Text by Priya Mirchandani
In any city, urban living takes its toll: the air is polluted, the water is leached of its natural minerals, and the food has lost most of its wholesome organic nutrition. Although it may have its perks, city life is riddled with evident and invisible stressors that leave telltale signs on our bodies and minds. But age-old knowledge reassures us that, like the earth, the human body has the power to slowly heal itself. And a little help from nature can speed things up considerably. This wisdom is packaged in simple reusable tins and bottles by the recently launched organic skincare brand The Tribe Concepts. Its young CEO and founder, Amritha Gaddam, says, “Tribal communities are children of the forests, and they have always relied on plants, roots and flowers for all sorts of healing. It took a global pandemic to wake us city dwellers up to the importance of an organic, home-grown, sustainable and more self-reliant lifestyle. But going back to the roots, quite literally, is at the heart of this brand.”
Wooing the urban customer with organic solutions
Usually, convenience drives many consumer choices, but The Tribe Concepts is changing the skincare game and encouraging busy city dwellers to shift to their high-performing, all-natural options. This premium organic skincare brand is inspired by the power of nature and the notes of Ayurveda. With a strong belief that pure, organic extracts of plants and roots can serve as viable alternatives to skincare and haircare products when used in the right combinations, it offers most of its products in the form of powders and cold-pressed oils.
Creating The Tribe Concepts
Rewind to 10 years ago. Your typical 20-something, Amritha was constantly experimenting with new diets, make-up and hair treatment trends – which, in hindsight, gave her instant but short-lived results. What were not so temporary, however, were the residual effects of distress on her skin and hair from these experiments. Not to mention the impact on her overall health and positivity. Like so many girls her age, she was already battling conditions such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), hormonal imbalances and weight and anxiety issues. Help came in the form of an assortment of powders and oils, prescribed by her father, Dr Madhubabu Gaddam, an eminent name in Ayurvedic medicine. These were then sourced and blended by her mother, Dr Kamalanjali Gaddam, a firm believer and user of herbal remedies. Pretty soon, all her friends were queuing up for their own customised care packs. And the seed for a future business opportunity was planted in her young mind – a business that could harness the healing power of nature to undo the ravages of urban living on our bodies.
On how it all started, Amritha recalls, “I grew up in the town of Rajahmundry in coastal Andhra Pradesh. When I was 18, I moved to Hyderabad for higher studies. That’s when things went bad. Constant experiments with chemical peels, hair treatments and chemical-based shampoos took a huge toll on my skin, hair and, more importantly, my health. When I discussed these issues with my mother, she told me I had only to remember what I had been brought up with. And when I went back to her home-made formulations, I soon noticed a distinct improvement. I then decided that I had to make these products available for all those who were suffering like me. I quit my job and started The Tribe Concepts with the help of my mother and my power tribe: my sister and co-founder, Apuroopa Gaddam, who is a doctor and has been with me from the beginning, seamlessly handling the entire operations for a smooth customer experience; my batchmate from the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (Bengaluru) and co-founder, Nitya Mohan, who handles the marketing; and core team member Vamshi Krishna, who heads the technical operations of the company.”
Emphasising the importance of natural ingredients
The ingredients used in The Tribe Concepts products grow wild – in the Rajahmundry Hills in the Godavari valley – in soil that has never known pesticides, taking in water that comes straight from the skies and flourishing in air that is free of pollutants. These are hand-picked by the local tribal people and sourced directly from them as well. “We have face cleansers, hair cleansers and oils,” says Amritha. “The Tribe Concepts products don’t contain additives, colourants, preservatives, water, creams or perfumes. Basically, the brand offers the same skincare products that you find in the market, but in their purest forms. We have beautiful and potent Indian ingredients that target different skin and hair issues. We work primarily with five main ingredients: hibiscus, bhringraj, rose, red sandalwood and chironji.”
At the core of every formulation lies a mix of the leaves, roots and flowers in different permutations and combinations. Neem, marigold, gooseberry, jatamansi herb, aloe, liquorice, fenugreek, basil, turmeric, vetiver and a host of other gentle but powerful botanicals are added to supplement the healing power of the five base ingredients and cater to specific issues.
Building a value chain of organic sustainability
Today, the skincare industry is brimming with innovative herbal solutions, and Amritha explains that while the ingredients used by The Tribe Concepts “may not be new per se, their combinations with other active ingredients are certainly unique and could be considered breakthroughs”. These formulations have evolved over long and continual interactions with the local tribes; they are the combined result of imbibed botanical wisdom and herbal healing secrets. The essence of these learnings and the wellness rituals handed down the generations of the Gaddam family are distilled and finally filtered through the traditions of Ayurveda by Amritha’s father, before being packaged in airtight reusable canisters. “The ingredients make their way from the forests to the containers in the shortest time and purest form possible and zero processing. I’m trying to create a value chain of organic sustainability,” she explains. The Tribe Concepts range is presented to the user in the form of concentrated powders and virgin cold pressed oils. Apart from being undiluted, every formulation is 100 per cent organic, with no chemicals, preservatives, perfumes or colourants. The brand is also against animal testing.
But is the consumer who wants everything ready for immediate use willing to spend time on this daily ritual? The 70,000 -odd (at the time of writing) followers of The Tribe Concepts’ Instagram handle seem happy to trade easy convenience for organic purity and authenticity. “It’s not such a big deal,” smiles Amritha. “Just drop a spoonful of the powder into any organic mixer you fancy – water, rose water, honey, buttermilk, milk, egg, yoghurt… and boom! You’re ready to go.” The oils are, of course, ready to use.
Sustainability is a matter of concern to The Tribe Concepts. Amritha points out, “We are constantly on a journey towards sustainability and minimalism, and the latter is the most required contemporary trend. For instance, we have introduced reusable traditional steel tins for our packaging. At home, I currently use the Face Brightening Daily Cleanser tin to store my coffee powder. We are aiming to become 100 per cent plastic-free by the end of 2020. It is vital to take the sustainable approach in building a brand because each one of us has the responsibility to save our resources for the future generations. There is no Planet B.”