Meet Harshita Rai, The Wellness Entrepreneur Changing India’s Skincare Game

It began with the routine– Wake Up. Exercise. Eat. Play. Travel. Study. Sleep. Repeat (in any random order). Like a million others, this was The Skin Diet Company founder Harshita’s daily routine till 2017. In 2018, Harshita moved to the Big Apple for further studies, but it wasn’t as glamorous as one might think. Being miles away from home living independently with no emotional support to fall back on made it very difficult for her to handle the stress that came along with her school. The effects of shouldering the added responsibilities and stress all by herself was quite overwhelming. Though she was living her dream life, she wasn’t feeling herself. She worked out every day, but her body just didn’t feel right. This is when Harshita realised that she needed to bring about some positive changes in her lifestyle. But what exactly was it that her life needed? Balance! In the age of bingeing, Harshita set out to find ‘Balance’. She was determined to follow a healthy lifestyle. She began by forming small habits like drinking enough water, meditating, and sleeping on time. While these habits did have a positive impact, Harshita was searching for something more impactful. That’s when she became aware of ‘mindful’ eating. While researching for good foods to fuel the body, Harshita discovered Matcha Tea and its benefits blew her away. Little did she know that this was going to be the beginning of a life-changing journey! In an exclusive interview we speak to her on her inspiring journey:

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind starting this beauty brand? What motivated you to enter the beauty industry?

The idea behind TSDC stemmed from my personal skincare and self-care journey wherein I couldn’t find the correct resolution to the issues faced until I learned the importance of balance and benefits of Superfoods. To exemplify, I was always active, but I didn’t feel healthy enough until I reviewed my diet and incorporated superfoods to amply nourish the body and supplement my skin without overcomplicating it. This in turn, helped my energy levels while at university, stress management and acne struggles, making me realize how truly effective and underrated Superfoods can be.

Personally, I was always most interested in this industry which reflected in my choice of internship applications while at NYU only for beauty brands like Coty & Fenty Beauty. Post-covid, when I moved back to home in India, started researching into a more holistic approach to skincare and saw a market gap for that niche in our beauty industry, the founder energy in me kicked in. Hence, came the vision of merging superfoods with skincare, my two passions.

According to you what sets your beauty brand apart from other competitors in the market? How do you maintain a unique identity in a crowded industry?

In India, a market gap I realized was that nothing was Superfoods-specific. While there are brands that have well-incorporated some “fruits” as ingredients and branding, indeed, there were yet to be products that have truly centralized the power and potential of Superfoods as the protagonist than just a mere presence. This gives TSDC an edge from competitors and a first-mover advantage for being one-of-its-kind.

Another considerable gap I felt that made TSDC a rare brand are products prioritizing textures and application, as the customer truly values how products simply feel to their user experience. All our 5 products have unique textures suited to the Indian climate, can be used AM/PM, and work very well for combination skin, the hardest to cater. For example: our Avocado Serum’s a milky texture which feels luxuriously smooth yet very lightweight, hydrating and benefiting the skin with its super-boost of anti-oxidants. Our focus was to make active formulations that make your routine minimal yet effective.

How do you stay up to date with the latest beauty trends and consumer preferences?

Research, Research & Research! Both my team and I religiously stay up to date with the latest skincare innovations and beauty trends in both, our target groups and all over the world. Emphasis on the global element as we don’t necessarily have direct competition as a Superfood-centric Skincare and Wellness brand in India, yet.

With that said, I personally believe in just reading not being enough, especially with an experience as subjective as skincare. So, say my Sephora raids take another level with buying all possible products from a category and make myself, my team, even my family and friends a part of the initial impression and experience.

How do you incorporate feedback from customers into your product development process?

With TSDC being a start-up, customer feedback is oh-so-integral to us and treated strongly as a hygiene check. Simply, every single feedback counts and how in improving and strengthening the foundation of our brand. First of all, our initial feedback is in-house from every member of the team testing prototypes and reviewing in aspects of their user experience in its first impression and after 15 minutes from the use, fragrance, packaging, application ease, storage etc. Every product goes through a minimum of 3 revisions and we’re open to more depending on our customer feedback, each of which is accounted for by our R&D team extensively. This is why every product’s formulated over a period of 9-12 months each and only launched if and when we’re confident of it through and through, another reason why we kept our initial product portfolio limited but promising.

How does your beauty brand utilize social media to engage with its community and build a loyal customer base?

Our social media strategy, so integral to building our brand, operates in phases with its overall aim being provision of content which is as engaging and interactive as possible. Not only is our target getting new followers and ultimately, customers, it vehemently functions to retain existing customers’ loyalty. Also, since Superfoods are a food group that needs awareness, we ensure to educate our followers as much as possible, keeping it simple yet fun and easy to comprehend. We feature Polls, Trivia, Giveaways, and Pointers on self-care practices as TSDC practices a philosophy of mindful health and wellness. Finally, our collaborations with complementary brands like Glow Glossary’s Matcha Powder with our Matcha Toner help expand our base and associate with like-minded flourishing start-ups. In a nutshell, we try to keep it informative, engaging and maintain our verified claims and value-based content throughout.

What’s something they don’t teach you in university that you should probably know?

Interestingly, I didn’t go to university with this exact career vision in mind aka to find and build a beauty and wellness brand. And, while universities provide an analytic learning of business and marketing, Values matter the most for me. Values are at the crux of TSDC, and via my journey in building TSDC my growth has been professional and personal. I’ve become more patient than ever before and my decision-making ability’s prompter and clearer thanks to this process. So, soft skills like these are something that you learn outside of uni.

First thing you do as soon as you wake up?

To say that I’m a morning person is an understatement. I love waking up early more than anything else, it truly shapes the rest of my day. I wake up, get in some reading done when possible (used to do that regularly earlier, now I mostly use that quality time to spend with my husband), basically steer off screen time first thing in the morning. Come rain or shine, I start my day with a matcha drink, due to its unbeatable boost of antioxidants and other benefits, other than being a healthier caffeine kick. Then, moving my body in some way or the other is quintessential to me, so I get straightaway into a workout. And truly, such a start to the day leaves me energized, optimistic, motivate like nothing else to carry the rest of my day, work, and life. So, morning’s the time of the day I indulge in myself, having enough me-time and practices and declutter and recharge. So much so, that I’ve also converted my husband to be on-board the 6am club, he can a feel a difference as well.

What was your biggest stroke of luck since the time you started The Skin Diet Company?

There were two key moments I felt extremely lucky with TSDC. Firstly, I found most of my team, who are TSDC’s heart and soul, based out of LinkedIn thanks to its rise in popularity during and post-covid. So, the efficiency with which I recruited such a dream team felt destined and well, incredible.

Secondly, our journey to get on the best beauty e-commerce platform Nykaa was extremely smooth and successful, within 3 months of sending our products to their team and finding them well received and approved. That sign felt particularly rewarding, felt like we’re on to something right, that great luck I attribute to our team’s instincts and hard work.

What do you typically read? / Favourite book?

I only ever read Self-help books, and thoroughly enjoy them. They help me align with my goals and steer away any negativity and noise of everyday life. I still remember my first book that touched my life, no surprise, The Secret and started inculcating that wisdom in my life. My favourite book remains 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think by Brianna West, can’t recommend it enough.

Best boss you had and what did you learn from them?

Honestly, my father. He’s built his empire from scratch and continues to live by his strongest philosophy: to treat your team like your family. To this day, he continues to value his employees greatly and does them justice every step of the way. This is something I’ve learned and try my best to incorporate at TSDC and will continue to do so.

What question do you ask at interviews?

Before getting into specific, I definitely ask all if they believe in the brand. As a start-up environment is very uniquely different, their belief and commitment from the get-go is a dealmaker/breaker. TSDC is my baby, truly my first-born. So, like any other parent, you make no compromises on it.

What is the one thing you learned about yourself?

That if I envision something and genuinely hustle towards it, I’ll leave no stone unturned in my power to make it happen. Manifestation really does work if coming straight from the heart. Going to NYU, for example, was something I’d manifested strongly before I even got my acceptance. Have seen such manifested miracles come true in TSDC in its one year, and so I live by it.

How do you keep your team motivated & engaged?

My team definitely makes the absolute core of TSDC, and I value each of them immensely. Firstly, taking their feedback on any and every stage/decision is a must. I make it a point to involve whole of my team throughout the journey, even inter-departmental meetings so they’re in-tune with and contribute to those processes too. Essentially, they are my mirror, they can tell me anything. I’ve tried my best to create and maintain a safe space for any opinion to be shared freely and often even share my vulnerabilities and obstacles behind a TSDC decision that I can use their advice over. While the final say remains mine, we really brainstorm every idea and thought-process as a team.

How do you maintain work/life balance?

Being an extreme person, this aspect can be tricky and has taken a lot of trial and error to strike that balance but the best way I maintain both are simply to ensure prioritizing my happiness. Doing things that I love, staying healthy, being totally present in the situation whether its work or play, family or friends and ensure I take some time off constantly for some TLC or guilt-free me-time, we all deserve it.

Can you share childhood memory that shaped something you do in your business today?

Both my parents are first-gen entrepreneurs, so I’ve closely seen their hustle since my early years, creating, growing, and flourishing their respective careers into successful businesses. They remained consistent and stayed strong throughout the hardest of times to get from striving to thriving today. So, the importance of hard work, dedication and determination are values that have shaped both my brother and me, personally and professionally.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Whether it’s my parents or my journey, we’ve truly embodied and seen the results of hard work and consistency in our lives. Even my phone wallpaper currently reads “be consistent, never give up”, so I really try my best to practice what I preach. So simply, anyone can transform and build something worthwhile if you believe in it and stay consistent in achieving it. Everything outside is just noise, never ever let societal pressures and fears get to you. Put your airpods of focus on and carry on!