Sravya Kalyanapu: Being a South Asian female founder has been so empowering

Mango People founder Sravya Kalyanapu opens up about her early years and her experiences building products with clean, non-toxic, and organic ingredients.

Updated on Apr 25, 2021 02:00 AM IST  |  900.6K
Sravya Kalyanapu: Being a South Asian female founder has been so empowering
Sravya Kalyanapu: Being a South Asian female founder has been so empowering
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Sravya Kalyanapu was born in India and moved to Canada when she was 10 years old. She grew up in Fort McMurray where she finished most of her schooling and then moved to Edmonton for her undergraduate studies. She went on to pursue a degree in chemical engineering. However, Sravya did not stop until she realized her dream of starting her own business.

After a lot of research and studies, Sravya founded the beauty brand Mango People, which is special for many reasons. It is a sustainable brand that strives to use clean, non-toxic ingredients in its products.

As we chat with Sravya, who is a prominent figure in LA, we are inspired by the young, energetic, and driven young entrepreneur, who has been a beauty queen and also a charitable, responsible citizen of the world. She absolutely adores her work and loves Mondays! That should tell you she is special!


Sravya, so I know you have been Miss Northern Alberta World 2017, you are also a chemical engineer and a successful entrepreneur with Mango People. What molded you into the person that you are now?

A lot of attributes that I have right now are definitely instilled in me since a young age from my parents. So, complete credit to them. It is not so much what they said but how they lived their lives. They were honest, hardworking, and kind people. These are the values that I always carried throughout my life. They were not very strict and they always gave me a lot of independence and let me be myself. They were more like my friends.

I could always have an honest conversation with my parents. I really appreciated that because I know some of my friends had to do hide stuff from their parents because their parents were so strict.

How were you as a student?

In terms of me as a person, I have always been very active. My dad had a really great job in India but he wanted to move us to Canada where I could have more opportunities. I had no restrictions, I could do what I wanted, and that was such a huge motivator for me. I tried very hard every day to use all these opportunities that I have and be the best I could be. I always tried to be as involved as possible in my school, I was in my student council, I was the Vice-President, I started my own fundraiser for the breast cancer foundation and we raised a lot of money there. I was active in sports, I was in my school’s basketball team.

How did you get about starting Mango People and choosing non-toxic ingredients for your products?


I think it leads back to my Indian culture. We use ingredients from nature to heal ourselves, beautify ourselves, that is the kind of mindset and upbringing I always had. I never went to spas or got facials. It was always my mom at home grabbing ingredients from the kitchen, like yogurt, turmeric, or milk and honey and putting them on our faces. I was very used to that. I think when I started university and started using make-up, I naturally gravitated towards clean beauty products.

I think I was just so surprised by the ingredient list. A lot of beauty product manufacturers claim that they are not using toxic ingredients. But honestly, if you start googling each of the ingredients, you will notice that all of those claims are very inaccurate.

What made you explore your South Asian roots when it came to choosing ingredients for your products?

I remember researching the colorants they use to pigment the products, and it literally said “petroleum and coal tar by-products.” I was completely shocked. That is when I started experimenting. I began going back to my south Asian roots and focussing on using elements from nature. I found out how to work with natural clays to dry the products, and things like that. It took me about 5 years to formulate everything, it was a long process. But we have a great collection that everyone is loving so far, so it is worth the trouble!

Are your ingredients sourced from India?

We source the ingredients from a variety of places around the world. Lately, we definitely moved to source the ingredients from the US, the reason being the environmental footprint. We try to make our products as sustainable as possible. Shipping ingredients around the world contribute to carbon emission. To minimize that we looked into producers here in the US that follow the same principles to grow as if they were being grown in India. Another great thing about sourcing the ingredients locally is that you do have the certifications, so most of the ingredients are USDA organic certified. That is reassuring for us because we know we are using the highest quality possible.

How did Ayurveda have such a huge impact on you?


Since I was younger, everything about Ayurveda is breathtaking to me. The principles, the concept of mind, body spirit, being one, everything about it is beautiful. I have been obsessed with it for as long as I remember. Credits to my mom and uncle, who have always told me about Ayurveda and how it works with your body and the nature around you. It is so beautiful.

I practice a lot of Ayurvedic principles on a daily basis. I practiced that with skincare and I thought why am I stopping with makeup. Because make-up sort of finishes off everything. Like you have your diet, your skincare and you are topping everything with makeup. That is why I researched what I thought were the best ingredients to formulate into the makeup. Herbs like Ashwagandha, Brahmi oil, the way they work is that when you consume them or apply them on your skin, they adapt according to the environment.

That is the beauty of these plants. For example, if you are in a dry place, these oils give you the moisture. If you are in a very hydrating place, they kind of balance your moisture. All the ingredients that I use, I have tested them on myself and seen the results. That is the reason why I have incorporated them into the formulation. The power of plants and nature is just wow.

Was it challenging being a South-Asian entrepreneur in the global arena?

To be honest, it is actually the other way around. Being a South Asian female founder has been so empowering. I feel like it really propelled my business if anything. I receive so many DMs, emails, text messages from so many young women and girls around the world saying that we saw your business and it is amazing to see a young, south-Asian woman doing this. We received this review recently on our website from a South-Asian woman saying, “I tried over 1000 lipsticks but I could never find a color that could match my skin tone. Thank you so much for creating Gulabi and Jaipur!" That just made my day.

What drove you towards charity?

My parents have always been big on giving back and in helping people in whatever means we could. That’s always been a great part of my life, having gratitude and showing that through your actions. That is one of the things I love about entrepreneurship and the reason I pursued it. If you have a job, there is always going to be a ceiling when it comes to charity. Maybe you can help say 10 people if you are successful at your job. In entrepreneurship, there is no ceiling. If your company does well, you can help hundreds and thousands and millions, like how Bill Gates is doing it. I find that so amazing. I always told myself that whenever I start my business it is going to be social entrepreneurship.

We are planning to donate a part of our profits to organizations in India. It will be more focused on girls’ education, which is something I have always been passionate about.


How do you rewind after a stressful day?

I read a lot of books. It relaxes me. The latest that I have read is called Home Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It's like a Greek history of humans and talks about why we are here, the way we are today. It is beautiful and I would highly recommend it. It is one of the most knowledgeable books ever.

What is your advice to girls who want to steer towards entrepreneurship?

It is really important to find something you are truly passionate about. My end goal was always to start a business. I did not know what kind but I knew I wanted to. Finding the right passion and pursuing what you love is so important because it’s a lot of work. I work from morning till night, every single day. I have not taken many weekends off, maybe like half a day at most. That requires a lot of energy and hard work. The only reason I can do that without getting burnt out is that I love it so much. I wake up every day and I am always so excited to go to work. I love my Mondays because I can get back to work. It is such a beautiful feeling.

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