Desperate to manage her son’s severe eczema, Anusha Nair Gangadaran began experimenting with balms and oils until she came up with an effective seabuck balm. “When my son was suffering through all that, a good friend of my father from India actually brought some seabuck oil for us, and I started concocting a balm that worked for my son. Later on, I further developed it and started giving it to my patients as well,” she says. Her natural remedy helped wean patients off of steroids in order to “heal rather than suppress”, but she had no intention to turn this into a business endeavour at the time.
As a trained general practitioner at Clinic Genga — a family-owned clinic started by her father — Anusha developed a knee strap device for patients with osteoarthritis and went on to get a patent for her design. “Of course, when it comes to developing a medical device, it is a long process, an expensive one. I was bleeding funds from my own pocket and it was becoming ridiculous,” she says.
Anusha decided to start selling the balm to help fund her international patent. “I thought whatever profit I got, I would be able to pump it into the research for the patent, instead of paying for it myself. That was what forced me to expand,” she recalls. With the backing of her most supportive investor — her husband — she set up Noosh Naturals, which focuses on all-natural remedies. With the launch of its website in October 2018, the brand debuted its seabuck balm and C-buck serum.
Unfortunately, the business did not take off the way Anusha had expected. “I had zero sales from the website for almost eight months. I sold products mostly through mummy groups,” she says. Facebook mummy groups serve as the perfect platform for entrepreneurial women to connect and sell their wares, and she even sources some of her ingredients from friends she met through these groups. “I get certain oils locally and overseas, and they all come with a certification that states they have been lab tested and are of good quality… I have friends who bring in coconut, castor and essential oils — I met them through the mummy groups — who, just like me, buy these for their own families. You want the best for your family and that is what you give to your customers.”
As customers began to be familiar with Noosh Naturals’ range of products, they made repeat orders through the website. Anusha then expanded her offerings to include deodorants, hair treatments, skincare products and even Ayurvedic recipes. “I’m a fairly fuss-free person, so it’s all just natural stuff. The main thing for me is that it should work. If I like it and I use it for some time, only then do I present it to others,” she says, adding that she often tests her concoctions by giving samples to friends and family.
Noosh Naturals relies on social media platforms to spread awareness of its all-natural remedies. Anusha hopes to advertise her items more after conquering her current hurdle, which involves getting certifications from the Ministry of Health. Skincare companies are often not allowed to register their products unless the items are made by a certified third party to ensure that certain guidelines are followed. While she has managed to register her seabuck balm, outsourcing production for the rest of her products does not make sense for her brand.
“If you’re selling natural products, you want to cut down preservatives and have small batches, which you will finish fast. When you outsource, you need to order at least 1,000 to 5,000 items. And if you order in those quantities, you will need to move them fast. Then, it becomes a marketing exercise rather than something I’m passionately making,” says Anusha.
To make her skincare in a clean and safe environment, she has converted the top floor of her clinic (which used to be an operating theatre) into a lab. Her next aim is to get this space certified so the products made in the facility can be registered, but this won’t be easy. “You need a lot of funding for that and the legislation is such that it doesn’t have leeway for small-timers to get their foot in the door. They are looking for you to book a giant space in an industrial complex and do it big. And there are no other concessions for those who don’t want to go big and prefer to remain a small-scale production,” she says.
Anusha blames her inability to sit still as the motivation behind creating her knee strap device, which in itself is an incredible achievement. What is even more impressive is that she has fashioned one passion project to fund another. She hopes that as Noosh Naturals grows, she may be able to help other entrepreneurs take the next steps in their ventures. “I want to get all my certifications in order, and I also want to be able to involve other handmakers as well who are having the same issues. I want to bring them to the forefront because there are so many women who are making fantastic stuff by going above and beyond — the sincerity that goes into their products is just phenomenal. That’s my hope.”
This article first appeared on Sept 14, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.