A skincare brand made for young millennials and Gen Z — this is how Goutham Uppaluri describes Pulp Cosmetics.
Goutham has always had a deep love for biology, which led him to a Masters in pharmaceutical sciences. After his Masters in the US, Goutham continued his time there as a healthcare consultant. He learnt bits and pieces of the marketing trade and began to conceptuate plans for a startup in India. They both returned to India to give it a go, but 3 months in his friend returned to the US, believing the startup to be a no-go. While this was the end for that particular plan, the wheels of innovation had begun turning in Goutham’s mind.
Whenever Goutham would make a trip from the US to India, he’d have friends ask him to bring back cosmetics and skincare from American brands like Lush and Glossier. He took note of this and compared the branding of Indian skincare businesses to those back in the states. He realised that many Indian businesses push cheaper products with the tone that it would make the consumer beautiful and without it, the consumer would be lacking. He immediately placed that this was not the tone skincare should be sold with – perhaps a more personal image without the outward appearance of simply pushing sales would work better.
It was then that Pulp came to be. It did not begin with the website and Instagram page that we see today. Goutham did not have connections in the Indian startup space nor did he have any entrepreneurs in the family. But he rented out an apartment and began formulating shampoo bars and shower jellies. It took Goutham two years to test out his product production skills and more importantly, the market itself. What did the market have space for? What did Indian consumers need? Would the market accept all his ideas?
Goutham recalls the immense effort that went into the two years before Pulp became a reality. He spent a weekend out on the roads with his cousin searching for Mehendi leaves! Two years later, on April 1, 2020, Goutham launched Pulp with face masks as its first product.
While a background in pharmaceutical sciences undoubtedly helped Goutham figure out the formulation process, Goutham emphasises that Pulp’s products are more than the ingredients in them. It’s for this reason that he chose social media as the primary platform to push Pulp on. It’s all about communicating Pulp’s values and views that the Pulp team is passionate about. The way that Pulp’s product lines are centred around the same thing that their social media talks about – lifestyle.
There are several different series, from ‘Off duty’ to ‘Date night’ that truly taps into a lifestyle routine of a young millennial or Gen Z customer. “We ask ourselves, where do we want pulp to be in your lifestyle when you have a shelf full of products? We want pulp to stand out, so we spend a whole lot of time making sure of the packaging. But we also stress about the inside. We are priced high for a startup but that’s because all the quality ingredients are sourced from the best. There’s a lot of hard work, and it comes across as one of our values.”
Goutham shares that the strategy of product making has changed since he first dreamed of starting Pulp, and building a team and company online during the pandemic proved to be a challenge. The next steps in Pulp’s mission are to have an office in Hyderabad and to launch a line with a South Indian celebrity. While we wait for these dreams to become reality, let’s take a closer look at a few of the products Pulp customers simply adore.
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“It’s about being able to define the lifestyle of a user. It’s not about the active ingredient. Many products don’t have a personality to them, so we make sure that ours do. The ‘Day after binge’ series is products you want to use after you’ve had a lot of sugar and you’ve danced all night. It’s 20% vitamin C, it’s a pretty high concentrated serum. The algae and all of the good stuff in the serum counteract whatever your skin has gone through when it’s taken a lot. It could be a lot of blue light or a lot of sugar intake, anything that has impacted your skin in a way where you need antioxidants to fight against the inflammation and brighten it up. Why? Because you want to go to work the next day. ”
I’m no stranger to bingeing (though I lean towards the NaCl than the -OH group) so I’m used to craving superfoods the next day. My gut calls for the greens after particularly lavish dinners but it never struck me that the largest organ of the human body i.e. the skin, could crave superfoods too. I’ve been using this serum and all of the “good stuff” that Pulp has promised is definitely being well appreciated. The serum goes on thicker than most serums, it feels like a gritty paste (possibly all the greens inside of it), but in 5-10 minutes it’s absorbed completely. I’m glad that my skin is no longer thirsty!
“The sunscreen that I used to use would leave a white cast on my face, which would announce to people that I am wearing sunscreen. Our first pointer was to create a sunscreen that didn’t leave a white cast. We also try to make our products multipurpose for the kind of lifestyle you have. If you’re a young professional or going out, you want to put makeup on so you probably want a sunscreen that acts as a primer! We have several team sessions to make sure the names stand out, doesn’t MVP?”
Searching for a good sunscreen is a struggle no matter where you are, but in India where the options are limited and the ingredients border on suspicious activity, I must admit that my skin has not been receiving the sun protection it requires. This sunscreen doesn’t leave a white cast behind, which besides a good SPF number is the bare minimum requirement of a sunscreen (swimming pool flashbacks of a ghostly Aishwarya), but including a primer is really ingenious. I don’t wear makeup on most days (if at all), but the mattifying primer component of the sunscreen smoothens my skin out like nobody’s business. Even if I forget to wear this sunscreen for sunscreen’s sake, I’m definitely reminded to reach for it because of the primer!
“This is the best product that I’ve put out. When anyone joins the team, I tell them to pick up the cleanser and take it home and try it out!
There’s a specific use case again. You’ve had a long day and you just want to go off-duty and take the rest of the day off. That’s when you employ the cleanser. It‘s a product that actually cleanses, refreshes and gives it the nutrition your face needs. A lot of cleansers foam and make you feel like you’ve cleansed your skin but it’s sucked out all the oil. Our cleanser leaves your skin soft and supple, that’s the idea behind the cleanser.”
While I do like a good foam (it’s fun to blow bubbles around), I definitely do not the oil (and life) sucked out of me. This cleanser is almost as if you haven’t washed your face at all — it removes the layer of grime and dirt but leaves the rest of your natural skin as is. It’s a cleanser, not a detergent, something that I had forgotten about entirely because of the very many face wash options out there.
“In the first two years, scrubs were one of the first products that customers really liked. When we launched the brand we didn’t want to disconnect from the folks who loved the scrubs. Dance flour is about this particular experience — as a kid in this region, your grandmother and your mom create bath powders with all of the stuff from the kitchen. We wanted to make a remix of that. It’s got everything that your grandmother puts in plus something that’s better for your skin.”
I did indeed have a besan ritual at home — my mum would mix besan flour with curd and apply it to my face. It would harden to a crack and I’d enjoy the feeling of cool air on it as I lay under a fan. I’d then wash it off and feel renewed and refreshed. But one thing that put a dent in the process was the smell. The smell of curd mixed with besan is not a pleasant one and especially if you put it on your face, it’s right under your nose. Pulp’s Dance flour smells good, for sure, and it really does seem to have more in it than the simple mixture from my childhood.
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