With the world growing at a breakneck speed and everything propelling forward with mass productions and easy distribution, products today may not always be good for the planet and not good for us too. But flashy marketing campaigns and attractive offers make us buy them nonetheless, without thinking about the consequences of the usage of these products - how does it affect the water? How does it affect our carbon footprint? How does it affect us?
Seeking the answers to these burning questions and a deep quest for eco-friendly and sustainable products gave birth to Krya. Started almost a decade ago, Krya stands strong, having found its loyal tribe today. It was started by the duo, Preethi Sukumaran and Srinivas Krishnaswamy who don’t just share the passion for a greener and more sustainable life but are also life partners.
Krya is one of our clients at FlexiBees, having hired a part-time and remote-working Customer Care & Sales Executive to help them answer the growing volume of client requests and product queries.
So we recently caught up with Preethi Sukumaran, Co-founder of Krya to understand how and why it all started and to know what worked well for them and why they choose to hire flexible talent. What ensued was an engaging and rather interesting conversation about various topics ranging from the level of phosphates in greywater to how women with children can balance work & home better!
Some excerpts from our conversation:
Can you tell us a bit about the inception of Krya? How did you identify this need?
Before Krya, Srinivas and I were into sales and marketing roles. We met as management trainees in our first jobs. I never thought of becoming an entrepreneur but he knew and wanted to become one. We would often talk about what brands should be and what values they should provide to the end consumer. I missed the transparency and honesty that was masked behind marketing language. But we soon realised that the only way to see the kind of brand that we wanted was to do it ourselves!
But this journey was also influenced by our personal experience. I wanted to live a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable life - in terms of the personal care and home care products I was using. I started looking for alternate products that could promise this but found none.
So, I started visiting the local herb markets to discover and formulate my own products. I found many things that I didn’t know of, like the soapberry, Aretha. Then I started reading up about it. I realised that a lot of action was happening outside India, in fact, some of our raw materials were even being exported. But no big players were available in India.
I started thinking, before commercial detergents, shampoos and soaps, Indians still bathed and washed clothes. How did they do it? That is how Ayurveda came into the picture. It was the platform we turned to when we needed a system, a philosophy. I started making my own products to experiment with. In the last 4-5 years, I have been studying it more ardently with a Guru - in the Guru-Shishya method.
How did you start?
First, we both quit! And on the same day. Then decided to take a year-long holiday.
It was scary but exciting and maybe not the wisest choice - financially! We travelled and spent 3.5 months in Europe and then continued our holiday in India - we visited Rishikesh and other places. I didn’t know what I wanted to start. We kept ideating and filtering. We also had to unlearn a lot of things - from an employee mindset to an entrepreneur’s.
When we finally started we were in a 90 sq feet office - a tiny little room in an uncle’s flat! But before we even launched our product, influenced by Seth Godin’s words, we first wanted to find our tribe. So, in 2010, we got a domain name and started blogging. We were writing about life in an urban city and wanting to live sustainably - this is challenging because it is easy to make choices based on convenience rather than think about sustainability. Anyone can live a sustainable lifestyle off the grid!
We were writing about composting, reducing your biowaste, sustainable menstruation, and more!
Eventually, people with similar mindsets found us. I was asked to do a weekly column for ‘The Hindu’ on sustainability, we were asked to do physical workshops, on waste segregation and composting. This led to people finding us organically and we started to build our tribe. It helped that we were living what we were preaching. It was tough but it built credibility.
In 2011, we launched our first product.
How do commercial products affect us and our ecosystem? And if they do, why are they in circulation?
There is a lack of regulations in our country. For example, there is no mandate on how much phosphate you can add to a detergent. In developed countries like the UK, the number is at ½ to 2% and they recycle their greywater. But in India, we don’t do that. That means that if you are using a washing machine to wash your clothes, the greywater with the remnants of the detergent ends up in the sewage and eventually a river or the sea. By the addition of these chemicals constantly, the water eventually becomes polluted and unusable. The detergent manufacturing industries are under the ‘red’ label which means that they are highly polluting - not just during the manufacturing process but also for the end-user as well.
They are in circulation because there is a demand for them and a lack of awareness of the effects of the use of these products. They easily hide behind their labels.
How do the products at Krya address this?
We are a brand based on clean living and sustainability. We have home care, skin care and hair care products that are based on Ayurveda. They are 100% whole herb based. We buy flowers, trees, nuts, barks, etc and make our products. Most sustainable brands have products that say 96% natural or based on natural ingredients, etc. But we are 100% natural. All our ingredients are listed - 100%! You can make informed choices. We don’t hide behind labels.
Like I always say, ‘You can eat our detergent! It is that safe. It may taste bad but it is completely natural!’.
And the processing is as per Ayurveda. We follow the process and techniques that help retain the nutrients of the herbs. We started with only home care products - in fact just one product - our brown detergent. But our customers pushed us for skin and hair care products. They wanted products that were gentle on the earth and on themselves.
Can you share one success or achievement from the recent past?
I can’t pinpoint anything in particular.
We are happy that we have been able to appeal to the contemporary consumer; even though we make our products based on ancient science, we are still relevant today.
After almost 10 years, we are available and still standing - this to me is a success in itself. We have always been self-funded as we didn’t want to compromise or lose out on our freedom to define the brand values. And we are on a tough path. I honestly cannot think of another example like us who can claim to be completely chemical-free.
To buy our products, one has to move beyond convenience and aesthetics. And having a loyal clientele is our biggest achievement.
What are your future plans?
We want to build a legacy brand. I want the company to exist 100-200 years from now. We hope to continue to offer a good alternative and eventually become more mainstream.
What made you opt for remote talent and FlexiBees and how has been your experience? How did it help your business?
We heard of them in 2018. I saw something on social media. At that time, we were actually running a very physical office and factory. The idea of WFH was difficult to grapple with. I was not sure about hiring someone I had not met! We were not able to take that call.
But when the pandemic hit, it was the push we needed and we thought we should try hiring flexible professionals. It was also the time when we were at a breaking point with our customer service team - the volume was too much.
And we were having communication issues as we engage in an education agnostic model of hiring and most of our employees are adept only in Tamil. We were getting calls from all over the country.
However, our hiring philosophy is different. We are conservative when hiring people. I would interview four people and hire one. We need them to culturally fit in.
I was looking for someone who was competent but also someone with soul! We are customer generous and a very giving group. We maintain a very human response while answering a query. These things are important to us.
Though it seems like a tall ask, FlexiBees really helped find the right fit for us! We are very happy with the professional we are working with and this has emboldened me much more to hire remotely. I hired a couple of freshers. And this has been a very positive experience.
I also like the talent pool that FlexiBees taps into. I think that women with kids are more mature and can handle a lot more!
I know that there is a certain perception that the talent from FelxiBees is more expensive. But the price differential is worth it. I don’t have the time to wade through thousands of resumes!
And the lack of geographical constraints gives me a much wider pool to choose from - people who I would not have had access to. It also adds a lot of freshness to the team - with new perspectives, new ideas, new ways of looking at our products. This is what large organizations in silicon valley are doing and thanks to FlexiBees, we can do this too!
If you are looking for sustainable and completely natural home-care, skincare, and hair-care products, do check out Krya’s website: https://krya.in/