Ramakrishna Rajanna, founder of CureSkin tells us about specialized skincare and innovation.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ramakrishna Rajanna: Thanks for asking. My family and I are safe and healthy. Being tech has given us the ability to work from home and stay safe during the pandemic.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded CureSkin.
Ramakrishna Rajanna: I am the CTO & Co-Founder of CureSkin. I spent ten years at Google working on Search, Maps, and many emerging market projects. I was associated with MIT media labs and mentored some unique projects for problems faced by tier 2 cities. After quitting Google, I have been looking at opportunities in healthcare. Guna was my colleague at Google. He had some great insights in Skin-care and was doing research on giving a better experience to patients. I was delighted to rejoin him to make a difference in healthcare. Our main philosophy was to give holistic care to users. That guiding motto shaped our company today.
We started talking to users, doctors, pharmacists and built a new product from scratch. We were soon selected in YCobminator. Later we were backed by Khosla Ventures, Google Launchpad. We have found great investor mentors helping us on a regular basis. We are innovating and introducing features and processes in skincare which are industry first. We constantly compete with ourselves and have made CureSkin into a brand known for efficacy, honesty, and care.
About 3 million people have used our tech to analyze their skin and improve. We have served people from the remotest corners of India and from across all walks of life. Many of these would have had to travel hundreds of miles to get quality skincare without CureSkin.
How does CureSkin innovate?
Ramakrishna Rajanna: The culture of innovation was embedded in our DNA during our stints at Google. Our key principles
- Focus on solving customer problems
- Launch and iterate
- Make data-driven decisions
- Sustainable growth
These principles have helped us innovate fast and in the right direction. For example, our obsession with making data-driven decisions has helped us uncover unintuitive insights with A/B experiments. Often ideas can be perceived differently by a group of decision-makers. The best way to resolve this is to try and do a small A/B experiment before doing a full implementation of the idea. Launch and iterate philosophy has helped us focus on things that work and discard others quickly.
Another great story is about steroid abuse in India. Millions of people in India and worldwide unknowingly use steroid-based creams on their skin, causing long-term damage. We launched a free tool for people to quickly scan their products/ingredients and instantly check if they are safe which is available here.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ramakrishna Rajanna: We never believed in WFH before the pandemic. However, the pandemic has helped us figure out effective strategies in a remote working setup. This has led to few good remote hires. From the business perspective, we were hit during the initial phases of lockdown. With time people have put more trust in online solutions, and we are back on the growth track. We have launched several products like sanitizer, which was the need of the hour. We have also provided diet consultations, daily tips to help them take care of their skin while being at home.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ramakrishna Rajanna: Our cash flow was constrained during Lockdowns. Many of our employees volunteered to take ESOPs in lieu of salary. We did not fire anyone during this period. Instead, all our employees have supported us by working six days a week instead of the usual five days a week. We are thankful to the team for helping us navigate through the crisis and emerge even stronger.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Ramakrishna Rajanna: With the remote setup, the following tools and processes helped us
- Asana tool: Helped us to be updated about project status.
- Daily standup: 15-minute standup helped everyone in the team to get connected and unblocked.
- Meeting schedules: Company-wide meeting times restricted from 9 am to 11 am and 2 pm to 4 pm. This allowed everyone to have undistracted focus time.
- Headspace: Daily group meditation using the Headspace app helped relieve employee stress and improve mental health
- Weekly updates: Updates from 1 team a week to fill the gaps of remote working.
- 1:1 meetings: Regular 1:1 meetings with employees with no agenda helped them share things that were important to them
Your final thoughts?
Ramakrishna Rajanna: Innovation is the only way startups can beat the big players. You need not invent big concepts. A culture of continuous product improvements with a feedback cycle will reap big benefits over the long run.
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