A Soulful Endeavor

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SoulFlower has created a new retail category India. Inspired from the idea of ‘Spa @ home’, Natasha Tuli, Owner, Soulflower started a retail chain of stores that offer a range ‘do it yourself’ of aroma therapy solutions. STOrai profiles:

“Inspired by how aroma uplifts the mood & fills people with happiness led me to aroma therapy. I spent my time in Thailand working on the idea of ‘Spa @ Home’. I studied and gathered knowledge related to herbs, flowers and other elements which helped me understand aroma-therapy.” Natasha Tuli, Owner, Soulflower says.
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This inspiration was channeled to create Soulflower. The company launched in 2003, with a range of 100% vegetarian handmade soaps. “The first reaction to this new range of soaps was very positive. Consumers thought they were candles, no one believed that a common soap could be so artistic.” says Natasha.

The environment in 2003
Natasha says, “Back in 2003 the retail scenario was just evolving and Shoppers Stop was the only organized retail chain offering a unique shopping experience to their customers. At Shoppers Stop Soulflower found its niche and started by launching a range of handmade soaps, aroma candles, potpourri etc. No longer did the customers need to depend on the overseas market to avail such products.”

Profile_5Soulflower sells to the aspiring consumer – “Most of our customers fall into the age bracket of 16-45 years, and 40% of our customers are male. A typical Soulflower customer would be earning Rs 4 lakh and above if they come from a city like Mumbai.”, says Natasha.

Soulflower opened new avenues for gifting, starting a trend towards the contemporary. Changing consumer lifestyles and improving standards of living has added to the market opportunity.

“The key investments we made during our set-up phase were on the infrastructure front. It was a challenge to set up a manufacturing unit that produced Thailand quality products in India. We overcame this challenge by a stringent ongoing focus on quality. From a marketing perspective, we focus on digital marketing campaigns, in-store promotions and have also gained visibility through word-of-mouth.” says Natasha.

“A customer who uses Soulflower product once never settles for anything less. This maintenance of quality has earned us a loyal customer base.” she adds.

Profile_6Currently Soulflower has grown to have 180 stores and is present on 30 e-commerce platforms. Recently, the brand gained the number one position on Shoppers Stop & FlipKart portals. But this growth wasn’t bereft of challenges, “There was no visible market for us, we were entering a vague, non-traditional plane. We tackled this challenge by increasing our presence in Modern trade, and conducted BTL activities like promotions and knowledge sessions, which established awareness.”

Profile_7What added to Soulflower’s success was their innovative approach of positioning and selling its products. “At Soulflower we understood that people look for solutions rather than products. Keeping this insight in mind we offered over products under three innovative concepts which include: (a). Make your own aroma, (b). Solutions for specific problems – e.g. stress relieving aromas and (c). Selling aroma by mood.”

Apart from this Soulflower has also improvised and altered its Supply chain system to make the business model more effective, “In our supply chain system we are adding one more segment – distributors who cater to the mass markets and expand the modern trade format. We now retail through shop-in-shops.” says Natasha.

Profile_8Soulflower aspires to have their handmade soaps in every Indian household. This aspiration they plan to achieve through a well planned future, “We plan to enter general trade and the idea is to set up retail points across 53 cities by 2018 and to spread our wings over 42 countries worldwide.” Natasha concludes.
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RAI
Retailers Association of India (RAI) is the unified voice of Indian retailers. RAI is a not for profit organization (registered under section 25 of Companies Act, 1956), works with all the stakeholders for creating the right environment for the growth of the modern retail industry in India. RAI is the body that encourages, develops, facilitates and supports retailers to become modern and adopt best practices that will delight customers. RAI has a three charter aim of Retail Development, Facilitation and Propagation.