While it may not be common knowledge that our skin absorbs about 60 per cent of the chemicals used in common skin-care products, the side-effects they produce are widely known. These side-effects have been a thorn in the side of beauty-product manufacturers; Providing an effective skincare product with minimal damage to skin has been a tough balancing act. Therefore, in a bid to provide a safer alternative, the duo of Rasna Shrestha and Suyash Shrestha founded Nuga: a Kathmandu-based company that produces natural, toxic chemical-free skincare products. ‘Nuga’, which is a Newari word meaning heart, is used to signify the company’s intention to put the ‘care’ back into skincare. It is their philosophy that beauty should be wholesome, and not detrimental to one’s health for the sake of mere looks. How safe?, as one might ask, “One could swallow them, and still be okay,” say the co-founders.
“It is not possible to make the product from decaying vegetable matter. They are strictly made from fresh edible materials like tomato, beetroot, oils etc. We collect coffee beans from areas like Gulmi and honey from Makwanpur.” say the co-founders.
The journey till date
Friends Rasna and Suyash were doing their MBA when they bonded due to their common interest in manufacturing and the agricultural field. Shrestha says, “Rasna was making the products herself at home before we decided to start the company in 2016.” Initially, the founders invested their own money to run the start-up, but after winning an event organised by King’s College, they were awarded a cash prize of 35,000 rupees which significantly aided in the company’s operation.
“We were initially sceptical if people would buy our product, but it was just hesitation and lack of confidence on our part. We eventually found out that people will certainly go for the option if they have one,” explains Shrestha.
Beginning with a few products and a small investment, Shrestha acknowledged the journey to be a learning opportunity despite the tremendous hurdles on the way. “After quitting a stable-income job, we could not expect family support and ended up struggling financially,” he recalls. At present, the organization is suffering from high staff turnover. “The cycle of hiring employees, training them and then them leaving is an on-going problem.” he confesses.
However, the market for Nepal-made products is growing steadily, as compared to the earlier years and has proved to be a source of encouragement for the duo. Customers being the gem of any company, they are thrilled with the increase in demand and the positive word of mouth.
“We are in a growing phase which will obviously require a ton of extensions. We have around 18 products and the production is currently halted due to the COVID-19 situation. After it curbs, we are looking forward to increasing our product line.” says Shrestha.
He further adds, “Our products are safe enough to eat. Moreover, the packaging is plastic-free, which is our unique selling proposition. Currently only the face scrubs and lip balms come in plastic containers. Our plan is to use the reusable containers for them too in the near future.”
The store was launched in Jhamsikhel two weeks before the lockdown which, for now, is reluctantly closed. He further adds that they plan to open stores outside the valley to meet the increasing demands. “Plans are underway to reach out to international customers as well and the process is almost finalized.” adds Shrestha.
He conveys the necessity to change consumer behaviour. He urges everyone to realise how the products they consume are affecting the environment and implores everyone to lean towards minimalism.
With regards to entrepreneurship, he adds, “I’ve seen most of the aspiring entrepreneurs holding back due to financial problems. Some often find excuses for not having sufficient resources, without which it is obviously difficult to run a business effectively. However the availability of online forums, mentors with their advice and suggestions, can help one to stay on track” he states optimistically, suggesting that these are best times to begin the journey if one is stuck despite having viable ideas.