Archana and Anuj Rathi come from a family that supplies colours, such as paints and inks, to businesses in India, but they wanted to try something different, something like skincare. A biotech company in the USA named PhytoPharmacon (PPI) which carried out pathbreaking research into botanicals and had created a massive library of around 4,500 plant extracts, was up for sale. This was the perfect step for Archana and Anuj, so they acquired PPI and moved its operations to India.
Their initial plan was to tie up with cosmetics companies and supply them with plant extracts from their extensive plant library. The phytochemicals (plant chemicals) were so powerful that a little bit went a long way, and so they needed to only supply very small concentrations of these natural ingredients.
While they started to plan for the future, scientists in their research labs were making important discoveries. One discovery was a particular combination of phytochemicals that showed great efficacy against acne bacteria and had significant skincare benefits. That’s when Archana and Anuj began to entertain the idea of a standalone brand for acne care. Not too long after that, Clearica™ was launched.
I sat down with Anuj to talk acne care and Clearica™and came away with a lot more than a great experience using their products.
What pain points/market gaps did you specifically want to address?
Looking into acne care, we were surprised to find Salicylic acid and Benzoyl peroxide leading the charge against pimples. Some 30 years ago, Archana and I used these same ingredients for our acne issues. Why was acne care stuck in the past? We were convinced Clearica™’s power-packed formulations could address this gap and take acne care into a new era.
But before that, we faced another uphill climb—the average customer’s desire for a quick fix: Nobody likes having acne on their face or body. It can look and feel unpleasant; it can sap your confidence; it can be discouraging. So, how do you get rid of acne ASAP?
There are products which zap pimples in eight to 12 hours, but they contain aggressive chemicals which have side effects. The skin may feel dry and irritated. Plus, these formulas offer no long-term solutions for acne.
On the other hand, Clearica™ is an effective and longer-lasting solution. The formula works holistically to treat the many signs and symptoms of acne. But it does not bring instant results and it calls for users to have a daily skincare regimen.
One of our challenges is breaking the consumer mindset where all you want is an instant cure. So, we work hard to educate consumers via our social media channels and other outreach. If you are willing to give it time, Clearica™ really can keep those pimples away.
Please explain the learning curve that you underwent to start a business (eg, sourcing/ingredients).
Our biggest learning relates to supply chain management: where and when we source our raw materials, which extractive processes we use, as well as how to scale the extractive processes.
Since all our active ingredients come from plants, standardisation has been a constant challenge. Each time a plant grows, it grows differently. The potency of a phytochemical varies based on sowing and harvesting times, the farms we source them from, and the geographical areas where they are grown. Some plants yield better actives in some parts of the country but don’t perform as well when grown elsewhere.
Besides, there’s no way to mass-produce phytochemicals in a lab. What helps is our proprietary extraction process, for which we have already filed patents. Our process ensures that we extract the most powerful version of the phytochemical, thus ensuring that our active ingredients have better efficacy against the signs and symptoms of acne.
We also wanted to limit our climate impact. That meant taking steps right from the sourcing stage. For example, two of our actives come from what is usually waste material—the discarded leaves of the eucalyptus and guava plants.
What is your favourite part of running Clearica?
Clearica™ enabled us to move into the B2C space — and that’s very different from the B2B segment that we had worked in before this. One big difference is that we now get regular inputs and appreciation from actual end users. Clearica™ is making a direct impact on people’s lives. People are grateful that the solution works and they send us constant feedback.
What is also exciting is that all the trial and error that we went through has brought results. Each of our actives is powerful in its own right, but the Clearica™ combo of four actives creates an exponentially higher impact. This is not a case of two plus two equals four but two plus two equals eight.
The anti-acne cream and cleanser have four key ingredients chosen, again, through the power of research. Which came first, the cream or the cleanser, and what was the process like (from idea to ingredients to launch)?
The cream came first in 2020, and the cleanser followed in 2022. Both products feature four active ingredients: green tea to reduce lesions and irritation, Phragmites kharka to minimize inflammation and moisturization, eucalyptus leaves to fight acne bacteria, and guava leaves to stimulate collagen production. Each ingredient plays an important role in fighting acne. The Clearica™ extract combines the best of these plant chemicals, creating a power-packed punch against the entire ecosystem of acne.
In the planning stage and much before launch, we had concerns that Clearica™ would need heavy marketing because acne care is a competitive segment. But because we ended up with a technically strong product, we realized there was no need to adopt the machine gun approach, where you just market and market till it sells. Instead, we went with a more organic approach to marketing and sales, and word-of-mouth references from happy customers are always a win.
I tried the anti-acne cream on myself and a friend. I’ve thankfully passed the acne phase of my life (fingers crossed that it doesn’t return), but I know where to go should it ever show up again. My friend shared that the cream was unlike any product that she’d tried before. She’s often had to apply medicinal creams where you can’t wait for the nose blindness to kick in, so having a cream that was made as skincare with the same properties of treatment was game-changing. She also shared (and I agree) that the unboxing experience is super exciting. Everything from the packaging to the ingredients sets this cream apart, and coming away with calmer, lesser red skin is a definite plus point.
Head to their website to try out the Clearica™ anti-acne cream.