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August 24, 2020

Interview with the founder and CEO of Yours, Navneet Kaur - Customized Clean Beauty Brand

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Yours - Exclusive Interview with the founder of Yours

Q. Tell us about Yours and your journey so far.  

A. Prior to Yours, I headed APAC strategy and operations at OFO. This followed a long stint at Uber as part of its core team in India back in 2014, when ride-sharing and the gig economy were a fairly new concept.

Yours’ origin story is quite a personal one. In late 2017, my husband and co-founder Shivam was experiencing acne flare ups because of frequent work travels. When he reached out to me to find solutions for his oily and sensitive skin, I started researching to learn more about his skin needs. For two months I spent a lot of money trying out different products, and ended up with a shelf full of products that didn’t work for him. It was such a difficult and overwhelming journey and I felt really bad treating his skin as a testing ground! 

Throughout this hunt to find the right skincare solution, I swam through an ocean of information about products, brands, and ingredients with no clue who to trust for product recommendations. Despite my extensive and expensive research, I struggled to find effective products suitable for his skin needs and on-the-go lifestyle. 

It was then that I realised how broken the product discovery journey was for skincare. There was simply too much trial-and-error  and it was really frustrating—we lived through it. We also realised that this stemmed from a knowledge gap that people didn’t understand their skin needs very well because our skin health is affected by many factors and not just our skin type.

We wanted to reimagine and simplify the way people shop for skincare. We also wanted to create skincare  that takes into account lifestyle and environment factors, which play a huge role in our skin’s health. Thus we founded Yours, a customer-first startup that’s reimagining the decades-old skincare industry by making skincare simple and sustainable. Our customer-oriented approach means personalising the end-to-end consumer experience, from skincare regimens to post purchase experience. 


Q. Could you share with us more about your journey to find the best ingredients and formulations for Yours? 

A. We only use clean, safe and ethically sourced ingredients in our formulations. Clean Beauty – which refers to products with non-toxic ingredients – is widely adopted in the industry today, but that’s not enough because the source and quality of the ingredient also matter. That’s why we go beyond just clean beauty- our philosophy is Clean Beauty++. In addition to the 1,328 toxic ingredients banned by Europe’s stringent cosmetics regulations, we blacklist 128 more harmful ingredients and we go two steps (++) beyond to ensure: 


  • Ingredients are ethically sourced through transparent supply chains from trusted suppliers; products are formulated in Switzerland and South Korea, ensuring only top quality clean, safe ingredients.
  • Products are rigorously tested for safety and efficacy at both ingredient and  formulation level.


It’s important to us that we only work with suppliers we trust, with full visibility into their supply chain. In the beginning, this meant visiting dozens of laboratories for over months, until we found one in Switzerland that perfectly aligned with our brand values.

Next, this meant forming a team of skin experts and formulation scientists to create truly innovative products based on well researched active ingredients. I stayed in Switzerland throughout the product development process to ensure we did not compromise on any aspect of our formulations or product. 

Today, we have full visibility of our supply chain, which includes multiple checks and balances that ensure our partners source ingredients ethically and sustainably. And because we can trace every ingredient back to its source, we can ensure maximum control of quality and safety.


Q. During this journey, what were the most surprising facts you found out? 

A. One of the most surprising facts that I found out during my journey was that manufacturers were sourcing ingredients online from suppliers that they had never even met. While-labeling is so rampant in the industry that it’s all about selling bulk quantities of the same formulation at a cheaper pricing with no checks in place to ensure product safety and efficacy. A skincare product may contain clean ingredients, but what matters most is where these ingredients are sourced from and the quality checks to ensure it is not adulterated at the ingredient level.

The other thing that surprised me was the difficulty in sourcing sustainable packaging. I quickly found out that 1) they are extremely hard to find, 2) there are limited options, 3) it’s incredibly expensive, and 4) there are very high MOQs (Minimum Order Quantity) involved. We explored sugar cane tubes, but the MOQ for that was a whopping 70,000. As much as we would love to invest in that, for a small startup, it’s practically impossible!


Q. What is wrong with the current beauty industry and how is Yours solving some of these problems?

A: For decades, the skincare discovery and shopping process has been broken; it’s often overwhelming, costly, and time consuming. Not everyone understands their skin needs, and many rely on advice from blogs, articles, friends, and influencers. But none of these take into account a user’s unique lifestyle habits and environment. Plus, what works for one person’s skin may not work for another. 

At Yours, we’re using technology and data science to remove trial-and-error from skincare. Our proprietary algorithm and use of computer vision technology allows us to personalize skincare for users at scale in a holistic way—going beyond skin type and factoring in lifestyle and environment, both of which impact skin health.


Q. How is Yours bringing positive impact to the beauty industry meeting the demands of rising conscious consumers?

A: We are on a mission to make skincare simple and sustainable. First and foremost, we are simplifying skincare by enabling product-customer fit to cut product waste. By leveraging technology to personalise skincare at scale, Yours eliminates trial-and-error, therefore reducing unnecessary product waste. With the right skincare regimen that is designed to work for all their skin needs, people no longer have to buy products that do not work for their skin, and throw them away as a result.

Secondly, we make it a priority to find the right balance between nature and science. For years, ‘all-natural’ skincare has been well-positioned as superior, and synthetic ingredients and chemicals as toxic, resulting in surging consumer demand for natural and organic ingredients. But these ingredients are often farmed as quickly and as cheaply as possible to keep up with demand, leading to unsustainable practices that deplete natural resources.

Additionally, some natural products can do more harm to the skin than good – like walnut and sugar scrubs, which can cause micro-tearing and early signs of ageing. We always look for a balance between natural and synthetic alternatives that are rated safe and sustainable by the Environmental Working Group (EWG rating). 

We are also working towards a zero waste vision, pledging to bring our carbon footprint close to net zero by 2021. Recyclability is a bare minimum requirement for Yours: Our bottles are designed with an airless pump which moves up with every pump which ensures that no product wastage happens and it also makes recycling easy as no product sticks to the walls. all of our current packaging and shipping boxes are also fully recyclable, and we are actively encouraging users to recycle or reuse all of its packaging. Additionally, we recently launched a Recycling Guide to help customers better understand our  materials and simple tips on how to recycle Yours packaging properly. 



Q. Tell us about the self-assessment of skin types and the process?

A: The process is simple—users complete an online skin assessment by uploading a selfie and answering questions about their skin, lifestyle, and environment. We use computer vision algorithms to extract data from the selfie and combine this data with inputs from their questionnaire. We then feed the complete data set into a proprietary personalisation model that decodes the user’s skin needs. Finally, active ingredients from our ever-evolving ingredient dataset are mapped to create a personalised skincare regimen for each user comprising a day cream, a night cream, a day serum and an night serum (and many more products coming soon!)


Q. What is something you think everyone should be aware of and incorporate into their beauty routine?

A: Less is more! When it comes to skincare, it’s not about overloading products with strong active ingredients onto your skin. Overly strong concentrations of actives may actually cause more damage than good in the long run. Instead, it’s more important to use skincare that’s right for you, based on your unique skin needs, lifestyle and environment. Along with your daily skincare routine, eating well and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is equally important––skincare alone won’t magically give you clear, healthy skin!


Q.  How are you integrating technology to make better products for consumers?

A: Personalised experiences are the lay of the land in the online world, but that same level of personalisation and adaptable efficiency is rarely found in the beauty industry. Over the past year or so I’ve been working with my team to refine the proprietary personalisation model that is so integral to Yours! By removing the guesswork from skincare using technology, we are helping our customers enjoy a hassle-free skincare routine that works for their skin profile. 

We are also using technology and data science in our R&D- our product development process is customer-first as we use the data from skin assessments to create products that address the needs of our customers. We are also working on predictive modeling wherein we can predict the skincare needs of a customer based on their current lifestyle and environment so that they can take care of their skin early on. 

To further simplify it for our users, we introduced our smart skincare subscription service, Yours Autopilot. In today’s world, skincare has become an integral step in everyday life, hence automating this process helps to take the burden away from the customer. Moreover, should their skin concerns, lifestyle or environment change, they can simply retake their skin assessment and our personalised regimens will evolve accordingly to their needs.

What we’re fundamentally looking at is the future of beauty that’s simplified and sustainable, a future where decision-fatigue and frustration never enter a skincare conversation. 



Q.  Yours focuses on customization. For consumers this concept or practice is not yet easily adopted. How fast do you think consumers will be comfortable about customization? Is there a way to accelerate this trend?

A: While the concept of personalisation is new, the pain point of trial-and-error in skincare has been there for decades and is only getting more complicated. Consumers relate to this problem very quickly, but education about how personalisation works and social proof are most important to build trust and accelerate the trend. Being honest and transparent with customers all along is going to be key in this process.

Q. As a woman entrepreneur, how do you manage stress and what would you recommend to other women entrepreneurs?

A: As an entrepreneur, I realised early on that there will always be highs and lows throughout this journey––it’s never a straight line. While it’s natural to stress out in certain situations, it’s important to to keep a calm attitude during stressful situations because that’s the most important requirement to make good decisions.

My way of de-stressing is with a self-care routine that I love. Self-care is all about investing in yourself, and taking care of your mind and body. This could be anything from maintaining a healthy diet, a daily skincare routine, meditation, yoga, working out, or even setting up a space in your house with scented candles to read a book. 

My personal self-care ritual includes skincare (of course!) and meditation followed by a cup of tea, colouring and cooking healthy meals!


Q. What part of Yours excites you the most for the coming era?

A: We’re on a mission to make skincare simple and sustainable. While we’re currently making every effort to be as eco friendly as possible, we will continue to explore more sustainable solutions, including reducing our packaging waste and bring our carbon footprint to as close to net zero as possible by 2021. In the long term pipeline, we’re working to implement a system that will allow our customers to refill their bottles easily and efficiently to further reduce packaging waste.

On top of that, we will be expanding our Essentials range for sure! We have a lot of customers writing in and expressing their interest in Yours cleansers, toners and even sunscreens. Our core personalised range focuses on the post-cleanse routine – namely serums and moisturisers – but ever since we’ve received an influx of requests, we’ve started the R&D and product development process for some of these new products and aim to launch them by the end of year.


Q. Where do you ship to?

A: We currently ship to the United States, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Philippines, the UK and Canada. As of now, we only ship directly to postal addresses. Stay tuned as we’re expanding quickly!

Q. What are three things you are most proud and confident about Yours products?

A:

  1. We pride ourselves in top quality formulations that are safe for both consumers and for the environment. We focus on a balance between nature and science to create the right products for users and the environment.

  2. All our ingredients are 100% clean and ethically and sustainably sourced from suppliers we trust. Our products are also rigorously tested at formulation and product level to ensure maximum safety and efficacy.

  3. Through machine learning and our proprietary algorithm, we are very confident of the customer-product fit, i.e., the products will simply work for our users. 

 

Want to learn more about Yours? Order Here


Photos: Courtesy





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