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Sonia Shah was working as an investment banker when she decided to go into entrepreneurship. The double MBA graduate worked for Citigroup Capital Markets in New York and Anand Rathi Investment Banking.

She realized her entrepreneurial spirit after spending time helping her family’s tea business in Siliguri, West Bengal.

In 2015, she moved back to Mumbai and started importing home decor products and selling them to Indian wholesalers.

However, about four years into the business, a brief call with his sister changed his path for good. “I’m a workaholic and never miss an idea that comes to mind,” she says.

As they discussed the lack of effective cleaning solutions on the market, her sister shared a household cleaning solution made from a mixture of vinegar and baking soda.

“I tried this, and it worked wonders. I searched more about it on YouTube and found countless videos. But I couldn’t find any product of the same composition in the market” , says Sonia. SMBStory.

After spending nearly a year in R&D, in 2019, Sonia launched Raaso Cleaning Products Pvt Ltd formulate vinegar and baking soda cleaners. Raasso has two brands SOVI (floor cleaner) and TYDI Bowl (toilet cleaner).

Making the Most of a Pandemic

“The dirt came out like butter,” Sonia says of the first time she tried her sister’s household cleaning solution. She adds: “The idea was at an embryonic stage and required solid R&D to create a successful product.”

She met former BASF scientist Dr Ramachandran who helped her in R&D for more than a year. In April 2020, she had the stock ready for 3,000 bottles of India’s first vinegar and baking soda cleaning products.

However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it became difficult for Raaso to market and sell his product.

“Before April, we had a pilot launch, and our friends and relatives loved the product. During this time, I was in contact with Bigbasket, but when all the registration formalities were completed, the country went into confinement,” says Sonia. SMBStory.

While initially, Bigbasket denied listing Raaso’s inventory, fearing market uncertainty and unnecessarily blocking inventory for a new venture. However, once the market stabilized, he categorized SOVI as “essential”, which did wonders for the brand.

“These 3,000 bottles sold out quickly, which gave us strong motivation. After the successful launch of floor cleaners, we launched dishwashing liquid, window cleaners and toilet cleaners, all of which ranked highly on Bigbasket,” says Sonia.

Raaso’s products – priced between Rs 219 and 299 per liter per bottle – are available online at Large basket, flashesand Amazon. It is also available in a few general stores in Mumbai and Siliguri.

As of October 2021, Sonia claims the two brands have sold 25,000 units and as of March 2022, Raaso has sold 35,000 bottles. The company had recorded a total gross merchandise value (GMV) of over Rs 4.5 million for FY21-22. He wants to achieve a revenue rate of Rs 20 lakh per month by March 2023.

Raaso product range

The home care solutions market

Although Raaso is on the growth trajectory, Sonia says it lacked the R&D capabilities like Reckitt Benckiser and HUL, which have household cleaning brands Domex and Harpic, respectively.

India has the third largest household cleaning and personal care products market, with demand reaching $28.5 billion in 2020, and brands such as Lizol, Dettol, Colin, Harpic, Vim, Cif, Domex, etc. dominate it.

Sonia had started the business with Rs 12 lakh, where she used 50% of the investment for R&D, formulation development and quality testing.

It used one-third of the capital for branding and packaging purposes, and the remaining funds to create a strong supply chain for raw materials, packaging materials and logistics support.

Raaso manufactures all of its products in its Mumbai unit, where it maintains rigorous quality controls and safeguards proprietary formulations.

Sonia says home cleaning is a “low development, high demand” category.

She says: “Household cleaning products are not given much consideration. People buy anything they find on TV commercials or other advertisements or on the recommendation of their domestic helpers. They don’t make informed decisions, and that’s the challenge.

“We are targeting a mass segment where our price is not higher, but 10-15% more expensive than established mass brands. And I guess that justifies the formulation that we propose. So far we have grown through word of mouth. I received comments where the housekeeper recommended our product to the owner, and that keeps us going,” adds Sonia.

Future prospects

Soon, Raaso plans to release a new liquid laundry detergent. For Sonia and Raaso, 2022 has rigorous card expansion. The brand is in talks with Foodhall and Haiko to boost its physical retail presence. Sonia also looks forward to strategic investment partnerships.

“The pandemic has prompted Indians to buy household cleaning products online, but around 80% of the household cleaning market is through general trade, and we want to be everywhere,” says Sonia.

Sonia is also striving to enter the business-to-business (B2B) space, but fierce price competition from unorganized players is an obstacle.