Sustainability: The Art of Conscious Shopping
With every one degree rise in global temperature, brands, companies, organisations, countries and every other unit of society is forced to reconsider their practices. While many climate activists blamed the recent COVID pandemic on negligible planet protection norms, there have been more than a dozen signs our planet has given us in terms of the damage we inflict on a daily basis and its final impact.
Now, as consumers, many of us may delude ourselves by not taking responsibility for our buying decisions, the impact of our actions is all around us, and too loud to be ignored. While we may ignore these signs, whether subtle or loud, our planet's doom inadvertently spells out our race's end.
If you have begun to wonder if there is any way you can mend your ways as a compulsive shopper, then here is one. Conscious buying is all about understanding your most urgent needs and shopping to satisfy only those. It is an art, which if practiced for some time, can help you in not just saving yourself financially, but also contributing to the planet's well-being. Think of it this way: every time you buy a purse you don't need or dresses that are only an addition to your already extensive wardrobe, you are encouraging brands to produce more, exhaust more resources and spread more waste. A conscious buyer would not only buy a purse when the old one's worn out completely, but would also try to recycle or upcycle the previous one to use the material elsewhere.
While most Indian brands practice sustainability for their own sake, those 'practices' existing only as theoretical statements, some brands have begun to encourage conscious buying amongst shoppers. One such brand is Vishisht, which encourages sustainable, ethical shopping for natural skincare products.
Vishisht: Your Solution to a 100% Sustainable Skincare Experience!
Started in 2018, Vishisht has made quite a name for itself in the Indian skincare market. With their roots deeply embedded in social responsibility, sustainability is at the core of this brand's values. Each product created is not just 100% natural but also ethical, sustainable and cruelty free.
The brand was born out of a need for truly natural and ethical skincare products. It all started when the founder, Namrata, began facing stubborn skin rashes during her short stay in Hyderabad. As the products readily available in the market wouldn't help, Namrata was forced to do her own extensive research and that's when she realised the amount of chemicals used in manufacturing these products. The ingredients used were not only harmful to the user's skin but also to the environment as a whole. And thus, this is where the idea of a brand which is ethical, sustainable and cost effective yet 100% natural was born.
Despite its excellent product delivery, Vishisht initially faced challenges in establishing themselves in a market dominated by several top notch natural skincare brands. Though it derives its strength from the in-depth research and 1.5 years long testing during its inception, the brand focuses on educating its customers on how they save more in the long run by investing a little more in the initial phase. Through their social media channels on Instagram, Facebook, etc. the brand tries to establish how their skin cream, though costing around 250 bucks, lasts double as much as a regular cream at half the price.
What makes Vishisht different from other brands is the way they have integrated the sustainability and social responsibility aspect in every process. Right from sourcing of the materials, identifying suppliers, deciding the product range to packaging, earth care forms the core of the brand's decision making. Raw materials are sourced via road, not air, to reduce carbon emissions, suppliers are selected based on their ethical practices and the product range has been restricted to 15-16 products only to ensure that customers get only what they need, and not a huge range of choices that end up encouraging bad buying decisions and a lot of wastage. So, whether it is a lip balm or a facial cream, the objective is always to give a minimum range of choice instead of giving a hundred. All packaging is 100% recyclable and Vishisht also gives the customers the option to return the jars once fully emptied.
In a way, Vishisht encourages people to question their buying decisions, ask themselves, 'Do I really need that' and be more conscious about their shopping choices thus starting a chain of conscious shopping practices.
We aim to provide natural and eco-friendly alternatives to daily use skincare products by reducing our carbon footprint and contributing to a greener planet.
Namrata Agarwal – Founder & MD, Vishisht Lifestyle
Interview with Namrata Agarwal, Founder & MD, Vishisht Lifestyle
- Q. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
- My name is Namrata and I founded Vishisht in May 2018. Prior to that, I was working in a multinational company as an auditor. After working for 4-4.5 years even though I was happy I wanted to start something on my own, but had no idea where to start. Around that time, I was living in Hyderabad and I developed some skin rashes on my arms and legs. I tried a lot of moisturisers from the best of brands but none of them worked.
Then I started doing some research as to why those moisturisers were not working for my sensitive skin. I researched online, read a lot of articles and saw YouTube videos of Ayurveda doctors, skin specialists and natural therapy doctors who mentioned those chemicals and how they can be harmful for our skin. I learnt about the pure carrier oils like coconut oil, shea butter, pure essential oils and that we actually don’t need to put chemicals in our skincare products. They are in fact harmful for our skin and also the planet. Based on this knowledge I started making my own recipes of moisturisers, hair serums and lip balms. I tried them on my skin and they really worked well and my skin rashes problem also went away permanently. I shared my recipes with my friends and family and they all loved them. Everybody pushed me to start my own natural skin care brand. Personally, I also wanted to have something of my own and this is how Vishisht came into being.
- Q. What was the process and how did you introduce the product?
- Initially we started with about 10 products. I tried different formulae, created the product and gave it to multiple people to try. According to their feedback, we fixed the products e.g. certain products were too greasy, some were not moisturising enough, etc. It took us 1.5 years to figure it out and once we arrived on the correct composition, we launched the brand. We also worked on the packaging, the website, etc. simultaneously. Since then, all the formulae are consistent and now we sell the products through our website primarily and from different online marketplaces like Amazon. Currently we are planning to put up our products in retail stores in Goa and Bangalore and exploring offline options as well.
- Q. What were the challenges that you faced and how did you overcome them?
- There were a lot of challenges. The biggest one was to create a niche for ourselves because the skincare industry is so crowded with tonnes of natural skincare brands in addition to the ones using chemicals. The other challenge was about educating the customers in terms of why our products are better for their skin and why they should switch to our brand. Consumers are used to buying moisturisers for ₹ 60.00 - ₹ 100.00, so a moisturiser costing ₹ 250.00 faces resistance as the price differential is almost 2 - 2.5 times.
- Q. So how do you educate the customers?
- We communicate about the benefits of our products through Instagram, Facebook and our newsletter, e.g. a typical moisturiser costing ₹ 50.00 might get over in a month but our product, even though it costs ₹ 250.00, will last for 3 months. So effectively, they are paying the same price. If someone discovers our products on Instagram or Amazon and enquires about it, we try to help them understand that it may seem expensive in one go but in the long run it is better as the product is used less, it lasts longer and it has a shelf life of at least 1 year. More importantly, it is far better for the skin.
- Q. What are your interests and what do you like to do in your free time?
- Last year when this lockdown happened, we were all locked up in our homes and it was kind of disturbing since I was living alone in Bangalore. It took a toll on my mental health also. During that time I used to work and watch stuff on Amazon Prime. Slowly, it dawned upon me that there is a problem. People who were back with their family were good, but people like me who were packed in their apartments alone, for those guys it was difficult. Even if we were used to working from home, it was still a lot because no human contact at all made it very difficult. Around that time I started taking interest in my mental health aspect as well. I realised there were so many people suffering from depression. I started listening to podcasts on mental health, self-care, yoga and meditation, and there is so much to learn. Whenever I was free, I would look up stuff like 5 things we should do for anxiety or what should we do as soon as we wake up. There is so much to learn and I have taken so much interest in that area that whenever I have time I listen to a podcast of 20-30 minutes on self-development and self-health.
- Q. Are you doing better now?
- Absolutely. I travelled back home around Diwali. But my parents advised that if possible, just move back here because your business is online and we don’t know how long this COVID is going to continue and it is going to be very difficult. Earlier, I was in Bangalore but now I am in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, and I am with my family for 5-6 months so business is going great because of the help I get from my family.
Vishisht Lifestyle's Most Popular Products
Natural Lavender Lip Scrub
If dry, chapped and painful lips is the norm for you every winter then this 100% natural lavender lip scrub will provide you much relief. Enriched with extra virgin olive oil it helps to exfoliate the lips, remove dead skin and restore their natural colour. You can buy a jar of 20 gm for ₹ 199.00 here.
Natural Rosemary Hair Serum
If you want silky smooth hair naturally and in minutes then this hair serum enriched with argan oil and rosemary is just what you are looking for. It works on all types of hair in both dry and wet condition. A 20 gm jar is priced at ₹ 199.00 and you can check it out here.
Natural Coffee Night Cream
Get rid of those ugly under-eye dark patches and wake up every morning with a soft and glowing skin. This completely natural night cream will work on your skin throughout the night. A 40 gm jar costs ₹ 299.00 and you can buy it from here.
Where Can You Find Them?
How Vishisht Lifestyle Promotes Sustainability and Carbon Footprint Reduction
- Q. You mentioned earlier that one of the challenges is the presence of so many skincare brands. What makes Vishisht stand out from other natural skincare brands?
- Even though we are in the market to do business our foundation is based on a social cause. We focus on the social aspect first and then we move to the profits. For us our planet is at the core of our brand. From sourcing the raw materials to the delivery of the final product, every step that we take, we keep our planet in our mind, e.g. for sourcing raw materials, we try to get them by road and not by air so that we can reduce our carbon emissions.
Moreover, contrary to many brands which offer 50-60 products we are offering only 15-16 products. This is because we believe in offering the customers only what they need. We are not spoiling them for choice. We do not want the customers to keep buying, then throwing, and filling their vanity with 100 products which they are never going to use. This is a waste of money, resources and products. We offer the products to our customers that they actually need and not giving 5 different options in say a lip balm. Our lip balm suits all the skin types and we are not giving 5 options because that is a waste of resources. Also, customers might end up buying 3 products which they might not use and in the end they will get expired and it will all be a waste.
Our packaging is completely plastic free, 100% recyclable, there is almost zero waste from our side. Even in terms of ingredients, we put bare minimum ingredients which are required. We do not add anything extra like fragrances. We are creating products that simply work without creating wastage of material, packaging or delivery, or even sourcing the raw materials.
In terms of delivery, we also offer our customers to return the jars. A customer can collect 4-5 jars and send them back to us. We will offer them a discount to recognise the fact that they took that particular extra step of sending the jars back to us. This way we are trying to close the loop, instead of buying new jars, we are trying to reuse the jars that are sent back by the customers. As I said, our planet is at the core of all our practices. We as a brand want to make sure that we do our bit. We want to sell as many products as possible and divert plastic from ending up in landfills and oceans. This environmental consciousness I would say is probably a differentiator from other brands.
- Q. Many of the things you talk about, the average consumer has not really thought about.
- Exactly. We are educating our customers on these lines so that once we become conscious about our choices in terms of climate conservation and our planet, the whole thing starts from our brand. Once we are conscious of what we buy, I think 50% of the job is already done. If we do not buy things we don’t need, we have already done 50% of the part. It all happens because of wasteful purchases and throwing them in the dustbin and which then ends up in the landfills. I think that is a major contributor as a consumer if we are conscious of what we are buying.
- Q. Sustainability is clearly a big part of Vishisht. Why is it so important for you?
- Even before I started my brand, I used to be conscious of what I am buying and how much I am buying. You know how we go crazy when we have a fixed salary and when the salary comes we go all nuts and be like I’ll buy this and I’ll do online shopping. I used to be like that before but then slowly my thoughts changed because I saw a lot of videos about it. I remember seeing this picture on the internet where they were trying to remove a plastic straw from a turtle’s nose, which was very moving. We humans keep throwing our waste into landfills and our oceans, and the sea life and the animals on land are just dying. I also watched a video of a cow which ended up eating the garbage which had a glass piece in it that almost cut the inside of her stomach. These animals do not know how to talk, they cannot express themselves and they are dependent on us and this is what we are feeding them, right? That is when I decided that as a human being and a citizen, I’ll try my best at my level to protect and conserve our environment and planet. Of course, one person cannot change the entire world but if we start from ourselves and educate 4-5 other people, we can lead by example and gradually more and more people will become conscious.
- Q. Is there anything you wish to add?
- I am really hoping that a lot people read this article that you will be publishing on your platform. All we wish for people is that they can make a small change in their lifestyle and become more environment conscious. I hope this article is an eye-opener for people who read it and they start taking our environment more seriously.
What's Next for Vishisht Lifestyle?
Right now we are having 14-15 products, so there are a couple of things in the pipeline that we are planning to do. We are definitely trying to maximise our sales from the website alone for better revenue. Out of the 15 products, around 10 products are vegan but the other products like lip balm, etc. have beeswax. These are not exactly vegan so we are trying to come up with some alternative formula. Once that is done, in addition to being sustainable, our band will also be 100% vegan as well. That would be a great opportunity because we are using animal based material which is also animal cruelty but I hope it is not. There are a lot of vegans out there who don’t believe in that so we definitely do not want to upset them. Hence, we are working on a plant-based formula. Apart from that, we have been getting a lot of feedback from our customers who want us to have more products like face-masks, hair oil, soaps, natural lipsticks, etc. We are working on those formulas as well.
Any Advice for First Time Users of Natural Skincare Products?
In terms of someone switching to natural skincare, start slow, don’t just throw away everything you have. Just changing it completely, it will be a change in lifestyle because your skin is used to certain kinds of products. So I would say, whatever you have, just finish it off instead of just throwing it away as it is again a wastage. Skincare is very basic and we do not need to complicate things. Start with a basic moisturiser or a lip balm. Then slowly start using the hair serum and the body cream. We only need 4-5 products for basic skincare – a moisturiser, a lip balm, a body moisturiser or the body balm or body cream that we have. You start with 4-5 product and once you see the response as to how they are working for you, then you can go through any products from offline branches also. Making small changes would be great.
Switch to High Quality Natural Skincare Products
As would be evident by now, conventional skincare products are full of harmful chemicals and it is time for you to switch to completely natural and high quality skincare products. Vishisht Lifestyle is one such brand which produces skincare products using only the best natural ingredients that will make your skin soft, radiant and healthy, without any side-effects. Share your experiences of using their products with us and remain connected for more such engaging content.