Kruthika Kumaran’s journey from engineering to natural cosmetics
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity – Albert Einstein
Adversity can have its own reward, as Kruthika Kumaran, co-founder of Vilvah Store, found out. Her skin care brand uses futuristic tech to produce natural, sustainable, cruelty-free, and effective products. But Kumaran, an engineer who turned soap-maker, describes herself as an “accidental” entrepreneur.
A Maternal Muse
Growing up on a lush farm in tiny Gobichettipalayam in Tamil Nadu, Kumaran never foresaw a career in beauty or skin care.
“I did my entire schooling in our small town and then studied Information technology at the Kumaraguru College of Technology, Coimbatore,” she told Seema. “I got placed in two companies, but got married soon after college.” She added, “I never got a chance to work, and remained a homemaker for the next 10 years of my life.”
Her mother had extremely sensitive skin and battled several skin problems. The prescribed steroids caused kidney damage that led to her death.
“My mother always wanted me to learn how to make handmade soaps,” Kumaran said. “After she passed away, I experimented with lots of ingredients. My daughter who was six years old at that time also had eczema (a dry skin condition). I started curating products for her skin. Since I come from an agricultural background, I started experimenting with different formulations with goat milk. It worked wonders on her skin. I have not looked back.
Kumaran enrolled herself in a natural cosmetology course to cope with the immense grief of her mother’s death. That led ultimately to Vilvah, now headquartered in the south Indian city of Coimbatore, close to Kumaran’s farm.
Scientific, Farm Fresh, and Natural
She said that Vilvah’s unique products rely on ethically sourced, natural and organic ingredients combined with carrier oils, necessary oils and butter.
“We were raised along with cattle on the farm. So it occurred to me that I should use goat milk in our soaps. Goat milk, whose ph level is very close to that of the human skin, have skin conditioning properties and is great for the hair too. Fat globules present in goat milk nourishes the scalp and hair strands and retains moisture. Rich in nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, goat milk has alpha-hydroxy acids that soften the skin by removing dead skin cells” adds Kruthika.
Vilvah’s output includes products for the face, hair, body, and lifestyles. Grooming products include cleansers, serums, toners, face masks, moisturizers, body mask, scrubs, eye care, lip care, shampoos, hair oils, masks and conditioners. Chemicals not found in the products include sulfates, silicones, parabens as well as artificial fragrances. They are also not tested on animals.
“When I started out, I formulated all the products myself,” Kumaran said. “Later, we onboarded cosmetic scientists and built our R&D team. Investing in the right R&D is of utmost priority for us. We launch a product only after strict trials. We check a lot of factors, such as packaging compatibility, stability and do clinical trials.” She said that customer response has been encouraging, given that their products work well on Indian skin.
Kumaran said Vilvah’s milk series makes it stand out.
“Apart from our goat milk range, made from farm fresh goat milk, we have a lot of vegan milk options,” she said, adding that the brand has a full line of milk-based skin and hair care products. She added that the store uses sustainable packaging – aluminum and glass – instead of plastic. ”
Vilvah has currently three retail stores: two in Chennai, and one in Coimbatore. Besides, it sells its products are on their website and in marketplaces such as Amazon, Flipkart and Nykaa. Kumaran said Vilvah plans to expand its presence to other south Indian cities as well.