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Inspiration

Varun Mathur: A Passion for Innovation

Varun began his career in R&D at Kimberly Clark, helping to make diapers more absorbent. Now, he launches products like Micah — a breakthrough anti-aging chemistry — and helps lead Hallstar’s global expansion. He holds an MBA, an MS in applied statistics and a BS in chemical engineering.

What led you to specialized chemistry and business development at Hallstar?

I was literally born into the chemical industry. My father, who was an affiliate professor at the University of Washington (where I completed my chemical engineering degree), has always been my inspiration. I worked with him as an undergrad, optimizing silicate and calcium carbonate filler technology to replace and diminish the use of wood fiber in paper products. Our hope was to substantially decrease the carbon footprint of the paper industry.

“I’m most passionate about solving problems in a very unique, powerful way. Our Project Micah is a great example — no one has ever approached anti-aging like this, and it can literally stop the clock.”

I moved towards marketing and general management roles to help bridge technology with ideal commercial applications. I’m looking forward to achieving that type of connection with something that’s as revolutionary as Hallstar’s Micah.

Describe your role for us.

I lead both Hallstar’s Market Development and M&A (mergers and acquisition) teams. Our Market Development team focuses on introducing new chemistries for both the Beauty & Personal Care and Industrial segments. Our M&A team, which works in conjunction with Market Development, focuses on identifying acquisitions that fill gaps in our technology and product portfolio.

How do Hallstar’s acquisitions benefit your customers?

It gives customers with the raw materials, capabilities and technologies of a company they may not have had access to before — and that, in turn, helps them keep up with market changes and opportunities. When you combine these strategic acquisitions with our existing product portfolio, marketing process and the ability to create a custom formulated solution, we offer a sort of “one-stop shop” for customers seeking more innovation.

What excites you most about your work?

Solving a problem in a way that our customers or no one in the industry has seen before. Modifying products — extending them, changing color or effect — is always interesting. But I’m most passionate about solving problems in a very unique, powerful way. Our Project Micah is a great example — no one has ever approached anti-aging like this, and it can literally stop the clock. We’re very excited about the potential to transform skin and sun care.

What are some of your biggest challenges?

In terms of development, I would say that balancing efficacy with texture and sensoriality is a major challenge. This is especially true for anti-aging products that are increasing their game, if you will, and adding SPF to more products. Sunscreens traditionally feel heavy, greasy and rub off white. So when they’re added to something like a moisturizer, they don’t feel as they should. The good news is that we’re gradually solving that problem with products like Micah, new mineral dispersions and other photoprotection technology.

You have both a science and business background. Any advice for companies trying to gain an edge in the tough Beauty & Personal Care market?

Companies that will thrive in Beauty & Personal Care will be able to demonstrate that their technology provides a true consumer benefit. This will have to be demonstrated on both clinical endpoints — fine lines and wrinkles for example — and on biological endpoints, which includes things like collagen, elastin and DNA. Furthermore, the best-in-class companies will be able to convey how and why their chemistry offers an advantage versus incumbent technology.

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