In Conversation With Noor Arora - Co- Founder Of First Water Solutions
Before the pandemic, our operations were mostly (up to 85%) offline. From management to retail, the modus operandi was extremely hands on.
1. How have the last 10 months been for you in the pandemic? Professionally and personally.
Disasters of all types create and exacerbate stresses. This pandemic has been the kind of disaster that shapes a generation. Whilst the last several months have been difficult, we have been fortunate enough to weather this storm relatively unscathed. Lockdowns and the fear of infection created difficulties in both our personal and professional lives, but we were privileged enough to look at these setbacks as challenges that could be overcome with the right bent of mind and a lot of hard work. After all these months we could say that Covid-19 helped us grow to be better both as individuals and as a company.
2. How did Covid-19 impact your business?
Covid 19 took the entire world by storm. It affected the way business is done everywhere. Naturally it had an impact on us too. Before the pandemic, our operations were mostly (upto 85%) offline. From management to retail, the modus operandi was extremely hands on. From early in the pandemic, we were aware that this is going to have to change. The process was slow but necessary. Over the past year and a half, we have shifted most of the business online. In some ways it was almost a blessing in disguise. Making this shift has allowed us to increase our customer base not just pan-India but globally. In the last several months we have launched our own retail website ( firstwatersolutions.com ) and also onboarded onto several different ecommerce platforms such as Nykaa, Amazon, Vanity Wagon, Tatacliq, Sublime, Myntra, Distacart (worldwide), and more. It led us to explore previously unknown opportunities and grow both professionally and personally.
3. Please tell us about how the idea of launching First Water Solutions germinated in your mind?
This is actually a bit of a long story. Launching First Water was far from a planned decision, its evolution happened organically. The story starts with my great grandmother Ammaji, the family’s former matriarch. Our family has gone back to her home remedies for years. Anytime someone had any personal, skin or hair issues, it was instinctive to refer to her notes. More so because she was a naturopath who had travelled extensively across the country, learning about natural remedies from experts. She was born in 1914 and had spent her entire adult life journaling.
After she passed away at age 93, we discovered her many diaries and noticed that she wrote different remedies in bits and pieces in all her journals.
To give an example, my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer and with radiation therapy she recovered, but the radiation took a toll on her skin, and she developed scars and skin patches. To help her, we went through the diaries and discovered a remedy that was specifically for pigmentation and it worked wonders on her! Similarly a recipe worked its magic on my skin which broke out when I returned to the pollution of Delhi after my studies abroad.
Hence began a discussion on how these natural remedies were effective but seldom available in the market. Simultaneously, we were already making small batches for our friends and relatives who had noticed the difference in our skin. Soon, the batches got bigger, and once we devised a way to preserve our concentrates naturally, the next step was making it available for everyone.
This led us founding First Water Solutions on 5 August 2017!
4. Please tell us what this company is all about?
We at First Water Solutions make high quality, 100% natural personal care products and know that nature provides the best solutions for all of one's personal care needs. We are completely plant based and gluten free.
All our ingredients are hand-picked to ensure premium quality and are grown from non GMO seeds. We are also completely free of artificial chemicals, silicones, parabens, PEG, formaldehyde, alcohol, petrochemicals and animal products/testing and comply with fair trade regulations.
Our formulas are derived from both ancient remedies and modern research. We believe in the triple bottom line of economy (We believe in high quality at low prices), Ecology (We are laboratory tested, certified organic and are safe for the environment) and Ergonomics (All our products are dermatologically tested and designed for skin types).
We also acknowledge that no matter how good a product is if it doesn’t fit your skin type it won’t work! We are completely hand-crafted in India and we believe that effective skincare does not need a complicated routine!
5. What are the different types of products produced?
With a total of 216 products spanning across skin care, hair care, body care, lip care, fragrances, raw ingredients and DIY sets, First Water offers a wide variety of solutions for any personal care need. Some of our best selling products are; our Pure 21 face serum and oil, Youth Boost 10 night cream, Volcanic Clay and Floral Glow masks, Witch Hazel and Tea Tree toner, White Rose face mist, Root 9 hair series, Rose and Sandalwood body spa set, range of body mists and a variety of solid perfumes.
6. To what degree is it sustainable?
At First Water we try to follow a legacy of integrity by ensuring that we follow the current need of the hour: sustainability, natural living and ethical practices.
Conscious beauty consumption to us means being responsible towards the environment and the society we live in and having respect for the body, human or animal. It means we strive to deliver concentrated effective solutions for your skin issues and maintenance at a pocket friendly price without polluting the environment with harsh non-biodegradable chemicals that wash down the drain or use non recycled/recyclable materials for packaging.
It means employing and urging local farmers to grow organic ingredients without the use of chemical pesticides while adhering to the practices of fair trade so as to not take advantage of already distressed communities. It also means saying no to using animal products or testing and providing safe and better alternatives to nourish your skin without any side effects.
In today’s world, where we are exposed to so many toxins by simply just breathing or walking down the street, it has become even more important to make efforts to counter the effects of environmental damage, not only on us but also on the planet as a whole. The beauty market tends to contribute not only to landfills but can sometimes be harmful to our water bodies and wildlife as well. Sustainable beauty for us is aiming to avoid and eradicate such practices.
We source our ingredients ethically. All the ingredients are natural, cruelty free, vegan and organically grown. Ingredients that can’t be grown locally we source through unions or co-operatives across the country. All our products are also completely devoid of non-biodegradable or artificial chemical ingredients to leave no impact on water bodies. We believe in preservation of our evergreen forests and don't use palm oil in our products.
We believe in re-cycled/re-usable packaging. All our bottles and jars are smart and solid, and can be reused in your home. For example, our spray/pump bottles can be used to put cleaning agents or spray oil. To encourage minimal waste, we also give incentives and discounts to customers to return empty packaging to us for recycling.
Also being animal lovers and a Vegan brand, we give part of our sales to feeding street dogs and other animals in India.
7. Are there any co-founders or do you run it alone? If yes, please tell us about your co-founders.
Yes there are a total of 3 co-founders. Noor, that’s me, Mani (my aunt) and Geeti (my mother) Here is a little bit about us.
Noor Arora - Art design and the purity of nature have always influenced Noor. She is a trained industrial designer from Parsons School of Design, New York. Her practical side looks for sustainable alternatives to everything and the dreamer in her finds outlet in her paintings. Noor is the company’s strategist and decides the brand’s policies and direction.
Mani Khurana - Mani is a vegan animal rights enthusiast and environmentalist. She has been an HRM specialist in the corporate sector and holds a Master of Business Management from Milton Keynes, UK. She is curious, diligent and resolute and manages the brand's HR, media relations, logistics and online and offline retail presence.
Geeti Arora- Geeti is practical and persevering and loves to build things. A graduate from Lady Shri Ram College, she has the know-how of the functional side of running a company. The foundation of First Water was laid by her and she handles the finances and supply chain.
8. What is your strategy when we talk about the future roadmap of at least the next 5 years?
In the short term, we would like to make our platform even more consumer centric, preferably integrate the customer experience in every step of their journey with us. In the next couple of years that looks like getting more involved with them online both on social media and on our website. Customer service to us is an essential part of any business and feedback from them is of utmost importance to us. With higher interaction (something we lost by going online compared to the level pre-covid) between us and our clients we want to endeavor to make their experience easier and more detailed, fulfilling and effective. We also plan to increase our reach in India and abroad.
9. Do you have any expansion plans or not for now as the pandemic has stalled a lot of businesses?
In the near future, we plan to hopefully expand by diversifying our product range further to include new technologies in the world of skincare formulation as well as other products involved in wholesome living including but not limited to, healthy food and beverage products and color cosmetics.
10. Would you like to give our readers a message regarding the USP of your company - what it is (the USP)?
Our USP at First Water is that we strive to put our customers first and are willing to put in the time and energy (personally if required) to help them achieve their personal care goals. We formulate and curate with this goal in mind and are always happy to listen and incorporate feedback to this end. We also pride ourselves in our high standards of green and clean practices. Our products are certified organic, not just our ingredients.
First Water products, based on Ammaji’s diaries, are formulated following the principles of Gemmotherapy, an aspect of Naturopathy. The body heals itself with the help of stimulation from the healing powers of nature. She writes that one has to take responsibility for their health and practice self-care, and believed that all problems have an underlying emotional, physical, mental or spiritual cause, and that the same forces that exist in nature also exist in humans. The phytonutrients, which are the natural components of plants are powerful, and help in healing the human body and boost its immunity. Over the years she was impressed by Gemmotherapy, and incorporated its principles in her natural practices. It not only boosts your overall health but can even prevent illness and prevention is better than cure. We at First Water firmly follow these teachings.
1. Do no harm
2. The body is self healing
3. Holistic treatment is better that pathological treatment
4. Restoring the inner and outer go hand in hand
5. The four pillars of health are essential to a body's wellbeing
5b). Elimination of all that is physically harmful
5c). Physiological equilibrium
5d). Balancing your hereditary characteristics
Gemmotherapy extracts are made from buds, seeds and embryonic plant tissue which are the most nutrient dense part of the plant and have the benefits of the entire plant. Thus delivering the benefits of an entire tree or shrub from which it has come unlike herbal extracts which have the nutrients of only specific parts of a plant. Gemmotherapy practices help detoxify the body. The active ingredients aid in tissue regeneration, growth, development and the elimination of toxins.
11. Lastly, please give us a brief idea about how First Water Solutions is unique and stands apart from other players in the market?
At First Water we use multiple natural ingredients at high levels of concentration to give you fabulous results. Our skin care multitasks because of the variety of the ingredients. The prevailing pattern in the skin care industry is to target a single skin issue with one hyped ingredient because it is a simple story to sell. We however believe in super formulas that give blanket coverage to fulfil your skins multiple needs and that good skin care doesn't need to have complicated routines to work!
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