Mohit Yadav of Minimalist: The science-forward skincare solutions provider

Mohit Yadav is co-founder of D2C skincare brand, Minimalist  ((Illustration by Priya Kuriyan) )
Mohit Yadav is co-founder of D2C skincare brand, Minimalist ((Illustration by Priya Kuriyan) )


The co-founder of the skincare brand on being a serial entrepreneur, creating products for a niche market, and why he loves working with his brother

Mohit Yadav, 40, co-founder of Minimalist skincare, is talking about what motivated him to get into entrepreneurship. We are on a video call, and when he confesses that he became an entrepreneur just so he could live and work with his brother, it has the unexpected effect of my mind conjuring up images from the 1999 family drama about filial love Hum Saath Saath Hain.

“Growing up, I never had any ambition to pursue entrepreneurship. One didn’t even know what such a life entailed. It’s just that when Credit Suisse, the investment bank I was working with (as assistant vice-president) at the time (2006) asked me to move to Hong Kong or London, I knew I didn’t want to stay away from my (younger) brother (Rahul)," says Yadav, while laughing at my Sooraj Barjatya analogy. “There’s only a two-year age gap between us, so we grew up together. We studied together, played together and became close friends," he says, reminiscing about growing up in Jaipur, Rajasthan, with his brother, sister and parents.

Today, this sibling revelry has the Yadav brothers at the helm of Minimalist, a science-backed D2C skincare brand, which claims to be driven by the values of transparency and authenticity. Started in 2020, the chemical-forward brand has 50 products in various categories, from skin and body care, hair care and lip care to the just launched baby care. With affordability as a guiding pillar for a price-sensitive market like India, their products are priced from 279- 1,899. The brand has managed to stand steady amid competition from similar brands such as Dr. Sheth’s, The Derma Co., Dot & Key and Deconstruct. Headquartered in Jaipur, the 572-employees-strong company’s projected revenue for 2024 is 350 crore.

Going by the entrepreneurial streak of the brothers—Yadav is a chartered accountant and Rahul is a chemical engineer from IIT Roorkee—since 2008, there might be something to this filial bond after all.

The duo’s first attempt at entrepreneurship was an online T-shirt store, Scopial Fashions, launched in June 2008, for which they raised funds from Snapdeal’s Kunal Bahl. In 2011, they rebranded as MangoStreet, an online kids garment brand, which was acquired in 2012 by now-shuttered baby care e-commerce platform Hushbabies. “Running Scopial and MangoStreet taught us how the entire startup ecosystem works," says Yadav.

Their entrepreneurial gig continued when the brothers met Amit Jain, co-founder and CEO of CarDekho, who like them is based in Jaipur, in 2013. “CarDekho was just starting out and we both became a part of that venture," recalls Yadav, who joined the startup as vice-president. After two years in India, it was when he moved to Indonesia as CEO to run automobile portal (a joint venture between and Emtek, an Indonesian media company) that the distance from the family hit. “It struck me that I’d moved to Jaipur all those years ago to spend time with family, and yet, here I was in Indonesia, away from them. That was when I decided to move back to Jaipur to start a new venture with my brother," he says.

In 2018, the brothers started Freewill, a tech-enabled personalised hair care brand with backing from Sequoia Capital’s (now Peak XV) accelerator programme, Surge. The venture faced scalability issues. However, the learnings acquired from this stint proved helpful in setting up Minimalist, their most successful startup idea yet. In addition to their own experience, especially Rahul’s chemistry background and knowledge of chemical formulations, they had the backing of investors. The venture, once again, raised a seed funding of $2 million (around 17 crore now) in 2020 from Surge and in July 2021, they raised 110 crore in Series A funding, led by Peak XV Partners with participation from Unilever Ventures.

The idea to start Minimalist, Yadav says, came from a void they’d sensed in the Indian skincare industry for brands that made products for specific problems. “Looking from the outside in, the skincare industry in India seemed to be dominated by large companies with big R&D facilities. But the thing with large FMCG players in this space is that they are always trying to create a product that will appeal to all one billion people in the country. There were barely any companies that were product-focused and catered to specific problems that a smaller segment, of say, 100 million people had," he says. A question that drove the two was “Can we solve these customers’ problems—like acne, pigmentation or ageing—by bringing products they actually need?"

As for what compelled them to opt for the “transparent" path, Yadav’s answer is “the lack of honesty in communication" by brands, citing recent examples of baby foods and health drinks for children being found to have excessive sugar and artificial flavouring. “The laws may permit some of these ingredients but is it right for a company to claim it’s a health drink? No." At one point in the conversation, Yadav shares that they were also inspired by international brands such as The Ordinary that are science-forward and follow a philosophy of ingredient transparency.

Minimalist’s stance of “being transparent" is reflected in their catch phrase “HideNothing" and in their product labels that carry information ranging from the percentage of ingredients to the suppliers of their ingredients. The results of the clinical trials done with the products are detailed on every product page on the website.

The brand launched in October 2020, during peak pandemic, which could have made it a non-starter, but therein lies the plot twist. With time available on their hands, self-care became a priority for people, with a move towards educating themselves about ingredients as well. If people were paying cursory attention to labels before, they were now taking pains to read up about what they were putting into their skin. There was also caution around stepping out of home to shop at brick and mortar stores.

Minimalist’s moves to #hidenothing and be an internet-first company paid off. Within eight months of the launch, the brand reported 21 crore in revenues in 2021 before shooting to 108 crore in 2022. In 2023, Minimalist’s reported revenue was 184 crore, a 70.37% increase from the previous year.

These numbers have industry watchers interested in the brand because they have managed to be profitable every year, which is significant when you consider how cluttered the space is with multinationals, Indian FMCGs, and beauty and skincare brands jousting for attention from the same customer. Another significant turn the company has taken in the four years of its existence is going international. Starting with the UAE in 2021, Minimalist is now available in seven markets: the US, UK, UAE, Malaysia, Nepal, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

“I think one of the reasons why we’ve grown so fast is because our initial customers spread the word about us. Word of mouth continues to get us new customers even today," says Yadav, while admitting to being surprised by how readily the brand was accepted by consumers. Yadav believes that it’s the way he and Rahul as “outsiders" treated the business that’s helped them succeed.

“We just put our heads down to come up with formulations that would solve the issues—whether pigmentation or fine lines— using the best quality ingredients," he says, and then proceeds to describe the essence of the company more concisely as, “We are a solutions-oriented company".

Quiz Yadav about who makes the formulations and he credits it to their team. “A large part of our team, especially formulators, comes from a pharmaceutical background and all of them possess the knowledge required to understand how different actives and molecules interact with each other and come up with effective formulations. We also have employees with a background in cosmetic science, who ensure our products are aesthetically right too," he explains.

I ask Yadav about an incident that almost shadowed the launch of Minimalist. Everything about their product packaging including the text, the labelling and even the shape of the bottles their serums came in seemed to mimic popular international brands such as The Ordinary. Skin and fashion influencers critiqued the style. Minimalist, however, has continued with the same package design.

“In the initial stage of the launch, this reaction was challenging because we’d put in a lot of effort in terms of creating our products. We were also trying to create a space of our own in terms of how people perceived us," Yadav confesses, recalling that incident. 

I think one of the reasons why we’ve grown so fast is because our initial customers spread the word about us. Word of mouth continues to get us new customers even today. -Mohit Yadav, co-founder, Minimalist India

What was the motivation behind the brand’s new pivot to baby care? “This decision largely came from our own experiences," says the father to a 12-year-old. “While there’s a lot happening in the country with regard to skin and hair care, there’s very little innovation happening in baby care. You don’t get any fragrance-free options here," says Yadav. The line was launched in June and currently includes four fragrance-free products: a cleanser, a massage oil, a lotion and an ointment for skin irritation and diaper rash.

Winding down, it is time to revisit his childhood. Were there any lessons from that time that continue to guide him? Yadav says, “Rahul and I grew up seeing our parents waking up by 5-6am and working till 10pm every day to ensure that their kids could get the education they never got. When you grow up seeing hardships like we have, you tend not to have a fear of failure. An essential quality when you are starting a venture knowing that there are 99% chances it will fail. It’s what’s kept my brother and me going through all our ventures—we know that we’ll survive the failures."

Quick 3 

  1. Last book read: ‘Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike‘ by Phil Knight. 
  2. Favourite vacation spot: Goa in India, Bali in Indonesia and the European countryside. 

3. CEOs he admires: Steve Jobs and Ratan Tata


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