Going green has never felt more amazing, especially when you are taking care of the planet as much as you do the skin. I had a chat with Navneet Kaur, the Founder of YOURS. YOURS products are Clean Beauty++, cruelty-free and environmentally-friendly. It is a direct-to-consumer personalised skincare brand that puts the customer in the front and centre of product creation, factoring in critical lifestyle factors that off-the-shelf products do not.
Oh, and saving our planet and skin feels even better, knowing Arrive, Jay-Z’s venture fund under Roc Nation, is one of their investors. Catch it all here on Marketing In Asia’s Talking Pod.
Navneet, I am very excited to speak with you. I love a good skincare brand, especially one that is vegan, environmentally and cruelty-free. Tell us everything we need to know about YOURS.
Thank you for having me!
As consumers, the search for the ‘right’ skincare can often be overwhelming and frustrating, and involves skimming through publications online, blogs and reviews, on top of relying on recommendations from friends and influencers. However, what might work for one person’s skin, may not work on another, so this often ends up becoming a trial-and-error process in skincare discovery and shopping.
At Yours, we’ve set out to solve this pain point—we’re reimagining self-care with clean, personalised skincare regimens. In order to achieve personalisation at scale, we leverage machine learning and computer vision technology. Users take a complimentary skin assessment on our website, answering questions around their skin concerns, lifestyle and environment. At the end of the assessment, they have the option to upload a selfie, from which our computer vision technology will extract precise data about their skin health. With these data points, our proprietary algorithm will decode their skin needs and map the right active ingredients to their personalised skincare regimen.
Yours is also 100% clean beauty, which means a few things—we only use ethically-sourced, high quality ingredients that are non-toxic, comply with the European Commission’s cosmetic regulations (one of the most stringent and comprehensive in the world) and meet an EWG Skin Deep® rating (Environmental Working Group) of 1-3. All ingredients and product formulations are rigorously tested for safety and efficacy to ensure that they are safe, gentle and effective for our users! Finally, as you’ve mentioned, we are 100% vegan, environmentally-friendly and cruelty-free.
Essentially, Yours is skincare, reimagined—no more guesswork or experimenting with our skin; just clean, safe and effective products that are good for us and the environment.
Your profile is very impressive. For the sake of our readers, who is Navneet Kaur?
I started my career developing skincare products and launching brands at one of India’s largest conglomerates. I later moved on to be a part of Uber APAC’s core team, launching and scaling it up in a time where ride-sharing and the gig economy were fairly new concepts. After that I headed up the APAC strategy and operations for OFO, the bike-sharing platform.
While building a career in the tech industry was rewarding, I decided to take the leap to start Yours when I realised that product discovery for skincare was broken, and more complicated than it should be. At the end of the day, I want to help people feel happy and confident in their own skin by simplifying skincare.
I am definitely an entrepreneur at heart! I love taking on challenges and hustling it out with my team. I also enjoy connecting with customers—it’s important to get to know them and understand their pain points, so that we’re always delivering a more seamless experience.
I’m also big on sustainability and we imbibe that value at Yours too. We’re living in an age where environmentally sustainable practices should be as critical for businesses as finding a path to profitability. The environment matters, and it’s on every one of us to make the decision to live more sustainably.
You were scaling your career in a tech company when you decided to launch your own skincare brand. Talk to us about that.
The Yours origin story is a quite personal one. In 2017, my husband and co-founder Shivam was travelling a lot for work, and his oily and sensitive skin, combined with stress from his frequent travelling, started to flare up with acne. I set out to find solutions for his skin, but struggled to find safe and effective products that were suitable for his skin needs and lifestyle. For the next 2 months, I spent time and money testing out different products in hopes that it would help ease his breakouts, but eventually ended up with a shelf full of products that didn’t work.
This broken process of finding the right products sparked that ‘aha moment’ that what if there was an easier way to get what’s right for me, what if companies did all the hard work instead of the consumer? I knew trial-and-error was something many of my friends faced when shopping for skincare, on top of a knowledge gap where they just didn’t understand what their skin type was and what it needed. While some may end up relying on blogs, friends, influencers and so on for advice, our lifestyle (think: stress, sleep, water consumption, sun or AC exposure) and environment factors (pollution, humidity) that are unique to us, are not factored in. This ends up becoming daunting, frustrating, and comes with real costs: money, time, confidence.
So we created Yours, a customer-first brand that simplifies the skincare shopping process while taking into account critical lifestyle and environment factors that play a vital role in our skin health. We wanted to reimagine the way people shop for skincare.
There is talk-about-town on a certain huge Hollywood celebrity being an investor in YOURS. Enlighten us, Navneet.
Well, I guess the secret is out already! One of our investors is Arrive – Jay-Z’s venture fund under Roc Nation. Arrive had been looking towards the personalised skincare segment, and we saw an alignment in terms of brand values and business goals. I am truly humbled to have the support of such an amazing team, they continue to be our thought partners!
What are the most important lessons you learned when you launched YOURS?
Being authentic and true to ourselves and our mission. Sometimes, we get lost in our daily tasks and to-dos that we lose sight of the larger picture. Taking a step back from time to time always helps us to refocus, to then move the business forward in the direction that’s aligned with our values and goals.
Another learning is to always be people-first and empathetic in everything we do—whether it’s relating to our users during a pandemic crisis, or on a regular day. On the other side of every digital screen is a person, and we should never lose sight of that no matter the business strategy or marketing tactic.
Being a young startup, I’ve come to realise how inaccessible sustainable products and materials are. While we’re making every effort to be as eco friendly as possible, we’re always exploring more sustainable options, but things like biodegradable packaging and sugar cane tubes come with limited options, are incredibly expensive and have very high minimum order quantities—practically impossible for any young startup.
Finally, it’s all about the people you choose to work with—these people will build the company and the culture. At Yours, we have a long but well thought-out hiring process. I’m proud of the team at Yours, a diverse group of people who are hungry, passionate, have both IQ + EQ, and are just looking to build something from the ground up. Fun fact: 85% of the team are not from the beauty/skincare industry.
Social media is your main channel when putting YOURS out there to consumers. Tell us about that.
Social media is a necessary channel in our marketing mix, especially since we are direct-to-consumer. It is where we connect with both new customers and existing users, engage our followers and grow a community. Unsurprisingly, Instagram is our key social media channel, and we have recently started ramping up efforts on Pinterest and TikTok.
However, given the drastic shift in external circumstances, we changed our engagement strategy as well. During this pandemic where countries are on lockdown, people are turning to social media for support and entertainment. Screen time is increasing as people distract themselves from the cabin fever. Ensuring that we put out relevant, empathetic messaging now is more important than ever.
#ThisTimeIsYours campaign is definitely very timely. How did you come up with that?
When Covid-19 hit several countries, our team’s first feelings were towards the overwhelmed healthcare system, as we saw multiple photos of the bruised faces of healthcare workers due to prolonged use of tight masks. We wanted to do something for them while spreading awareness amongst our users to stay at home to help flatten the curve.
We started with sending out self-care packages to healthcare heroes to help them find a moment of peace before they sleep every night while they continue to work tirelessly on the frontlines. Through our blog and Instagram, people nominated healthcare workers they knew or they could nominate themselves if they are healthcare professionals, to receive our self-care pack, to help them de-stress a little and take care of their bruised skin caused by PPE (personal protective equipment).
The response for this campaign was really great—and we ended up sending self-care packs to healthcare professionals in 7 countries, with 77% of them filling up the nomination form themselves! Some of the notes people wrote in while nominating were absolutely heartwarming:
On the other hand, when social distancing measures started getting implemented and everyone started working from home, we realised how much newfound time was being freed up—with our ‘offices’ now at home, we spent less time getting ready for work and commuting. That’s a good 10 hours of extra time on our hands a week, which is practically a full working day!
We began asking ourselves how this time could be best put to use as we weather this pandemic. As we all acclimatise to this new normal, there’s a natural progression towards self-care—doing things we always wanted to for ourselves. Hence, we launched #ThisTimeIsYours, a campaign to remind people to use this extra time to self-care, invest in themselves like they’ve always wanted (work-out, skincare, meditate) and spread positivity while being on lockdown.
Through the month of April, we invited influencers and personalities to take over our Instagram Live at 6pm SGT daily on weekdays to help keep spirits up and share how they take care of themselves during this time, by way of yoga flow classes, HIIT workouts, meditation sessions, live music, and more. We further supplemented our Instagram feed with skincare and self-care tips.
Lifestyle plays a critical role in skin health, so if you exercise regularly, eat healthy, don’t stress, sleep well, you will naturally have great skin, and the skincare products you use will reap far better results.
What do you look for when selecting influencers for your brand, Navneet?
One of the things we look out for is authenticity. It’s very important that we work with influencers who are as passionate and values-driven as we are, people who share our love for clean, cruelty-free skincare, and the environment. When these values align, we find that we’re able to vibe off each other and create compelling content that people want to see and which piques their interest.
Branding and marketing – in your opinion, which one of these is much more crucial in the beauty industry?
Branding and marketing both go hand-in-hand in my opinion, no matter the industry! Branding for us means bringing out the personality of Yours. We’re not here to just sell skincare, there are several aspects that revolve around it that we want to fundamentally change, and that needs to come out in the personality of the brand and in the things we do. When people trust and love our brand and products, they naturally become advocates. Marketing, on the other hand, is to drive business growth through customer acquisition, and of course, sales. It’s the other half that ‘branding’ alone won’t be able to function without: understanding our target audience, being present at various touchpoints with relevant messages, amplifying that message, and optimising the entire process so we operate most efficiently to acquire and retain customers with the budget we have.
How does one stay innovative in the beauty industry, Navneet?
As strange as it may sound, start with first principles. For everything we make or product that we design, we go back to the first principles. There’s a lot of tribal knowledge within the industry that goes around from one company to another, and people build new things on top of that without ever questioning why. When we innovate, we define the problem clearly and we look at the most effective and unique way to solve it.
What product in your domain is a best seller?
I’d always recommend the full regimen to users, simply because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts! We’ve designed every product to complement each other in no more than a 2-3 step routine. Your personalised face serum contains active ingredients that would help combat your skin concerns, and your daily moisturiser helps to hydrate and protect your skin from pollution, dirt and impurities. A day cream works differently from a night cream—the former helps to keep your skin moisturised during the day, while the night cream nourishes, repairs and restores your skin as you sleep.
For aspiring beauty entrepreneurs, what is your advice?
Stay true to your beliefs and values, and invest in developing environmentally sustainable products, formulas, and packaging. It’s going to be a challenging but an extremely rewarding journey!