How this investment banker-entrepreneur started a home and kitchen cleaning brand

Sonia Shah was working as an investment banker when she decided to pursue entrepreneurship. The double MBA graduate has worked for New York-based Citigroup Capital Markets and Anand Rathi Investment Banking.

She realised her entrepreneurial spirit after she dedicated some time to help her family’s tea business in Siliguri, West Bengal.

In 2015, she moved back to Mumbai and started importing home decor products and sold them to Indian wholesalers.

However, about four years into the business, a short call with her sister changed her path for good. “I am a workaholic, and I do not miss any idea that crosses my mind,” she says.

While they were discussing the lack of effective cleaning solutions in the market, her sister shared a home cleaning solution of a mixture of vinegar and baking soda.

“I tried that out, and it did wonders. I searched more about it on YouTube and found innumerable videos. But I could not find any products in the same composition in the market,” Sonia tells SMBStory.

After spending close to a year on R&D, in 2019, Sonia started Raaso Cleaning Products Pvt Ltd to formula vinegar and baking soda powered cleaning products. Raaso has two brands SOVI (floor cleaner) and TYDI Bowl (toilet cleaner).

Making the best of a pandemic

“The dirt came out like butter,” Sonia says about the first time she tried her sister’s home cleaning solution. She adds, “The idea was at an embryonic stage and needed strong R&D to make a successful product.”

She met ex-BASF scientist Dr Ramachandran who helped her with the R&D for over a year. By April 2020, she had the stock ready for 3,000 bottles of India’s first vinegar and baking soda powered cleaning products.

However, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it became challenging for Raaso to market and sell its product.

“Before April, we had a pilot launch, and our friends and relatives liked the product. Meanwhile, I was in touch with Bigbasket, but when all the listing formalities were completed, the country went into lockdown,” Sonia tells SMBStory.

While initially, Bigbasket had denied listing Raaso’s inventory, fearing market uncertainty and unnecessarily blocking the inventory of a new business. However, once the market got stable, it is listed SOVI under the ‘essential’ category, which did wonders for the brand.

“Those 3,000 bottles were stocked out soon, which gave us a strong motivation. After the successful launch of floor cleaners, we launched dishwashing liquid, glass cleaners, and toilet cleaners — all highly ranked on Bigbasket,” Sonia asserts.

Raaso’s products — priced between Rs 219 and 299 per liter a bottle — are available online on Bigbasket, Blinkit, and Amazon. It is also available in a few general stores in Mumbai and Siliguri.

By October 2021, Sonia claims both the brands sold 25,000 units, and by March 2022, Raaso had sold 35,000 bottles. The company had clocked a total gross merchandise value (GMV) of over Rs 4.5 million for FY21-22. It wants to achieve a revenue run rate of Rs 20 lakh per month by March 2023.

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