The Liquid Gold of Stress Relief: Connecting the Dots with Puneet Nanda

Grace Williams

A handful of years ago, entrepreneur Puneet Nanda “had it all.” The New Delhi, India, native had moved to the U.S. to seek his fortune, eventually launching a successful oral care company that aimed for price points that would get his product in dollar and 99-cent stores.

He also purchased legacy oral-care names Reach and Binaca and licensed oral care merchandise aimed at kids, creating toothbrushes that lit up and featured beloved childhood characters.

It would be easy to assume that financial and business success gave Nanda a fairy-tale ending, but instead he found himself deeply stressed out. After suffering an episode that landed him in the hospital, Nanda decided to shift gears.

Nanda – whose favorite scents include roman chamomile, jasmine, patchouli, and sandalwood – began exploring how to ensure that what people inhale is pure and safe for the body. Determined to hack the essential oil business model much like he had hacked toothbrushes all those years prior, in 2015 Nanda set out on a new journey.

To shore up his essential oil initiation, Nanda’s journey took him on a quest where he ended up visiting farms and fields, and meeting with potential sources for the venture. He eventually formed Guru Nanda, a Burbank, Calif.-based business that sells quality essential oils through its online channel in a “farm-to-customer” model, and in nationally recognized discount stores. Nanda discussed his entrepreneurial journey with Grace L. Williams of “This is Capitalism.” Edited excerpts are below.

GLW: What made you choose to pivot to essential oils?
PN: My nervous breakdown opened my eyes. When I started doing yoga and healing myself, I lost 50 pounds, started eating right, and implemented daily things that normally aren’t considered that important, but end up being very important because they are the things that keep you balanced. After selling my oral care company, I got into a transformation where I opened up a yoga studio and wrote a book, Wall Street Yoga. In the yoga studio, I saw a lot of ladies using essential oils at a cost of 10 times the normal price.

GLW: Tell me about a time when a difficult decision presented itself, how you handled it, and the outcome.
PN: When the pandemic came, we got worried about what we would do since essential oil is not a daily use product. People were looking for toilet paper and food and not necessarily worried about essential oils anymore. One thing we saw that consumers were going after was hand sanitizer and face masks. We already had the supply chain and bottles, so we switched and we started making essential oil based hand sanitizers. All we had to do was add alcohol to the essential oil sprays and that would then become sanitizer. We were able to sell several thousand of them as a new item in addition to our regular products, alongside over 250 million masks, and keep our company afloat.

GLW: What do you love about what you do?
PN: New product innovation. I’m an entrepreneur at the end of the day, so all this is a very fun job. For some, this might be too much, but for me it’s a lot of fun. Doing this, or doing anything innovative that requires me to [explore] is like being in one of those TV shows where investigative work is being done. I’m like a business detective and [our next launch coming up] is a full line of oral care products that are essential oils-based and sustainable.

GLW: What are your work-specific resolutions for 2022?
PN: I lead by example and I have recently hired some good people [to take the business] to the next level. We are a midsize company with 70 people and the plan is to become a 200 people company. We’re finally profitable. I’m also in the process of considering hiring a new CEO instead of myself and my game plan would be to focus my attention into mostly innovation and let somebody else [lead] day-to-day. My intention is: “How do I change the world one step at a time?” I know I’m not Tesla, like Elon Musk, but whatever little I can do with my small company, I would love to do that.