Husband and wife duo Preeti Murlidharan and Arvind Ramesh, who love to travel and have witnessed firsthand the devastation plastics cause to our oceans, marine life and our soil.
At Luxstore they remain passionate about all things organic, believing that by using organic products in your daily life leads to greater personal health and contributes to the protection of our environment. LUXstore’s goal is to create a trusted online store from which our customers can access a range of organic products at an affordable price.
A subscription model makes it’s business sustainable by ensuring regular cash flow for those good people who help manufacture the products – this makes for a happy supply chain. Through their official Voices & Words blog, they aim to provide educational material (videos, articles, blogs) so people can make informed decisions about the products they use.
It is great to have you with us Preeti! Can you tell us a little bit, about your own journey and theLUXstore concept?
Thanks for having us. Professionally, I am an engineer by vocation, who happened by banking and financial services and have been in it for more than a decade and a half. While my husband Arvind is a qualified chartered accountant and solicitor. Both of us have for a while had the itch to be social entrepreneurs, where the business we create has the ability to engender change while being profitable.
LUXStore was borne of that intent. We picked the ubiquitous period pad as a starting point, because it is a product women patronise without really knowing about the ingredients in them and how much of a negative impact the products have both on their health and the environment.
So at LUXStore we decided to create products that would do the very opposite of products offered by mainstream players in the market – a product that would support a woman’s period health and would also be biodegradable and thereby kind to the environment.
Now, this is interesting as you are the co-founder alongside your husband Arvind, can you tell us how you are balancing the work/life partnership?
The fundamentals of working in a team are being able to have a clear delineation of roles based on your team’s strengths. We are very fortunate in that Arvind’s skills and mine are quite distinct. He will tell you, I am the risk taker in our team and go forth fearlessly. Arvind is the stabilising influence; he is numbers orientated and helps stabilise our business at each stage
Disagreements arise of course but charting out pros and cons and applying a bit of logic, has helped us navigate our course more effectively. And we do draw a line to effectively mark the end of our day so that business doesn’t overflow into our personal lives.
It is a steep learning curve, no doubt at all.
At LUXstore you are passionate about all things organic and sustainable, can you tell us 3 key reasons why you choose to work as a sustainable brand and how your subscription model suits this?
We believe, it is important to start as you mean to go on. We intend to be around for the long haul and the way for us to do that is to ensure we create a brand that is going to be sustainable. We have implemented that in simple ways and that ethos is weaved through every aspect of our business.
- Sourcing: We were keen to ensure that we knew the origins of the raw material we were using; in our case cotton and corn starch. To ensure sustainability, these cotton crops have to be planted in rotation with other crops such as corn or alpha alpha, to ensure that the cotton doesn’t deplete the soil of its nutrients or impact the water resources negatively. Through our suppliers and ICEA certification, we are assured that our cotton supply comes from farms (in Italy, Greece and SE Asia) where this practise is prevalent.
- Transport: We transport with groupage, which means we combine the transport of our goods in containers on trucks that would have already made the journey to the UK thereby reducing the carbon footprint of our products.
- Products: Our products are made from organic cotton and corn starch, these products are completely biodegradable and for the eco-warriors amongst us, they are home decomposable too.
- Subscriptions. We appreciate, with consumer goods like ours, the tendency is for people to want to try out goods first. Consumers are welcome to purchase one product at a time most certainly. However, the subscription model is a cornerstone of sustainability for us because, with subscriptions, we are able to assess demand in advance, which means we can help our manufacturers grant forward contracts to our farmers, which in turn enables our farmers to work on planning crop rotations. With the passage of time, we would like to contribute portions of our profits to fund research into more innovative farming practices and support climate change influencers.
What was the setup process like for LUXstore and how is it funded?
Getting our idea right was key. We took some time to identify where we thought we could make the biggest difference and what products we wanted to sell. The set-up process has been interesting in that we have felt our way through it. We tried to approach things logically and make the best decisions we could but in many ways, it comes down to trial and error and ensuring you learn from your mistakes.
We pictured ourselves as big business and thought about all the elements we would need in place to be operating successfully and ticked one off at a time. We played to our individual strengths, for example, I have a background in Operations within Financial Services, which proved quite useful in setting up supply chains. Arvind being a chartered accountant and having a legal background manages the finance, accounting, tax and legal elements of the business.
We are self-funded as a business. This was another key decision we made early on. We wanted the ability to remain working towards our mission, without any pressure from external parties. While this means that we have to hold down day jobs, we are steadily working towards achieving our objective on our own terms.
Can you explain the company structure and the team working behind LUXstore?
We operate on a virtual team basis, which for us is fantastic because it saves us the cost of setting up a physical office and enables us to operate out of a remote office.
We currently have manufacturing, logistics, fulfilment, marketing and web developers working across four disparate geographies to support our business. It’s interesting how easy it is to almost plug and play even with teams. We have been fortunate in most cases that we have readily found great teams to work with, the exception (some may say of course) has been marketing, where we have had a few missteps and have had to course-correct rapidly.
As new business owners we rely heavily on our instinct in the matter of selecting a team and in fact it’s what most businesses do. The key is to monitor progress with a hawk eye and learn the importance of a ‘termination clause’ in contracts.
What platforms are you using for marketing tools?
From a social media standpoint, we have a presence across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as channels. We recently registered ourselves with influencer sites.
Do you currently use any apps or tools to help the functionality of your business practice?
Project Management is at the heart of managing our business. Working with to-do lists is too arduous and therefore we rely on tools such as Asana, Clickup and Monday to help manage the various facets of our business.
The best lesson learnt throughout the business building so far?
Our circumstances have meant that we had to build our supply chain and procure inventory in advance of marketing our products. The more prudent method would be to create the market first and then bring forth your products. This way you save on warehouse costs and you can quickly build confidence in your brand.
What does 2020 look like for you?
2020 is a very exciting year for us. We are extending our product range to include three styles of period underwear as well as organic biodegradable tampons. In addition, we are expanding to the USA late this year and if all goes well to Australia by the last quarter of 2020.
Image taken by Diana Oliveria
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