Facing the storms of life with fortitude and courage, Upma Kapoor, 42, is today the proud owner of Teal and Terra, a personal body care startup.
Starting with Rs 8 lakh in 2017, the bootstrapped venture has grown year on year, generating a turnover of Rs 80 lakh in the first year and closing FY 2019-20 with Rs 2.2 crore.20
“Last year, we had 17 housewives as our marketing agents. They marketed our products online, and they were working from home,” says Upma.
“This year, we have hired a mix of young boys and girls, a lot of them are from a poor background, with basic education till Class 12.”
Upma lost both her parents in a tragic car accident when she was just 12 and had grown up in the care of her elder sister and brother-in-law.
Later, she had to separate from her husband, but none of these experiences could defeat her, and each time she overcame the adversities with sheer grit and determination.
“Misery is always more attractive to people than success,” she says, reacting to the sympathetic and condescending attitude of people.
“Why is a woman with a kid called a single mother? Today, life is complete for me – with my kid, three cats, and a flourishing business.”
In 2017, she started Teal and Terra as a proprietorship firm. She invested Rs 8 lakh, a portion of which was from her savings, and the rest was borrowed from friends and family.
Upma had a keen interest in beauty since she was a teenager and used to read extensively about beauty ingredients and essential oils. This childhood interest provided the spark for Teal and Terra.
“People trust international brands, but when it comes to Indian brands, people pick up onion oil for Rs 150. When the cheap product doesn’t work, people say that onion oil doesn’t work for them,” says Upma, talking about the challenges she faces in the market.
“Our onion oil, priced higher, has a higher concentration of essential oils and best quality ingredients. And from the first year itself, we got great reviews and the desired recognition.”
She claims to have introduced the trend of onion oil products for hair care in the country and says the market became flooded with look-alikes within two years of her product’s launch.
Teal and Terra’s products are priced between Rs 560 for a face wash to Rs 2,690 for kumkumadi face serum, which are also their best-selling products.
At home, as a single parent, she has to take care of her son. Earlier, Upma was always available for her son, but after launching her business, she became busy from morning till night, with jam-packed schedules.
“I sat down with my son and had a conversation with him, explaining how I will need six months to set things, and once things settle down, there will be better times,” she says.
The COVID lockdown proved to be a blessing in disguise for the duo as Upma began to work from home like many others. “We got to spend more together, which kind of made up for the lost time.”
Teal and Terra does about 80% of sales through their website and the rest 20% through Amazon and Flipkart. They are in talks with Myntra, Nykaa, and other stores to collaborate with them.
Manufacturing is done by third parties. “Products are made in Delhi, Gurugram, and Chandigarh. From there, they are sent to warehouses in Delhi (2), Mumbai (2), Bengaluru (1), and Gurugram (1). The head office is in Gurugram,” she says.
Born to NL Goel, a lawyer, and a mother who was a teacher, being the youngest amongst three siblings, Upma remembers her happy childhood days.
While her mother focused on education and becoming financially independent for her daughters, her father ensured that the family created great memories of vacations and family meal-times.
“We lost them in a car accident when they had gone to a friend’s place for dinner and never came back,” she says.
“I was too young to fully understand the impact of the event, but there is a permanent hole in the heart for my missing parents, and today it has become a part of life. Life has never been the same.”
Upma studied at Lancers Convent, Delhi, and did her B. Com Hons from Delhi University (1996-1999).
She took up employment soon after her graduation and worked in various IT firms in the HR department.
“When I received the first salary of Rs 10,000, I celebrated with the family and took them out to dinner. But my sister advised me to spend wisely, and save as much as I can,” she says.
“I worked at various MNCs, most of which don’t even exist now.”
In 2010 she started her own HR and consultancy firm with an initial investment of Rs 3 lakh.
“The company was doing pretty well and did a business of around Rs 6-7 lakh per month (Rs 60 lakh annually). But I had to shut it down within a couple of years as I was going through a divorce and my son was just three years.
“I realised he is too young, so needed me the most. I took a break, with plans to restart something once he turns 10.”
Meanwhile, she managed the house, and expenses of her son with consulting jobs as a business strategist, and selling her artwork.
Now, Teal and Terra has become the new member of her family, besides her son and three cats.