up with fresh ideas. It is even harder to convince customers of the value your product provides. Trust and sales don’t come easy. Luniva Soap also faced similar problems on the outset.
“In the beginning, it was difficult to convince people into using handmade organic soaps, especially the ones who were mesmerized by celebrities advertising popular synthetic soaps like Lux, Liril, etc,” says Ms Manandhar. Convincing the customers about the speciality of an ingredient called Omega-3, which is rarely used in the popular synthetic soaps, was indeed tedious.
“We are still in the process of expanding our customer base. Till now it has just been little more than our relatives and acquaintances through Facebook, but we are growing slowly and gaining confidence to take it up to a larger market sustainably” Ms. Manandhar shares with optimism.
The Lockdown Effect
Many entrepreneurs have been crestfallen due to the unfortunate consequences of the CoVid-19 pandemic. However, Luniva Soap has managed to grow and remain profitable. During the lockdown, they got more orders because the pandemic situation demands more sanitation. People staying at homes required the use of more soaps and with most of the markets closed, their online orders increased.
“Somehow I feel that after the lockdown ends, I will be better able to sustain my business as I feel the market demand for sanitary products like soaps, including the handmade organic soaps, will grow.” shares Ms. Manandhar. Moreover, they have also been doing some research on new flavors of the soap during the lockdown which we can expect to hit the market soon.
She finally adds, “What I have learned in my entrepreneurial journey is the importance of patience and determination. The success of my business was the result of constant struggle and the outcome of more than 5 years of hard work. The fruit, in the end, was indeed sweet.”