Great labels begin with great ideas, a myriad of trials and failures, and a leader with an ‘onward and upward’ mindset. Anisha Agarwal Saraf, the co-founder of Dot & Key, speaks to Nykaa on how she overcame her fears, powered through all the challenges that came her way, and the joys that came with every moment of building a beauty label that has won the hearts of thousands across the nation. This Woman’s Day, we celebrate Saraf and her journey.
She reveals the inspiration behind the brand, her beauty inspiration, her personal favourite from her line, and her advice for budding entrepreneurs.
Beauty Book: What was the inspiration behind starting your beauty label?
Anisha: What really motivated me to start my own beauty line was observing the international market, and how it was always flooded with a lot of interesting ideas, innovative products, categories, and beautiful experiences that it had to offer to the consumers—which the Indian market was missing at the time. My husband and I have always been avid travellers, and apart from trying out different destinations, and cuisines, we also loved experimenting with different beauty products that the market had to offer. And to be honest, the question that intrigued me the most during these experiences was why India wasn’t introducing these innovative skincare experiences to the customers here back at home. This inspired us to bring global beauty trends to the Indian market all the while having international benchmarks in terms of the ingredients, actives, textures, fragrances. And that is how Dot & Key was born.
Beauty Book: Who would you say is your beauty inspiration?
Anisha: My beauty inspiration has always been my mother. Her simplicity, confidence, and how she chooses to carry herself every day is so unique and inspiring to me. I also really respect women that not only have the courage to dream big but also take action, work hard to really bring those dreams to.
Beauty Book: What would you say were your biggest fears and challenges when you started out?
Anisha: It goes without saying, you know— the initial fear of failure. We had to prepare ourselves for the possibility of our products not landing, formulations failing, packages leaking. We did face consumer backlash, with our audience not resonating or identifying with our formulations. We’ve had our days. And whenever that happened I would instantly go back to what my father used to say tell me. He would remind me that I just need to take the first step and nothing else mattered. Another thing that kept me going was this quote, ‘fail fast to learn fast.’ And yes, I did face a few challenges too, you know. Being a woman who had just gotten married, I was always told that I didn’t need to do this. But the thing is, I wasn’t starting a business to be the bread-earner of the family. It was more than that for me. It got very difficult for me to make other women around me understand why I wanted to do this. And after becoming a mom, it only got more difficult. This is something I struggle with to this day— balancing my work and family—but looking back I regret nothing. It was all worth it.
Beauty Book: Here’s a tough one. If you had to choose what would your personal favourites from the brand be?
Anisha: There’s a lot of heart and soul that goes into every product. But if I had to choose, it would have to be our vitamin C moisturiser. It’s also our most loved product and it’s always in my vanity. The clay masks are also very close to my heart because I’ve always used multani mitti since I was a kid. To be able to make a modern alternative to that was definitely a win. I mainly use it post vacation or right before a party for a quick pick-me-up.
Also, the AHA BHA peel is fabulous. We launched it right before the pandemic hit, and it boomed right after—at a time when people weren’t really visiting the salons. It basically gives you this healthy glow that you get from a professional facial. Also our cica range. There was a lot of effort put into it, I actually went into the market to buy cica leaves and used them at home before launching the range.
Beauty Book: What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs reading this?
Anisha: The thing is, there will always be people around you who will hold you back. They’ll tell you that you don’t have to do this, or that it’s wiser to just settle for a more comfortable life. When this happens to me, it just honestly pushes me to do more. I realised pretty early on that I have it in me to fight the world, I have it in me to tell people that I have the power to dictate my life. And for every budding entrepreneur reading this, all I want to say is, just start. It’s very important to take those initial steps. Yes, you will have your fair share of challenges, and people are going to tell you otherwise. But if you believe in your idea and your product—and most importantly yourself—your dream will come true. And always remember, unless you start, you won’t fail, and unless you fail, you won’t learn.