When it comes to being a beauty label in todays’ world, there are so many expectations that one needs to fulfil. The market is full of informed skincare enthusiasts and label-reading experts, beauty influencers and social media -fuelled keyboard warriors – all of whom come with a whole checklist – from sustainability to inclusivity to cruelty-free needs. And with the Indian skincare market seeing a huge boom, the expectations have only escalated and there are very few skincare labels that are certified and bold enough to live up to their claims – one of them is Internet’s most popular skincare label, Earth Rhythm.
The first time, I saw them online, they were called Soapworks and were a small unit run by Harini Sivakumar out of Gurgaon and within two years, the brand has become a staple in every Instagram post and every home and is now rebranded itself as Earth Rhythm. A non-toxic label with a zero-waste philosophy, it was the first brand to come out with shampoo bars that are eco-friendly and plastic-saving. Harini Sivakumar, a mom, an entrepreneur and an advocate of sustainability along with her dad, Siva Kumar has created a label that is known to have unique products, stellar ingredients and mostly, a transparent and honest platform. We spoke to the dynamic and driven Harini to give us an insight into her world, the bestsellers at Earth Rhythm and why you need their shampoo bars in your home pronto.
Tell us a bit about Earth Rhythm? How did it come about?
We were previously called Soapworks India and its a dad-daughter business. I left a high-paying corporate job to take care of my son in 2015 and since I was at home, I decided to take my passion and create it into a business. So I used to sell skincare from my home – from lip balms and whipped butters to small soaps. Everything was hand-made and created in small batches. At that time, there was a gap in the market for zero-waste, handcrafted, small-batch skincare. Soon, orders started pouring in and I had my dad come in to help me. We formally launched the company in 2018. It was a business out of home which soon got so popular and we started a manufacturing unit and factory and now employ around 50 people. We employed women who were educated but had no means of finding real work, and the skincare market was booming with people looking frantically for organic, handcrafted products.
What makes it different from other beauty labels?
We came into the market to address an important problem / need at that point of time, that is to find beauty that embraces the zero-waste philosophy. Our first popular product was the shampoo bar and then was the bath bombs, lotion and conditioner bars – these are all zero waste and unique at that time and came in a plastic free format. Lets be honest, a shampoo and a conditioner is no longer a luxury product. It’s a necessity and it was paramount that we began with taking care of that need. Bringing in a ph-balanced shampoo bar was a turning point for us. Which means I can replicate the same effects a supermarket shampoo gives you through a bar. We were seen as the Lush of India when our lotion bars and bath bombs came out. All through, we stayed true to to our philosophy of minimalism and plastic-free beauty. All our ingredients are personally handpicked to retain their natural potency.
Creating a brand like this from scratch, how challenging was it?
We are a bootstrapped company, not backed by investors. It’s a home-based simple label that grew into a factory with more than 50 people. My personal challenge was juggling home and factory – while managing a child with a disability. I had to work to create quality rather than quantity. Our biggest challenge at work was to really live that zero waste life – right from our packaging to our tape we use to products, fillers – everything is plastic-free. In the initial stages we had spillages and transport issues, but we managed to create better packaging over the years.
Tell us a bit about the bestsellers and your opinion on using local ingredients in skincare?
Our bestsellers are definitely our shampoo and conditioner bars which are unique and we are one of the few places that create such products. The Murumuru shampoo bar was our first – its great for curly hair and works wonders on Indian hair. As far as sourcing ingredients locally, we tried but we don’t use as many Indian ingredients because local vendors cannot give us their sources and there are no certifications. These factors are critical when you are creating a zero-waste product. So now, we only use local ingredients that are certified by a prominent body like ECOCERT, USDA etc.
The lip and cheek tint was a welcome change from our skincare and it did so well. Lip tints without mica in them – that was a great success so makeup is a priority for us now.
Where does ER stand on in terms of sustainability?
All products and ingredients are checked at every level. Theres a lot of greenwashing in beauty in India – so we got in ECOCERT certification to make sure that our claims are authentic. Among other things, our packaging is made of glass and aluminium, we don’t ever use any other materials. Everything is biodegradable. We are PETA-verified too.
Your thoughts on the Indian skincare market and what should consumers be aware of?
India is seeing a huge boom in skincare and beauty scene this decade. There are around 30,000 brands that have come out in a single year, from what I hear. There’s ‘white-labelling’ where formulations are taken from their manufacturers and most brands just slap their name on it. Are we dumping the same product into the same market by slapping on different prices and labels? That’s something one should think about.
How does one look for authentic products then?
Look for certifications like ECOCERT if you are looking at honest skincare. How a product is formulated, manufactured and processed – thats important in the end. We are extremely proud of our formulations are extremely unique and owned by us. When you buy a serum or a bar from us, its never going to be a copy of anything across the aisle in a supermarket. India is a highly unregulated market so one must be careful about reading labels. We make sure even the smallest of ingredients are listed in our labels – everything is transparent.
What are the additional services the brand provides?
Additional services that we have? Well, we take back our packaging and we are completely recyclable. We have tied up with our local RWA in Gurgaon and we dispose of everything in a sustainable manner. In the product catalogue, we also concentrate on clean makeup now – its work in progress for us. We are working towards a 100% return policy if someone is not satisfied.
What else makes Earth Rhythm special?
For us, its important to be solutions driven, instead of experience-driven. The shampoo bar is a big example of that. If you get results delivered in an affordable pricing with zero-waste philosophy, there are takers for it. We are also completely inclusive, because thats our core ethos and it’s unique to us. Whether its employing women to having 30 more women in our manufacturing facility. Our entire labelling team has adults with autism and down syndrome working for us. Thats how we see ourselves – not just trying to sell a product, but trying to enrich lives around us.
We are now moving into scientific skincare, bringing in different skincare technologies into India that are designed to enhance the efficacy of a skincare / beauty product. We are also currently going through clinical trials for our formulations and if that works, we will be the first homegrown label that will work on clinical trials independently. Advanced formulations are coming in backed up by science in the coming months. Good certifications and manufacturing control is important and we make sure we are on top of that.