as a young corporate working with IHindustan UnileverI, Pooja Monga There was a need to mobilize support for the adoption of sustainable products among global stakeholders, policy makers and consumers.
Additionally, she was conducting rigorous research to understand the lifestyle needs of consumers in developed and developing countries.
During the visits, Pooja finds lifestyle products like clothes and accessories around her. He realized that these were the ones on which people spent a large part of their disposable income. But he wondered how often these things come from an eco-ethical source?
Pooja recognized how deeply she connected with conscious consumerism. On delving deeper, he noticed a significant lack of the same in the accessible lifestyle products segment.
She shares, “I thought to myself, we talk about sustainability, but what we wear or carry isn’t always sustainable. There has to be a brand that’s as accessible as any other brand. and offer reliable, eco-ethical products.”
This prompted the worship to begin saltpeterA sustainable lifestyle brand, in October 2020. The Bengaluru-based startup offers sustainable products in the apparel, skincare, accessories and home accent category.
Starting Saltpeter for Puja was like a dream come true. While she always wanted to be an entrepreneur, she also wanted to gain much-needed experience.
Having started his journey in the business world with corporations like IHero MotocorpI and Hindustan Unilever, he learned how enterprises work.
His enthusiasm and desire to manufacture eco-ethical fabrics on a large scale production scale inspired him to become cotton farmers in Gujarat and weavers in Kutch and Himachal Pradesh.
For about a year, Pooja stepped into the farm and learned everything about cotton sowing, harvesting cycles, spinning of yarn, textile production units, weaving, processing, dyeing and garment manufacturing.
Next, he started with his first batch of clothing for the pilot.
Based on simplistic design and eco-ethical production, the brand’s idea is to create a modern lifestyle rooted in sustainable living. It starts with 99% plastic-free sourcing of raw materials and packaging.
The team procures organic cotton yarn and from there manufactures and processes the fabric with the help of GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified units.
Materials are sourced from suppliers who are systematically certified, or pass assessment for ethical practices. “We do not go to wholesalers or retailers, but to Vardhman or Mandhana textiles, or organic cotton shops. These partnerships already exist,” she adds.
The startup also uses cannabis in its apparel and has skin care products such as eye balms based on hemp oil.
“The product is designed for easy recycling at the end of life, bypassing the use of frills and baubles as much as possible,” she says.
In addition, the production is done in small batches and the waste is recycled into accessories like screws, pouches, journals with reusable covers, etc.
“Usually cloth workers throw or sell garbage and we don’t know where it goes,” says Pooja. Our team has placed bags near the cutting table where all the garbage gets collected. Every month, we send it to either accessories or to be transformed into accents.”
“Small batch manufacturing prevents excess inventory, requires upskilling of the human resources involved, and ensures above industry average payouts,” she explains.
challenges and business
With a team of five people, Saltpetre’s core team includes Pooja, founder and CEO; and Jailyne George, design and product partner, anchoring the product at the company.
Pooja shares that, in the initial days, many would have expected that her non-textile background would be a hindrance, but it was not. Instead it worked in his favor. “I could ask really silly questions without fear of being judged,” she says.
However, some challenges were fostering sustainability within the apparel and textile industry such as vendors, suppliers and manufacturers understanding the need for it.
Pooja says, “The textile industry is the oldest industry in the world. The age-old inertia continues in work patterns, processes and operations. Explaining the need for a new way of working and getting industry employees to partner with you is a task in itself. ,
During the pandemic, the team experimented with a brick-and-mortar inventory model to store its products at other outlets, but it didn’t work.
Currently, Saltpetre operates as a digital-first brand. This relies on suitable marketplaces like Tata Indiluxe, Myntra and FirstCry as well as direct to consumer (D2C) sales through their website.
“We see our accessories and organic cotton staples like T-shirts, sleepwear or lingerie as a potential match with Amazon in the future,” says Pooja.
The digital-first model helps the team have complete control over the data, so they know where the consumer is coming from and what they like.
“Since we are an asset-light business, we can be very agile based on the data coming in from the customer,” she shares.
With an average basket size of around Rs 4,500, Pooja says, “Our order return rate is quite low at just 3-5 per cent, and repeats are very good at 35 per cent.”
success and competition
Pooja started the brand with her personal savings with an initial investment of Rs 5 lakh. Currently bootstrapped, the startup is using the profits for its growth.
In FY21, Saltpetre generated revenue of over Rs 11 lakh, according to filings with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. Currently, Pooja estimates that the sustainable fashion and lifestyle market in India is worth $1.5 billion, growing at a CAGR of 9.5 percent.
“The organic food and natural skin care categories are growing at a CAGR of 25 per cent and 15 per cent respectively. I expect the growth rate to accelerate,” she says.
Currently, the market for sustainable products is growing significantly, as consumers today are looking for products that are unique and do not harm the planet. This growing demand has also made big brands like Zara, Marks & Spencer, H&M, Uniqlo to manufacture sustainable clothing and products.
Saltpetre competes with other brands such as Go Native, The August Company, No Nasties, Okhai and Nicobar. Talking about this, Pooja says, “Saltpetre caters to the mature customer who shop from these brands due to paucity of better options.”
Saltpetre competes with other brands such as Go Native, The August Company, No Nasties, Okhai and Nicobarto. Talking about this, Pooja says, “Saltpetre caters to the mature customer who shop from these brands due to paucity of better options.”
Pooja wants Saltpetre to become a globally recognized brand. The team is currently focused on expanding into tier one and metropolitan cities where its consumers live. After saturation in these target markets, the brand plans to expand into international markets. Pooja also aims to explore an all-channel model for the brand in the near future.
She shares, “Clothes and apparel continue to be a touch and feel category and people love to try on sizes. Maybe there’s a new and innovative way to trial space or something similar that we can look at. ,