On the eve of asa Beauty’s re-launch, I sat down with Sukriti Jindal Khaitan, one of the co-founders of asa Beauty (the other being Asha Khaitan) to understand why. Having worked in Brand myself, I knew two things. One, a re-launch could make or break customer trust and two, it’s an extremely difficult thing to do.
To pick up an entire business and decide that in order to do better you have to start again is an action that requires humility and incredible foresight. Call me biased but I’ve seen Aasasa Beauty at two points in time – when it launched the first time, and now when it’s launched the second. I’ve written reviews of brands that have come to me but this one is personal and took years in the making.
Sukriti launched into a vivid description of the behind-the-scenes of an asa Beauty product. Working with a designer to create a 3D model, talking to the supplier about its usability, buying aluminium from a raw aluminium supplier, working with a die caster to make the packaging… The list went on but her message was clear, asa Beauty isn’t here to play, it’s here to win hearts.
“Because everything is made in-house, we’re always looking to upgrade and enhance the experience of anyone coming across asa. Even with our packaging, we felt that we wanted to take it back, tweak it slightly then relaunch it. I’m being candid with you, we wanted to smoothen our casings, there were many things we wanted to change.”
asa Beauty is a pioneer of the sustainable makeup movement in India and it’s their candid nature that’s been creating a brand image people want to represent. With their refillable lipsticks and capsule collections, it’s clear that they believe in perfecting rather than SKU-chasing.
“It was our own engineering minds that prompted us to take in the feedback that was coming in and put it to practice. It’s very easy in this market to ‘cheat’ a consumer and convince them with tricks but that’s not the route we want to go down. We’re a transparent company right down to our formulation. We specify the percentage of natural that we are for each of our categories.”
A quick look at their website will prove this to you. Rather than use words like ‘almost 100%’ they’ve specified that they’re >92% natural. Their lip and cheek tints have got ‘96% natural’ next to them. Each product has a ‘free-from’ list that takes you beyond the commonly used ‘no parabens’ into the nitty-gritty stuff of ammonia, toluene and mineral oil, just to name a few. You can tell that Sukriti has taken the time to learn about biodiversity, bioavailability and bio-individuality.
“The idea is to figure out how consumers can experience asa in a way that they can trust the brand and realise that we are genuinely looking out for them. We’re a brand that truly wants to be able to create this change. There’s so much creativity and potential in India and it’s hard to set that space but we wanted to put in the effort to make it happen.”
asa has a fan following (I’m one of them!) and Sukriti describes us well, “It’s a community of conscious consumers.”
So, from one conscious consumer to another, here’s what I think of asa’s new launch.
“Our face stick is a multi-use product where we’re trying to minimise wastage. We’re trying to simplify the extra layers on your face. It’s an extension of the way you look rather than transforming the way you look. Typically foundations and concealers alter the way that you look so this is about giving the power back to them. This face stick is in your control of how much coverage you want. You’re in charge of your own narrative. We are not setting industry standards about the way you want to be seen. ”
If you’re looking for creamy, this face stick is the cream of the crop. I don’t wear foundation or concealer because I’m very particular about what goes on my skin. I’ll do a little blush and some highlight on the tip of my nose but foundation is something I’ve left behind. However, there are days and events where I’d dig out the crusty formula and do a full face of makeup (then battled acne the next day). This face stick is exactly what Sukriti promised: the coverage is in your control and you’re not going to feel bad about using it.
“Now that the lockdowns have passed, we’re finding ways to be on the ground and in pop-ups or at concept-driven boutiques. The refill system comes out of our brand ethos of sustainability but Asa is an experiential brand so we want to build a way for people to see it to believe it. We’ve been pushing out content in the form of videos to show people how to experience it. What’s exciting for us is that we’ve hit the 2 year mark when people would have used up a lip and cheek tint or a lipstick so this is the time that people will come back for refills. It’s the moment of truth!”
Between you and me, I’ve been an asa fan since the very beginning. The product that reeled me in was this one, the lip and cheek tint (in apricot). Everything from the packaging to the formula is seamless. It’s really the perfect tint and I’m about to head back for a refill. This has been a staple of my makeup bag for years now, it’s my ride or die.
“We as consumers, both me and my mum-in-law, found ourselves picking up a lot of brands while travelling. There are so many beauty brands out there but because of the low barrier to entry into the Indian market (ingredients are not monitored as strictly as European counterparts). It’s an ever-evolving industry that is shaping up with so many lovely brands springing up and riding this wave of conscious consumption entering India. Two years ago when we started we were one of the first and it’s been amazing to see this community come together. Now is when we’re seeing that traction pick-up.”
I’m not going to lie, I’ve always been suspicious of lipsticks. I’m a liquid lip kind of girlie because of my fear of eating more lipstick than food. I barely let harmful chemicals touch my face, attempting to digest them is a long shot. Enter asa’s lipsticks. They’re bold, they’re in all the right shades and this might be a weird thing to fan girl over but they’re the perfect fit in my hands. That packaging does more than make you feel lux!
“I admire people who are able to do an entire makeup routine but I’m the kind of person who just wants to get it done with, especially when I’m gone. We use a lot of whole ingredients because you’re applying it on your face!”
You’ve got to hear about my lipstick rant and you know that the asa Beauty lipsticks are the end to my woes so here’s an overall summary. I’m biased because I work in Brand and asa’s got a strong one. They’re sustainable and they’re luxurious but what’s got me sold is that those features are not the beginning and end of their story. The market is so saturated that you’ve got plenty of beauty brands being prices higher than they’re worth or pretending to be ethical. It would be the most obvious answer for asa to leave their brand at both of those things. But they’ve gone above and they’ve gone beyond. Take a look at their Instagram page to know what I’m fangirling over. What asa has done is created a story of the current Indian woman and woven their products into her narrative. They don’t claim to want to fix you, your life of your image. They’re just the Ken to your Barbie but THAT’S WHAT BUILDS TRUST. I can go on and on and on about asa (and believe me I will continue to offline) so I’ll end this interview with a couple more questions.
Q: What’s the best part about being a founder of asa Beauty?
A: As founders, we love being in a position to be able to share our vision and mission so clearly with not just our immediate circles but also our larger extended asa community. It’s lovely to pull together a sense of community over similar values and thinking.
Q: What’s next for asa Beauty?
A: Our Face Stick launch was our latest update, but we have many more things in the pipeline. We are looking at adding an international appeal to our Made in India Brand for our Indian diaspora abroad and hopefully will be able to impact change in a larger way through natural beauty products soon enough.