Indie Beauty Profile

Tejal Ramnathkar Engman and Alexandra Turner, Malavara

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Malavara Co-Founders Alexandra Turner (left) and Tejal Ramnathkar Engman
Malavara Co-Founders Alexandra Turner (left) and Tejal Ramnathkar Engman
In their Indie Beauty Profile, Tejal Ramnathkar Engman and Alexandra Turner, co-founders of Malavara, describe their journey to create a hair treatment and body care brand that fits the modern moment: ‘Ayurveda hacked’, as their ecommerce site calls it. And, they candidly acknowledge that the launch of Malavara turned out to be the beginning of a whole ‘nother journey.

Numerous beauty products, and rituals, and brands are premised on Ayurvedic wisdom. And it seems every time a new business launches in this space, it is marketed at ‘the one’ that has gotten it right—‘the’ brand that respects and relies on the genuine principles of Ayurveda and that will truly resonate with contemporary consumers. Many of these brands are quite lovely; but time has yet to reveal which will win out in the indie beauty movement.

Here, the beauty entrepreneurs behind Malavara share a profile of themselves and the brand.

Names: ​Tejal Ramnathkar Engman and Alexandra Turner, Co-Founders

Indie Beauty Company: ​Malavara

Launched: ​2018

Headquarters: ​London, UK

Cash flow: ​As founder, we have self-funded and own 100% of the Malavara business.

Indie how? ​For us, an indie beauty brand is an independent brand that has its own voice. Unencumbered by the commercial constraints of a large corporation, it can be bold, daring and experiment in its quest to figure out how to do things better. It can take its own path: it is an individual with a distinct identity, passion, and ideals.

Team work:​ 2 – Tejal and Alexandra

Distribution: ​We are online at​ and​ with fulfillment centres in both the US and the UK. Together these offer our customers global delivery.  We are also in a couple of boutiques in DC, but are only just starting to approach retailers.

Years in beauty: ​Both of us have always worke d in finance with Alexandra specializing in the retail and luxury goods sectors, while Tejal’s family runs a cosmetics business in India.

Years at Malavara: ​We began our Malavara journey 5 years ago and have been learning as we go. We were aware of the incredible benefits of Ayurveda’s beauty and wellness traditions but hadn’t found anything that suited our lifestyles or captured our imaginations. So, we decided to figure it out ourselves and after five years of research and development with British organic chemists, French aromatherapists and Ayurvedic ritual experts, Malavara was born.

Entrepreneurial experience: ​This is our first entrepreneurial experience and we have been hands-on at literally every step. Our initial research trip to India was for 4 weeks, where we met with Ayurvedic experts, visited yoga centres and checked out the products in department stores and boutiques to try and understand what modern India expects from beauty products.

Back home, we spent months sourcing everything ourselves: we visited trade shows for packaging and factories for bottles; we travelled to Grasse in France to visit perfume factories and worked with an expert to develop our fragrance; we followed numerous recommendations in our quest to find our brand designer and became experts in fonts, colours, and typeface. 

We have taught ourselves about every aspect of the business, from how to formulate a body lotion to how design a website to a rudimentary knowledge of European import/ export laws. Not forgetting of course, the complex task of understanding principles and rituals of Ayurveda.

We had worked so hard for so long in the pre-launch that we hadn’t appreciated that this only gets harder, and [moves] into another set of skills that we had to acquire: basic accounting, Instagram tactics, finding distributors. We are literally learning something new every day. [It’s] totally exhausting, but we love it.

The business: ​Malavara helps you grow thick, shiny hair and get fragrant, glowing skin, while calming your mind and reducing your stress levels. It does this by drawing on Ayurveda, the centuries-old Indian knowledge of life that delivers beauty through wellbeing.

Malavara takes Ayurveda’s simplest and most powerful rituals for hair and body and supercharges them using exceptional natural ingredients delivered through its award-winning products.  Think of it as turning regular yoga into hot yoga. Hot yoga gives you a deeper, faster workout, and you feel the results the very next day. Malavara is similar. Our product + massage combo is based on ancient principles, but it’s working harder and delivering faster due to its ‘hot’ natural ingredients and easy to follow, targeted techniques.

The wow-factor: ​To provide high-performing career women with easy and actionable Ayurvedic practices, rituals and natural yet luxurious products that help them get balanced and centered without sacrificing luxury or time

The consumer: ​Our target consumer is in her late 20s/early 30s. She is college educated and probably living in a city, working and playing hard and is now looking for a sense of balance as she feels burn-out.

You also won’t see her leading the way on a new trend but you will see her as an early adopter of it She loves brands that are luxurious, yet good for her, and even better that the brand is ayurveda-centered because she’s been hearing so much buzz lately about the health benefits of Ayurveda. She’s also a glam city girl, and is so thrilled to find a natural brand that doesn’t look super crunchy and green.

She can easily connect to the two founders: she’s not being preached to in a hippie dippie bohemian way, but spoken to intelligently and wittingly to by two high-powered women who want to help her find a sense of peace, calm and healing in her everyday drive to be great

She can do Malavara’s quick and easy result-focused Ayurvedic rituals on the go or just before she goes to bed after a long and exhausting day. The rituals also play into her quest for more well-rounded knowledge and wanting more out of her beauty brand. The rituals are a learning experience for her (she obviously loves to learn) and feed into her second highest human desire—growth. The balance restored in the body and mind through the rituals and products provide her with a sense of certainty and security—her #1 most important human desire.

Milestone moment: ​We won the Pure Beauty Awards “Best New Hair Product” in November. This completely blew us away, given when we were shortlisted, we had only been launched for a matter of weeks. Of the 20 hair products shortlisted, there were some really recognizable brands and we didn’t think we had a chance, and so to be up on stage receiving our award was just incredible.

Advice for fellow beauty entrepreneurs: ​The hard work only starts at launch! We thought we worked our socks off researching and developing our brand. Only when we launched did we then really realize that this was just the beginning.

Just one: ​Asked about their go-to product, Ramnathkar Engman says it’s hair oil. I had regular hair oil massages throughout my Indian childhood and really noticed the nourishing effects fall away when I moved abroad to study in my teens and abandoned the ritual. A long battle with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) brought me back to oiling and now the thick silky hair of my teens is steadily returning.  

And, Turner’s pick is body oil. Since childhood I have been a swimmer and have always had dry skin from the  effect of the chlorine and chemicals in the pool. Discovering body oils has been a game changer for me: they are so much more hydrating than lotions, and are generally natural too, so I know I am avoiding putting even more chemicals onto my skin, which is crucial for a leave-on product. Now that I am training to be an Aromatherapist, I sometimes also add in a few drops of one of my essential oils, depending on what extra boost I am after on the day.



Deanna Utroske, Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.

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