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How indē wild Made Champi-ing Cool for Gen Z and Gen Y

Published April 21, 2024
Published April 21, 2024

Founded by influencer and entrepreneur Diipa Büller-Khosla and co-founded by her community of over 2.1 million loyal followers on Instagram, indē wild is centered around a promise of making Ayurveda relatable and accessible. With a background rooted in Ayurvedic principles through her family heritage—her mother being an Ayurvedic practitioner and dermatologist—Büller-Khosla recognized the importance of integrating these ancient practices into modern day skincare and wellness. Her vision is to seamlessly blend the wisdom of ancient rituals and techniques with the ever-evolving demands and aspirations of today’s skincare and wellness consumers.

Named one of the eight brands in Sephora’s 2024 Accelerate program, indē-wild is on a mission to shatter the perceptions that surround traditional Ayurveda. Frequently characterized as antiquated, uncool, and outdated, indē-wild consistently proves that Ayurveda is anything but old-fashioned. Having closed its seed round raising $3 million at a valuation of $30 million, Büller-Khosla is well on her way to building her own skincare and wellness empire. However amid its impressive and ever-growing product range, there’s one particular product that epitomizes the essence of the brand—the Champi Hair Oil. Formulated by Büller-Khosla mother herself, this hero product embodies everything that indē wild stands for—blending innovation with tradition to promote holistic beauty and wellness. BeautyMatter had the opportunity to speak to Büller-Khosla about the remarkable success of the Champi Hair Oil and understand the intricacies of marketing ancient rituals and techniques to appeal to younger audiences.

Many may recall a time in school in India, where the girls who came with oiled hair were often ridiculed and subject to bullying. How did you approach changing this perception and making something traditionally seen as uncool or unappealing into something relatable and desirable for younger generations?

Honestly, I remember the Horlicks (a sweet malted milk hot drink popular in India) bottle where Momi would make her hair oil concoction, and it would be a red liquid that would drip down our foreheads, and I would run away from the smell. As much as I hated it as a child, there was no point in fighting with my mum, and today I'm very grateful for it. Our entire family would sit together on a Sunday with rajma chawal (kidney beans and rice) and Champi (Champi is an Ayurvedic head massage that involves copious amounts of oil, focused on relieving tension in the head, face and shoulders); it became a bonding ritual. After 40 years of our homemade oil, Momi and I came together to extract all the benefits from the 16 active ingredients like brahmi, neem, and carrier oils to create a hair oil that not only carries all the benefits of this family recipe but smells amazing. Everyone in South Asian cultures has so many memories attached to hair oiling, but it was never made easy. So, I think the way I turned this ancient ritual into something desirable was by perfecting the formula to be lightweight and aromatic, clinically proving simply its benefits and contribution to healthy hair and emphasizing it as a self-love and bonding ritual.

What drove you to launch a hair oil? And what is your perspective on the hair oil market as a whole? Could you share some insights or statistics to illustrate the success of Champi Hair Oil?

The 2023 SELF Healthy Beauty Award winner, Champi Hair Oil is one of our bestsellers. In fact, it was the fastest product to sell out once released among all our other product launches. Our clinicals were phenomenal where 100% of users said their hairfall had reduced by 50% within 28 days. From indē wild’s conception, we envisioned it as a beauty ecosystem—inspired by Ayurveda, which is the “science of life”—so there was never a "we can’t do haircare” moment. Our community regularly asked about Momi’s haircare tips, and quite naturally we decided to release her recipe. However, when I first asked her to share the exact recipe, she was actually a bit hesitant since it was so close to our family. It took a bit of convincing, but ultimately I shared personal stories of my followers struggling with their hair and when she realized how many people could potentially benefit from it she was all game.

Did you encounter any challenges or obstacles in rebranding a hair oil as a desirable product? If so, how did you overcome them?

While not many people knew about the efficacy behind hair oiling, their judgment was also very clouded by the negative connotations they had from their younger years. So with our Champi Hair Oil, we had to not only instigate a mindset shift, but also showcase and highlight the benefits. The clinical study was a crucial point after the formulation. Meanwhile “hair oiling" or "hair slugging” slowly started to trend on TikTok and in the West, so we also had the challenge to reclaim this 5,000-year-old ritual as a South Asian brand. Once a few customers saw amazing results, I think the Champi wave just caught on. 

In my opinion, the scent of  Champi Hair Oil has significantly contributed to its appeal. Would you agree? Could you elaborate on the significance of scents in hair oils and their role in making it socially acceptable for individuals to wear oil in their hair throughout the day?

Yes, completely! Momi actually studied aromatherapy in Pondicherry, in South India. The light fragrance of jasmine, lavender and moringa is not only there to “mask” the pungent smell of all the other ingredients but also brings its own set of benefits. It is intended to calm and relax your mind as you do your Champi ritual. The scent of jasmine is also very nostalgic to our community and evokes many memories. This definitely helped in making the oil more socially acceptable, because people actually enjoyed having their hair smell the way the oil made it smell. In fact, now I actually see many people using the Champi Hair Oil to style their hair into slick-back looks.

"I strongly believe that there is so much from traditional and historical practices that we neglect from our ancient time because they seem outdated and don’t fit into today’s 'lifestyles.'"
By Diipa Büller-Khosla, founder, indē wild

Indē wild has not only managed to bring to light the importance of applying hair oil to boost the health of one’s hair but has also made the act of Champi-ing an aspirational self-care ritual. How did you do this and what role has your community had to play in the proliferation of this trend?

I think it was important that we painted the activity of Champi-ing as an act of self-care and bonding rather than something tedious or monotonous, in order to motivate individuals around the world to partake in oiling hair as an act of self-love. We didn’t want people to view it in an apprehensive manner but instead as something they look forward and enjoy in their wellness routines.

What role has consumer feedback and market research played in the development and fine-tuning of Champi Hair Oil?

One thing that our focus groups really helped us with, prior to our product launch when we were fine-tuning the prototype of the oil was their emphasis on requesting that the oil be lightweight and smell good. A lot of people complain that oiling hair can be frustrating because even after washing it, the oil remains. So, we made sure to perfect the formula to ensure that our oil is both effective in nourishing and hydrating the scalp while still being washable once used, leaving your hair smoother and less frizzy. 

What specific strategies did you employ to make Champi Hair Oil appealing to contemporary consumers? Our standout strategy was focused on social media and reviews: make people aware of this traditional Indian practice of Champi oiling and explain it—from unboxing’s to step-by-steps and nostalgic content. We focused on engaging many different types of influencers including males, females, grandmas, mothers, and fathers to show the cultural beauty behind this activity, and how it is a wellness activity that helps you bond and connect with your loved ones. From my personal Sunday tradition, we established a communal moment for our community, offering not only content from our end but also an opportunity for customers to share their wholesome Champi moments. Apart from that, our reviews were also phenomenal with so many users showing their hair growth journey, postpartum journeys, and sharing their story of the benefits of using the Champi. 

How did you navigate the market to position Champi Hair Oil as a premium product? Were there any brands that you looked up to for inspiration?

Our packaging played a crucial part in elevating the hair oil experience. By incorporating a dropper, we leaned into a feature found in many hair products like OUAI’s Scalp Serum, Ordinary’s Peptide Serum, and Gisou’s Hair Oil. While age-old hair oils often spill everywhere and people tend to over use them, this design choice addresses the issues that traditional hair oils bring with them: The look and feel through the utilization of glass rather than plastic with gold design elements aimed to make this bottle a keepsake that could be repurposed once the oil was finished. The goal was to give people something they were familiar with but better—from the unboxing to the overall user experience. Furthermore, our launch campaign was not something you would expect for a hair oil. Made using CGI, it featured Momi and me in the palms of her hand and had all of our Ayurvedic ingredients growing around us. I think that made it feel very modern and on par with today’s time.

How do you think other beauty brands can learn from the success of indē wild’s Champi Hair Oil in bringing back ancient techniques and rituals that worked years ago and make them relevant to a young audience today? 

I strongly believe that there is so much from traditional and historical practices that we neglect from our ancient time because they seem outdated and don’t fit into today’s “lifestyles.” But we need to learn to modernize these practices that have been proven for generations to be effective and shine light back on the "outdated" practices to prove that they are still very relevant in the fast paced, digital world that we live in. 

And finally, what trends do you anticipate in the haircare industry and how does indē wild plan to stay innovative and relevant to make sure it always resonates with its consumers? 

As people get busier and consumer preferences shift more towards convenience and life on-the-go, we’ve observed a trend in the digital space; people often have their specific hair wash days and those are the only moments of the week when they tend to give their hair that extra TLC. By continuously engaging with and talking to our consumers, we try to understand their pain points to gain valuable insights of their haircare habits. While staying true to our philosophy of modernizing ancient rituals with our unique Ayurvedistry twist, we will continue building out haircare offerings centerd around the Champi.


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