In conversation with Pinki Gosal from Vasanti Cosmetics, the beauty brand co-founded by 3 South Asian sisters in Ontario, Canada. They are re-launching their fan-favorite Liquid VO2 Orange Color Correcting Concealer, now available in the US.
DissDash: You started this venture with your sisters. Where did the idea or need for Vasanti come from?
Pinki Gosal: After finishing college in Toronto, I moved to Chicago to get my Masters in Psychology. Soon I realized that that’s not where my passion is, so I landed a job with a high-end makeup and skincare studio in Chicago, as an Assistant Manager. On my second day, the owner walks in (she’s an ex-model from the 60s!) and she took one look at me and ask around, “Who’s this? Put some concealer on her!” While the makeup artists frantically tried to cover up the dark circles (which, I didn’t even know I had!), I kept thinking that even the darkest concealers, made my eyes look ashy and grey! It was terrible. So I realized I had to l find a solution, to hide them and look the part. That episode made me curious as to what goes in makeup, and why it was not working for my dark circles. This is how the journey of Vasanti started!
I called one of my childhood friends (and now business partner) and started brainstorming how to get the solution. Soon after I started working with a cosmetic lab in Toronto with a Ph.D. Chemist who basically showed me the ropes. I learned the ingredients that go into makeup and found out why it was not working for me. That was my way!
After the first year, we wanted to build the brand. But one day when my friend said, we have talked enough, and that we should start going ahead, that’s when we kind of just jumped into it and launched our first three products, incorporated the company and surveyed a bunch of women. We realized from the survey that there were others facing this issue as well, and not just South Asian women.
DissDash: You went from concealers to other beauty products as well. How did that happen?
Gosal: We launched one of the first products which we called the orange concealer. We basically took the innovation and a makeup artist trick to balance our skin tone by counteracting the brown under the eyes with a different pigment ratio. Then we launched the face powder, which we call the Face Base. In this, we took the thick white powder, called TI02, out of the powder foundation, as when dry this ingredient makes skin appear ashy and chalky. These products have been there for almost 18 years now!
DissDash: Your Instagram page shows many influencers using your products while making videos. But there are so many other brands. How do you keep the competition at bay?
Gosal: It’s probably been 22 years since we first started. We have spent a considerable time thereof in researching, developing and building high-performance products. We have delved into the ingredients and how they react and sit on the skin, etc. Even with social media coming up during that time, we have only started social media marketing in the last 2-3 years. We didn’t even have the budget for TV marketing with celebrities, earlier!
So now when we get the influencers to promote the products or try them out, it has a larger impact, because, at the end of the day, the products speak for themselves. We have had people try the products and they keep coming back. The whole social media experience has been exciting. We have been able to show people our philosophy and even inclusion and diversity. It doesn’t matter who you are; the product will have to work for you.
DissDash: Nowadays, people and brands themselves, are into vegan, or organic products. Since you have taken so much care about the ingredients of your product, how do you relate these trends?
Gosal: We are almost 100% vegan. We are in the process of removing our products containing beeswax, which is a grey area. In terms of natural and organic, we claim that we are about 95-99% there. So our ideology is that the base of the products has to be as natural as possible, without compromising on performance. Let’s say there is new technology in anti-aging or anti-wrinkle products, which help reduce fine lines better than the natural options, we go with that instead. Also, if there are not enough preservatives in natural products, the safety of customers may be affected. We have PETA approval. We do not use animal-derived ingredients in our products, and they are 100% cruelty-free.
DissDash: How did the brand get the name Vasanti?
Gosal: So, when I was born, my aunt was to give me a name, but since she lived faraway, the letter with the name didn’t make it in time, but I kept hearing it from relatives over the years. When it was time to name the brand, Vasanti (means Spring in Sanskrit), seemed perfect. It had both flair of sounding like an Italian word V-a-s-a-a-n-t-e-e, as well as connect to the South Asians. It also embodies our philosophy of fresh and natural products.
DissDash: What have been some of the major challenges over the years?
Gosal: Cosmetic industry is highly competitive. So not having a big budget to promote it far and wide was definitely a challenge. Also, this started as a passion project, so there was no full-time contribution to the brand. Being an ethnic minority woman, was a big challenge, considering the industry is run by a few major brands who own or control the little brands too. So it was tough to get our foot through the door. Our lucky break was when we got our retail location in Canada in 2007. I still remember there was a woman buyer and her VP, and I was like 8 months pregnant at the time. They said it is tough to make it, but if you’re willing to try we can pilot you through three doors. It is so tough to get into retail, so we jumped at the opportunity. We had three different stores in malls, and we were manning all the stores, every week. It was a lot of hard work!
But when you hear the glowing reviews and feedback, it makes it all worth it.
DissDash: What is the one thing that you would want the readers to take away from this interview?
Gosal: To the young entrepreneurs out there, do follow your passion and stick to it! Start doing it part-time if you must.
In today’s age when there are so many options, find what works for you and makes you feel comfortable, look like you, feel like you.