Joblessness to Formulating Success  A young Formulator’s journey

Image used for illustrative purposes only

Not even in his dreams did the 25 years old Nikunj Bali, who had just graduated from NIPER ( National Institute of pharmaceutical Education and research), Ahmedabad thought that one day he would be front ending  research in the Indian cosmetics industry, a privilege only a handful get. 

Fortune favours the brave as they say, I overcame a thousand obstacles, after getting rejected during over a dozen job interviews, failed self-employment and 8 months of anxiety slowly engulfing my brain to an acute state of depression. As the light at the end of the tunnel came an opportunity in the form of start-up Vyome Biosciences which was building some amazing products. I still remember the interview, that one question that landed me the job -: when the Director-R&D asked me “What were you doing last 8 months (after PG)?  And I replied, “preparing for this interview” and that’s how this journey started. Then there was no looking back.

Learning the ropes

I learnt a lot from my time at Vyome. Our team developed a patented formulation and after the development, almost the entire team quit for some new opportunity and I was the only one left in the R&D team. This was an opportunity as by then; I was also the part of brand name selection, marketing strategy &overall launch process. It was a great experience given that I was a fresher, I was getting to understand Legal, Packaging, Contact Agreement, Branding & Marketing Strategy, which was very useful, going forward. We launched the Brand “Olique” with the tagline “No Magic Pure Science”. This is how my career took a turn from being a scientist to NPD (Product Strategy).

After Vyome, I moved to Pigeon India. Back then, Pigeon was importing most of the products from abroad, so, we started the “Make in India” Programme, and started manufacturing products domestically in India. At Pigeon, I learnt about regulatory and documentation part. Being part of the Japanese company, you have to be perfect and this was the learning which helps me a lot in my career. It also made me hungry to learn and strive for perfection.

Image used for illustrative purposes only

Nature In, Toxins Out bring Accolades 

Around May 2016, I got an email from Mohit Sadani (Co-Founder of The Moms Co.) and we had a long chat regarding the products & strategy and after few months, they offered me a job.  I was a bit worried to start this journey but after a discussion with Malika (CEO & CO-Founder The Moms Co.), who was so technically sound, my thoughts regarding the products, ingredients and concepts were cleared and I boarded the Moms Co. flight. I was the first employee of the company, and it was an amazing experience to start from a clean slate of no products to developing almost 40 products. I received appreciations through Nykaa Beauty & Cosmopolitan Awards for some of the products. During that time a globally renowned brand was getting criticized as the brand’s baby powder contained carcinogenic ingredients. The Moms Co stepped on the pedal and decided to replace products which contain toxins. We launched India’s First Starch-Based Baby Powder and this is also a story. After a lot of exploring, we found a global company who manufactures the special grade of starch which can replace talc; however, they were not supplying to India. Hence, we worked with an Indian ingredients distributor to collaborate with the global supplier, while promising them volumes. It took them 6 long months to close the deal and meanwhile, we continued our R&D process and planned to launch the products once ingredients were received. Adding organic ingredients to the baby products was an idea which was appreciated by the Co-Founders as we wanted to ensure nothing but the best for the newborns. I have cracked some of the toughest formulations at the Moms co (Eczema Cream & Lotion are one of them) and am proud of this. The Moms Co. is the first Australian certified Toxin-free brand in India. After a holiday in the U.K, Malika returned and asked me to formulate a Face range with Kakadu Plum. I never heard of this Kakadu Plum and it took me few days to understand the ingredients and its attribute- “It is the richest source of Vitamin C”. I got an understanding of Natural Ingredients while working at The Mom’s Co. which helped to develop natural, safe & toxin-free products with confidence.


Image used for illustrative purposes only

Creating an Alchemy of Organic ingredients

After two years with The Moms Co. a good opportunity came by, and my innings with “The Organic Forest’ began. I was the first employee of the Organic Forest and building a brand from scratch was my responsibility. We did a lot of research on the products and ingredients and at least screened 70000 ingredients to make two ranges: Antihairfall and Antidandruff. Our products are silicone-free, Quaternium free and 100% Plant-based products, all made with the goodness of Organic Ingredients. We use African Baobab oil, which I think is way better than Argan oil used extensively in hair fall formulations. Among the most googled anti-hair fall products by Indian consumers in 2018 are Onion oil-based and Keratin free hair fall products. While most formulators concentrated on onion oil-based products, we started working on keratin free products giving the benefits of Keratin.  I know, this sounds confusing, but we used three proteins which mimic keratin. For Dandruff, most formulations use ZPT, PiroctoneOlamine& Ketoconazole. But these ingredients tend to make hair dry which leads to Hair fall.  We have formulated with plant-based ingredients which are safe to use and doesn’t make your hair dry. Of course, I cannot share the ingredients and their functionality, for reasons of trade secrecy.

The Future is here

I am happy to mention that almost all of the products which have I have worked on have rated more than 4. None of my formulations has same Key ingredients/actives. Presently, I am working on optimising a mathematical to create formulation without hassles.  As for the future, I am planning to continue whatever am doing right now for the next few years. In times to come, I aspire to launch my own range of products where using technology and optimised design processes,  I create 3X better quality and better margins , while selling at less than today’s market prices. A win-win for buyers, makers and customers!

It goes without saying that I had a dream run so far and hence indebted to the payback to the industry with greater innovations and nimble product lines. I end with my favourite Eminem song-

I don’t really know where I’m headed, just enjoyin’ the ride

Gon’ roll ’til I drop and ride ’til I die

I’m livin’ life in the fast lane (Pedal to the metal)

Livin’ life in the fast lane (Pedal to the metal)