From Submarines to Skincare
Daughter Earth founder Prasanthy Gurugubelli on building India’s first nuclear submarine to bringing next-gen beauty home
It is survival of the fittest in the billion-dollar beauty industry. There are zillions of brands out there and most consumers, without blinking an eyelid, are lapping up their products. In this cut-throat sector, Prasanthy Gurugubelli has carved a niche for her values-driven brand, Daughter Earth. But her journey has not been a bed of roses — from dealing with not being able to ‘fit in’ to drastically switching careers. Here’s her inspiring story.
Days at ISB and NIT Warangal
Prasanthy always wanted to start something on her own. She has studied mechanical engineering from NIT Warangal with the dream of building machines. “I have been enamoured with building machines since my teens. It (mechanical engineering) wasn’t a popular choice for girls and I ended up being the only girl in my class. That probably was my first lesson into being perfectly okay with not fitting in. My first job out of NIT Warangal was at Larsen & Toubro in their defence division. I was part of building India’s first nuclear submarine, INS Arihant (then classified),” she tells CE.
This was everything that Prasanthy could ask for — cutting-edge technology coming together with legacy systems, being part of building the country’s defences and what’s touted to be the most complex machine on earth.
Shortly after the submarine’s launch, she enrolled for MBA at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. “I went into business strategy, advising companies small and large, including Fortune 500s. Some of my work, before starting Daughter Earth, was in the skincare and advanced biotech field, during which I worked with top-notch scientists, cosmetologists and formulators of the world, who have defined the future of biotech and skincare. I wanted to build next-generation beauty in India, with focus on clinical science and performance, while leaning upon the immense knowledge of Ayurveda,” says the Vipassana meditator.
Passionate about conscious living, she combined next-generation tech with the values of kindness, conscious living and created a purpose-led brand that we all know today as Daughter Earth (DE). “My parents thought I’d go into building something like warships and rockets. It is a complete surprise to me too, but I think the science involved in creating what we create today, coupled with a mission to find solutions to people who have sensitive skin like me, is what pulled me towards this,” she says.
Prasanthy wanted her brand to stand for something that truly matters, for which she has been bringing world-class formulations to her clients using clean, planet-friendly and kind ingredients without having to compromise on the efficacy. “When I started out, and even today, I see a serious lack of R&D and performance-oriented formulations in beauty. We believe we are changing that, one formula at a time. That’s all we try to do at DE,” she says.
Surviving the competition
Till date, Prasanthy does not try to fit in. And, this is evident in her business strategy too. “We are different and we don’t try to fit in. We let our formulas speak for themselves and I think that shows. The scientific rigour, the experience that my team and I bring to the table with a deep understanding of the product, the way we do business and our ultimate mission to nurture DE has worked. The way we blend Ayurveda with modern green tech is also unique. At any point in time, you’d find our team dexterously digesting science-heavy clinical papers as well as the Charaka and Sushruta Samhitas.”
For every formula that DE shares with the world, the team has 30-35 really good formulas that did not make the cut. There are times when they make hundreds of prototypes, trying out innumerous ingredients which they shortlist after studying several published scientific literature and Ayurvedic Samhitas. At the same time, they also travel to the remotest of regions looking for wild and potent variants of herbs. “An example of our process looks something like this: we wild-harvest berries at 12,000+ ft altitudes from the cold deserts of the Himalayas. After hand-picking them at 3 am, when they are still frozen, these undergo supercritical extraction using green processes that do not leave any solvent behind,” Prasanthy explains.
Like any other start-up, DE also faced challenges — capital and where to work from being the main ones. “I put my savings (and a gold loan where I put all my wedding gold) in an idea that I believed in.” She and her team still recall the good days of working at ISB.