13 Business/Marketing lessons from MamaEarth and its Co-founders (Ghazal Alagh and Varun Alagh)

MamaEarth has been in the business news yet again as they managed to become the first unicorn ($1.2 billion valuation) in India for 2022.

If you’re a millennial reading this, you might have used MamaEarth’s products at some point or would have at least seen their products used by known people or at the least; you would have seen their presence online.

They have been doing an outstanding job at catching people’s attention and ruling the market.

Here’s my breakdown of how they cut through the competition in this highly crowded market.

Many of these insights have come from their recent podcast with Raj Shamani and my observations as a marketing practitioner.

I will be stripping these insights into the business and marketing side of things.

Business Insights

1. Being observant of the problems you face along with the issues people around you face

This has been the one lesson every business has talked about; why? Because it is so damn important.

The problem you identified today might be the beginning of a million-dollar startup.

Typically, we tend not to think actively about the problems around us, mainly because we try to solve them with a reaction instead of a reflection.

This ‘so-called solution’ has built up within ourselves because of small habits built over time.

But we acknowledge the real solution only when we are stumped for an answer or when we face it multiple times that leads to a loss.

Bottom line: Solving a real problem is the most significant business idea.

2. Validating your idea by talking to people

This concept is called Market Validation. It’s a process of determining if there’s a need for this problem in your target market.

Talking to your family or friends might or might not help, but talking to people who have a similar user persona to your target audience will help validate if people realise that it’s a serious problem and, more importantly, if they’re willing to pay for it a solution.

3. Don’t worry about your idea being stolen

Several entrepreneurs fear that other people will steal their idea. 

Entrepreneurship is more about putting the idea to work rather than the idea itself. 

At the end of the day, it all boils down to who is more passionate about the idea and executed it better. 

People can always copy the idea once it’s out, so it shouldn’t be a concern. All it will do is hold you back from validating the idea and the market.

Bulb-on 💡: If no one is copying or taking inspiration from your idea; not sure if that is a good thing.

4. Have a solid reason to make the idea work

All successful businesses owners (at least the ones I have heard of) have had strong reasons/beliefs behind making the idea work.

It can either be because of personal reasons like people who enter the Medical industry would have suffered or seen someone close to them suffer because of a disease or anything of that sort. It can be something casual too.

MamaEarth founder’s first child had skin issues when he was born. They had to outsource baby products from outside to ensure they didn’t contain any chemicals. In India, baby care products were made from chemicals, and the government or authorities did not regulate the market. 

Apart from that, both were very ambitious individuals who always wanted to start a business when they were teenagers.

Identifying that ONE reason to make the idea work and working towards it is half war won.

5. Don’t settle for less

I’m sure you would have heard something similar from the ‘OnePlus’ brand.

Varun Alagh stresses on, how thinking big allows you to achieve big. Thinking big might feel impractical for many of us, but Varun insists that you think big because that’s the only way you will keep working towards it. Treat it as a bonus whatever extra you get from the practical goal.

The second important aspect of thinking big is it allows you to learn and upskill every day.

There’s always so much more to do in Business and life.

6. Importance of Networking

Both Ghazal and Varun Alagh had no freaking idea of creating a product.

From research, formulating the product to packaging, they had zero ideas when they started. 

It’s okay not to know everything you need to make a business happen. It’s the entrepreneur’s attitude to figure out things along the way is what matters.

And how to figure it out? Personal research and networking with people who have gone through a similar journey, hanging out with like-minded people.

Networking allows you to access certain opportunities that you might not have found on your own. A single contact could change the entire game for you by cutting down all the potential mistakes you might make while saving a ton of time.

In the case of MamaEarth, Varun Alagh’s old colleagues came to his rescue to help them with the process of R&D, formulation of products, etc.

7. Horizontal Expansion

People grow it slowly once a business is scaled to a certain level.

But few companies try and grow horizontally too.

MamaEarth, after building a successful brand in India, is anyways going to scale it to a level until it reaches the market size, but one more interesting thing they have been doing is, coming up with more brands in the personal care industry. 

They now own, Dermaco, Aqualogica & Ayuga. This strategy allows them to capitalise on the audience base they have already captured, increasing the customer’s LTV (Life Time Value) by cross-selling.

You would have noticed that many YouTubers have now started to create a 2nd channel for themselves. Most of their content on their 2nd channel is mediocre but what this allows is, get the initial traction from the existing audience base to give the new channel a push start and also increase the views of the channel from the same set of audience and this brings them extra revenue without having to expand on the audience size.

Bottom Line: While you’re on the verge of achieving goals, make sure to create a couple of more on the way.

Marketing Insights

1. Indians are value-conscious and not money conscious

This is one of my favourite lines from their recent interview with Raj Shamani.

Varun states most people out there talk and refer to the Indian audience as people who want to purchase things for a lesser cost, but Varun disagrees with it. 

He says there have always been segments of the population to whom value has always mattered.

Indians are not money conscious, but they’re value-conscious. 

If you can position your product and brand to over-deliver value when compared to the cost, people will end up buying even if the price is on the higher side compared to other products in the same niche.

2. The millennial market belongs to WHY based brands instead of WHAT based brands

You might be wondering what does this even mean?

It means millennial people will buy your product if they understand why your brand exists instead of what products you sell.

It is super important to have a strong story behind why the brand was born.

With MamaEarth, it has always been about using organic ingredients and cutting off chemicals completely because their newborn had skin rashes because of the chemicals used in Baby products. 

Food for thought: If you have watched Game of Thrones (GOT), I’m sure you would remember this quote from Tyrion Lannister.

“What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing more powerful than a good STORY.”

One more great example of how a good story scaled a fruit-flavoured water brand ‘Hint.’

Here’s the link to that piece of content.

3. Word of mouth is still the best marketing strategy in the History

MamaEarth is one such brand that has leveraged the word of mouth marketing strategy in a slightly different approach.

Influencer Marketing is what drove more than 50% of MamaEarth’s sales in the first few years.

They took advantage of micro-influencers who were trusted by a decent fanbase.

This allowed them to build the initial trust because people trusted other people’s voices.

From your favourite YouTuber to the most viral Instagramer, they covered it all.

They could have reached all of these audiences via paid ads, but they chose the influencer marketing route because they knew they had to build trust, which would serve as a foundation for all other marketing activities.

They also ran affiliate marketing programs via EarnKaro and paid 21% max in commission.

To leap, they reinvested the money to tie up even more prominent influencers like Bollywood stars who believed in a healthy lifestyle. They managed to convince Shilpa Shetty Kundra to even invest in their company and join the board of investors.

This allowed them to reach the mass fanbase of these influencers. 

They took complete advantage of the democratization of the content.

4. Creating a Blue Ocean

This concept of creating Blue Ocean Strategy is very well explained by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim in their book ‘Blue Ocean Strategy.

It explains how a brand can cut through the competition in the same niche by creating a new space through innovation.

Red Ocean – Saturated, over developed market.

Blue Ocean – Unsaturated, developing market.

Creating a blue ocean gives you two significant advantages.

  1. First mover advantage
  2. It makes the competition in the niche irrelevant

MamaEarth killed the big players in the baby care niche like Johnson & Johnson, Himalaya, Dove, etc. by innovating the space with chemical-free ingredients.

5. Going Omnichannel

As a marketing practitioner, I see many companies make the mistake of not going Omnichannel.

You’re leaving a lot of money on the table by not doing so.

Product-based companies need to scale rapidly to make themselves a brand.

MamaEarth started as a D2C brand and got the initial push from influencer marketing, WOM, affiliate marketing, etc., but, boy, did they stop there. They went on to leverage marketplaces like Flipkart, Amazon, Nyka, continued to shell out huge money on paid ads and didn’t even leave a stone unturned by hitting the traditional marketing channels like TV advertisements too.

It is no more a D2C brand. They are shelved on more than 25k retail stores and are available in more than 100 cities, making a good 25% of their revenue.

6. Leaving an impactful last but not the slightest impression

That does sound a little confusing. It is mostly because you have heard people saying make sure the first impression is excellent.

Not sure if MamaEarth has got it right, but they definitely have got the last impression right.

Most brands wash their hands off when the sale is made, but that’s not the case with MamaEarth.

They went a step forward to make sure they leave a brand footprint on people’s life by planting a sapling for every order a customer makes.

They have so far planted 300k+ saplings in India across 25+ states.

As soon as you receive your products from them, they make sure to send you an email SMS that has details of the sampling they have planted on behalf of you in your name. 

It covers the minute details like the type of sapling (Mango tree in my case), a photo of the sapling and the geolocation.

This might sound like a marketing gimmick to a couple of people. Still, considering India is a culture/emotion-driven country, this leaves a very good last impression on the customer about the brand, which eventually increases repeat orders, WOM, and retention rate.

Interesting Fact:

“A repeat customer has a 60 to 70% chance of converting.”
- Paul Farris (Marketing Metrics)

Final Words

That is my analysis of the MamaEarth business/marketing activities, while you can go ahead and let me know if I have missed any pointers in the comments below.

Your task for the week is to identify what they could do better when it comes to Content Marketing.

I did a quick analysis and identified a couple of things they could improve upon when it comes to Content Marketing/SEO.

I will be sharing this on Instagram and Twitter.

If you want to know more about it, follow me on both channels.

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