When we think about small businesses, we usually associate them with a person’s first journey on the business path. That may be the case for many, but definitely not for Harlin Sachdeva, the founder of House of Makeup. Harlin has been in the beauty industry for almost a decade! However, her journey started with something entirely different – after completing her MBA, Harlin was placed in a telecom company. A decade ago, telecom industries were all the rage, and e-commerce had just started picking up. She realized soon after that her passion lied in all things beauty and stumbled upon many different new innovations over the next ten years.
From starting at Fab Bag and then pivoting to Sugar Cosmetics, Harlin’s name is associated with many beauty start-ups of that time. She notes that working in the start-up space is very different from an MNC setup. In the former, one focuses on optimization to ensure that every penny invested goes into getting the business off the ground. However, in an established brand, when funds are no longer an issue, the focus moves to scaling and innovating instead. Harlin wanted to add more skills to her already blooming arsenal and moved to Unilever where she worked on Lakme’s digital presence. She soon took over digital and content creation for all of Unilever’s personal care brands.
As one can imagine, Harlin had become a mentor in the beauty industry space, having worked in a variety of businesses and in different roles. It was during that time that Harlin met Falguni Nayar, CEO of Nykaa who was keen on having Harlin on board to launch their Private Label- Nykaa Beauty. This was back in 2015 and though Harlin had learned a lot at Unilever, she was itching to create something brand new. She joined the small Nykaa team and managed many tasks, from e-commerce to making a product from scratch. It was during her time at Nykaa that she could really study the Indian market and understand what consumers were searching for.
Harlin realized that there was a clear demand for affordable quality products, as opposed to the Indian market’s tendency to either sell cheap for less quality or price very high for good quality. She noted that it was the norm for brands to focus on excel sheets instead of feedback, which was important, especially because this was the birth of the makeup industry in India. A huge wave of consumers started using makeup on a day-to-day basis instead of just for weddings, as it had been one generation earlier.
Along with valuing feedback, the other resolution that Harlin made before starting out on her own was to really understand ingredients. She shared that, while there are definitely ingredients that are banned, there are others that have literature associating them with toxicity but are still active in the market. The European market has banned 1300 ingredients in makeup, while India has only banned 11. Harlin set out to find a way to produce makeup in Europe for India and thus House of Makeup was born in 2019.
“The first product that we launched was nail lacquer. I chose this category because it is usually filled with harmful ingredients. We eat with our hands and we come in contact with hundreds of toxic ingredients. We are a 19 chemical-free formulation. It is absolutely safe even if you’re pregnant and it is halal certified. It has been tested for 100 washes and lasts 6-7 days without chipping. The brush has 480 bristles, which ensures that you can cover the whole nail. It is a double cap and this is similar to what luxury brands offer. The bottles were sourced from France!”
I’m somewhat of a nail polish fanatic and you can always find me sporting the weirdest color combinations. It’s therefore always been a concern for me as to what my add polish is adding to my meal. I eat with my hands, and I get up all into my curd rice, so I’m ecstatic that I can use these lacquers without a second thought. The matte nail lacquers were my favorite and you must try the one in blue.
“I’ve always struggled with panda eyes. The real issue is not kajal being long-lasting but that it needs to sustain in Indian weather. We’re not talking about a cold-weather climate like in the West. In India, it’s sweaty and our lids are oily. That’s why the kajal smears! The kajal formulation that you get in a gel pot is the best kind so we have incorporated that into the pencil format for an easier application. It is long-lasting, yes, but it also doesn’t smudge. This is a product that fits very well with what Indians need in the market.”
Panda eyes had definitely become a part of my Outfit of the Day before this kajal came along. It’s creamy and doesn’t smudge – the oxymoron I’m looking for when it comes to the perfect eye look.
“Liquid lipsticks I am very passionate about. I’ve tried almost all of them in the Indian market and hundreds from outside. What I found is that they’re either too dry or too sticky. I wanted a long-lasting formulation that at the same time does not cause any discomfort. Our Pout Potion Liquid Lipsticks feel feather-light and extremely hydrating. We just have 10 but the mission is to launch a complete line catering to all Indian skin tones. Even the ones we have launched have been tried on many skin tones to make sure that it is not chalky. I can say with confidence that this is hands down one of the best formulations available in India.
I absolutely love liquid lipsticks, especially because of wearing masks during the pandemic season. They don’t stain and they’re not sticky so hand me a liquid lipstick any day. I absolutely loved the colors and the pigmentation was incredible. If I had to choose one, it would be this subtle orange shade ‘Keeper‘.
“We didn’t do the powder lipsticks, we did the nourishing matte kind. We used avocado butter which also has natural SPF. The red color in lipsticks comes from carmine, which is sourced from the outer shells of beetles. We extract the color from the flower Bixin Orellana for that red pigment. They are very comfortable and they are super blendable. You can use them on your cheeks and eyelids.”
Matte lipsticks are somewhat of a scare for me because I’m one of the messiest eaters out there. That being said, it was really fun to mix shades together, which was possible because of how creamy and blendable they are! I recommend mixing ‘Tan on tan‘ with ‘Plum fiction‘ for the perfectly toned-down shade of pink.
“We wanted to be authentic. We did not want to take a Shutterstock image or do all black, all white, or holographic. That’s what the trend is but we worked with a designer to represent where each product originated from. Lipsticks became famous when the queen of England wore a red petite bow on her lips. That’s why went with white, blue, red, and gold, and a checkered pattern that symbolizes England.
As we grow we will understand our consumers better and we want to symbolize that we are a clean beauty brand. In the next 6-8 months we want to slightly revise the packaging so that we talk about who we are on the package itself.”
Harlin has a lot in store for the House of Makeup’s future including launching around 100 products this year. From lip scrubs to eye care, the next new launch will be in July.
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