Akanksha Sharma, CEO and Co-founder, CITTA, Brings Indian Childcare Wisdom and Science Together for Modern Parents

Akanksha Sharma, CEO and Co-founder, CITTA, Brings Indian Childcare Wisdom and Science Together for Modern Parents
Akanksha Sharma, CEO and Co-founder, CITTA
StartupTalky presents Recap'22. This is a series of interviews in which we conduct in-depth discussions with founders & industry leaders to understand their growth in 2022 and their predictions for the future.

Baby care products are items that are used to care for and support the needs of infants. These products can include items such as diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, baby bottles, baby clothing, baby bedding, and baby hygiene products.

These cosmetics are formulated to be gentle and safe for a child's delicate skin and hair and are free of harsh chemicals and irritants. They are also designed to be tear-free, which is important for young children who may have a tendency to rub their eyes.

According to a report by Research and Markets, the global baby care products market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.8% from 2020 to 2025. The market is driven by factors such as increasing birth rates, rising disposable income, and growing awareness about child health and nutrition, and it is expected to grow due to increasing awareness about the benefits of using baby-specific personal care products.

For this Interview, we invited Akanksha Sharma, CEO and Co-founder of CITTA World, and we talked about the growth, challenges, insights, and future opportunities in the Baby Care & Skincare industry.

StartupTalky: Akanksha, what products does your company sell? What was the motivation/vision with which you started?

Akanksha: Our product range includes premium natural skincare and bath essentials for babies– Moisturizing Baby Balm For Face and Body, Nourishing Baby Massage Oil, Tender Foaming Baby Wash, Gentle Foaming Baby Shampoo, and Soothing Talc-Free Baby Powder. We have also launched our natural face mists – Pure Rose Water Mist and Hydrating Mist with Rose and Aloe Vera – for adults.

CITTA World was started with the vision of blending Indian childcare wisdom with rigorous science and making it conveniently accessible to modern new parents. We as a founder are a testament to the special connection between a mother and a child.

At CITTA, we believe that every child deserves to feel the endless love of a
grandmother. While Akanksha had the wholesome, grounding experience of being cared for by her grandmothers, not every child today has that privilege. CITTA’s goal is to provide babies with that nourishing experience so that maybe one day, they remember the fragrance of CITTA just as fondly as she reminisces the aroma of her grandma's hands.

StartupTalky: What other products/features have been added in the past year? What is/are the USP/s of your products?

Akanksha: Our products are made with the finest natural ingredients in innovative formulations to provide maximum efficacy to the customers. Whether it is the most effective texture or the most convenient technology, we have created all our products after rigorous research to serve our customers in the best way possible. Our products are also cruelty-free and free of harsh chemicals like parabens, sulfates, silicones, mineral oil, toxins, and allergens.

Following are the USPs of our products:

Moisturizing Baby Balm:

  • Blend of 7 natural oils, Shea Butter and Vitamin-E
  • Unique thick texture for long-lasting moisturization
  • All-in-one balm for use on the face, body, and nappy area of the baby
  • Prevents rashes and itchiness through anti-microbial ingredients

Nourishing Baby Massage Oil:

  • A unique blend of 12 natural oils
  • Provides deep nourishment
  • Non-sticky texture
  • Anti-microbial & Anti-inflammatory
  • Promotes growth and bone strength

Soothing Talc-Free Baby Powder:

  • Made with the safest natural alternatives of talc – Corn Starch, Oat Kernel Flour, Kaolin Clay
  • Naturally absorbs excess moisture and oil
  • Soothes your baby’s skin
  • Prevents rashes and itchiness

Gentle Foaming Baby Shampoo:

  • Gently cleanses, hydrates, and moisturizes your baby’s scalp and hair
  • Enriched with 3 natural oils
  • Non-drying, no-tears formula
  • India’s 1st Natural Foaming Baby Shampoo

Tender Foaming Baby Wash:

  • Gently cleanses, hydrates, and nourishes your baby’s skin
  • Infused with Aloe Vera, Coconut Powder Extract, and Hydrolysed Rice Protein
  • Prevents dryness and irritation
  • India’s 1st Natural Foaming Baby Wash

StartupTalky: How has the baby care and skincare industry changed in recent years, and how has your company adapted to these changes?

Akanksha: In recent years, customer awareness of the ingredients in personal care and skin care products has increased tremendously. Especially ingredients such as talc in baby powder, which have severe detrimental effects on babies’ health. Fortunately, our company has been able to leverage this to our advantage – since CITTA has focused on creating the safest products from the start. With this rise in awareness, people are discovering our brand organically and then choosing us consciously.

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StartupTalky: Repeat purchase is one of the most important parameters on which most e-Commerce brands are betting. How do you keep your customer engaged to stop churn?

Akanksha: CITTA’s products are currently available on 6 online marketplaces – Amazon, Flipkart, 1mg, The Mom Store, Kindlife, and Purplle. With these marketplaces, we have sold our products throughout India, including 2nd and 3rd Tier cities as well. 25% of customers who order our products from online marketplaces are return customers.

The efficacy of our products and their unique ingredients are our biggest strengths. Recently, when an internationally reputed brand’s baby powder was deemed unsafe by multiple authorities, people started looking for safer alternatives and discovered our product which is made with the safest natural alternatives of talc and has a soothing effect on the baby’s skin– CITTA Soothing Talc-Free Baby Powder. Our baby powder has been selling rapidly to date. So much so, that it has even run out of stock twice. We have been able to retain 30% of the customers who order our products from our website.

We are a customer-centric brand and the biggest performance metric for us is the number of repeat customers we have. We have already achieved considerable success in this regard, and we are sure that in the coming years, as more and more people start trusting us, this number will only continue to grow.

StartupTalky: What are the different strategies you use for marketing? Tell us about any growth hack which you pulled off.

Akanksha: CITTA has been employing omnichannel marketing from the start, unlike many other brands that begin with an online-only user experience and expand to offline channels later. We wanted our users to have the choice of interacting with the brand in the way most convenient to them, and our online and offline teams have worked together to achieve that.

With our offline marketing strategies, our products have reached multiple pharmacies in Pune city. To attract the right customers and make them aware of the brand, we focused on placing our offline advertisements where they could see them – the pharmacies!

The advertisements were designed to highlight our brand differentiators – unique, safe natural ingredients and product formulations rooted in traditional Indian wisdom and backed with rigorous science. With these campaigns, the customers could directly compare our products with our competitors in the market. This not only boosted our offline sales but also generated curiosity about the brand, leading to traffic to our website.

Newspaper advertisements helped us to build this customer relationship more and reach a wider audience.  An essential part of our offline strategy was to build trust with doctors – pediatricians and dermatologists. They have started recommending our products to their patients. This number is steadily increasing and is helping us reach more and more physical stores in turn. It has been reassuring to see our products help babies with their skincare issues.

Our online marketing strategy has been multi-pronged as well. Here too our focus has been on establishing ourselves as a credible and trustworthy premium natural baby bath and skincare brand in India. We achieved this firstly by creating a brand language and identity that visually separates us from the competitors and has a great recall value. This brand identity is maintained throughout all our online channels – website, social media, and marketplaces – and has helped us cement the trust of our customers.

With our website, we have created a smooth, hassle-free buying experience. Our focus has been on ease of communication. Any customer service issues are dealt with promptly and effectively. We provide our repeat buyers exclusive offers to retain them. The website is also aimed at helping parents with their concerns regarding baby skincare, we have a dedicated space on the website that caters to this. Our social media marketing strategies are also focused on bringing value-addition to our customers – in line with our brand ethos of being a wise grandma-like companion to new-age parents. We achieve this through a mix of
engaging, community-building, promotional, and informational content. To us, bringing value to the table matters more than jumping on the flashy, short-lived trends.

Our online marketplace campaigns have been designed similarly, and as a cumulative result of our omnichannel strategy, have been getting traction from customers all across India. We have also tapped into WhatsApp marketing. We run WhatsApp broadcasts weekly to our existing customers with skincare tips and exclusive one-day deals.

StartupTalky: What opportunities do you see for future growth in the baby care and skincare industry in India and the world? What kind of difference in market behavior have you seen within states in India?

Akanksha: Expansion to other states- Modern Trade and General Trade

With an omnichannel marketing strategy, CITTA has been able to get sales from Tier I, II, and III cities and reach 300 general trade stores in Maharashtra. Now we plan to expand to other states in India in both Modern Trade and General Trade sectors and establish ourselves as India’s best Baby Bath and Skincare brand.

Reaching doctors across India

Educating doctors about our products and the research undertaken to create them has been crucial to building people’s trust in our brand and creating demand for our products in offline stores. We want to expand our network to reach leading doctors (pediatricians and dermatologists) across India and become the brand every parent trusts for their baby’s skin.

Entering the international market as a pioneer of Indian skincare and baby care knowledge and techniques

We strongly believe that we are sitting on a goldmine of diverse natural ingredients and immense tradition-based expertise in India. Especially so when it comes to skincare and baby care practices. What the rest of the world is only starting to appreciate and emulate, we have been practicing in India for ages – “maalish” or baby massage is a classic example. We want to champion our Indian roots, back them with rigorous science, and bring India’s knowledge to the rest of the world with our range of our products. We want to create our own identity and presence in the international market as a pioneer Indian brand in the baby care and skincare segment.

Exploring products for women

CITTA products have resonated with our customers because of their high efficacy. We have received positive feedback from numerous mothers. We want to build on this trust and explore products for women in the coming years. With our commitment to quality and efficacy, we are confident that we will be able to do this well.

Opening up experiential stores

In the coming years, we aim to open experiential CITTA stores at multiple locations in India. These stores will be designed such that our potential customers can see, touch, smell, and feel the textures of our products. They will be educated about every ingredient that goes into our unique product formulations in an engaging, fun way so that they can remember it. We believe these experiential stores will help us to establish ourselves as customer-centric premium skincare and baby care brand.

StartupTalky: How do you plan to expand the Customers, SKUS, and team base in the future?

Akanksha: We plan to expand our customer base by reaching more states through physical stores as well as online marketplaces. We are also finding new ways of engaging meaningfully with our customer community – CITTA Care Club is a step towards that. Through this non-profit initiative of ours which is focused on parents’ well-being, we get to interact with parents – our potential customers – and understand their concerns in real time.

We thank Akanksha for spending her valuable time and sharing her learnings with all of us.

You can read other Recap'22 Interviews here.

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