HealthKart’s vertical marketplace offers 20K+ SKUs such as protein supplements, vitamins, health foods and drinks, ayurvedic products and more across six categories
The platform has onboarded more than 1,000 local and global brands, selling their products online and through offline stores spread across 40+ Indian cities
In 2022, HealthKart partnered with one-tap checkout network Simpl to enable easy and convenient purchase and help people buy high-value items in three zero-interest EMIs
The narratives surrounding physical and mental wellness in the wake of the pandemic have created favourable market conditions for nutraceuticals in India. But in 2009, the emphasis on good quality health supplements for preventive care was a new concept only nurtured by the health-conscious. It was a niche market at the time, but Harvard Business School alumnus Sameer Maheshwari had already identified two major roadblocks hindering the growth of the domestic market.
“The Indian market was flooded with fake supplements containing steroids, which are harmful to the body. Plus, there was an obvious lack of knowledge [among consumers] regarding nutritional supplements,” said Maheshwari.
In 2011, the fitness enthusiast teamed up with Prashant Tandon to launch HealthKart, an online retail marketplace for health supplements. The aim was to strengthen people’s trust in dietary supplements and sell authentic products for varied health requirements.
In 2015, Tandon exited HealthKart to helm 1mg (formerly HealthKartPlus, a spinoff from the parent company Bright Lifecare, but more on that later), and Maheshwari became the sole founder.
The Gurugram-based vertical marketplace currently offers 20K+ SKUs under six categories, including sports nutrition (consumables like protein supplements), vitamins, health foods and drinks, ayurvedic and herbal products, wellness (skin, hair and personal care items) and fitness equipment.
To date, HealthKart has onboarded more than 1,000 local and global brands. Among these are names like One Science from Hungary, US-based Dymatize, UK-based Optimum Nutrition, Bengaluru-based Boldfit and more.
In the past 11 years, the platform grew at a fast clip, from an ecommerce marketplace to an omnichannel brand, a producer of private labels and a provider of expert advice to help people reach their health and fitness goals.
HealthKart has set up 130+ brick-and-mortar stores across 40 cities, including major metros such as Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Besides, it has launched a slew of high-quality private labels, including MuscleBlaze, HKVitals, HealthViva, TrueBasic, GritZo and Nouriza.
Healthkart claims that its private label MuscleBlaze is one of the top-selling brands on its website. In fact, MuscleBlaze’s biozyme whey protein and HKVital’s vitamins and minerals are its most popular products. Its average ticket size (online) amounts to INR 1,800, the startup claimed.
Many Feathers In HealthKart’s Cap
HealthKart’s backstory is intriguing due to its association with the online pharmacy unicorn 1mg, previously known as HealthKartPlus. Both were set up by the parent company Bright Lifecare. While Maheshwari ran HealthKart, HealthKartPlus was headed by HealthKart’s Tandon, Gaurav Aggarwal and Vikas Chauhan. In April 2015, HealthKartPlus was spun off Bright Lifecare and rebranded as 1mg (it raised over $6 Mn out of that exercise). In November 2021, Tata Digital acquired a majority stake in 1mg, but Tandon is still the CEO of the B2B distribution platform. Maheshwari has led HealthKart after Tandon’s exit in 2015.
Given the vital role of dietary supplements and their growing usage worldwide, HealthKart continues to focus on three primary principles. First, ensuring quality assurance across its product portfolio; second, leveraging scalability as a key growth strategy; and third, creating brand awareness by busting myths and educating customers about the benefits of food supplements.
Quality is critical in this space as brands need to develop ‘safe’ consumables with proven benefits. But that is not always the case in India. As imported supplements attract heavy customs duty, it is not surprising that reports of unregistered, unapproved or counterfeit supplements make the rounds so frequently. HealthKart estimates nearly 20% of consumers are likely to buy fake, adulterated supplements.
To counter the authenticity issue, the platform has a robust supply chain in place, directly sourcing the products from partner brands and bypassing all intermediaries. Plus, there are other measures to ensure product provenance. For instance, each product sold on its website and offline stores comes with HealthKart’s authenticity hallmark.
Its own private labels are certified by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.
Not the one to rest on its laurels, HealthKart has rapidly built a sustainable business model based on scalability and brand awareness.
Consider this. Within a year of its launch, it developed two best-selling private labels – MuscleBlaze and HealthViva. By 2013, its first brick-and-mortar store was up and operating in Delhi, even though the concept of omnichannel retailing was not familiar or popular among businesses at the time.
But the turning point came with the onset of the pandemic in 2020.
“During Covid-19, we saw a surge in user queries around nutrition, fitness and immunity-boosting products. In fact, consumer education and awareness creation have played a pivotal role in the growth of this segment. People understood the importance of consuming vitamins and mineral supplements to build their immunity,” said Maheshwari.
HealthKart leveraged the pandemic years to expand its product line. In 2020, it launched MB Foods (under MuscleBlaze), which includes high-protein supplements, fish oils and vitamins. Next came bGreen, an assortment of plant-based nutrition supplements for vegan, health-conscious consumers.
But as Maheshwari pointed out, the strong consumer confidence and trust in these product lines might not have been there without the platform’s content and consulting outreach. HealthKart came up with HealthKart Consult in 2016 to offer personalised counselling to consumers about choosing the right nutritional supplements. The platform combines technology (read AI-based diet recommendation engines) with a vast network of dieticians and trainers to deliver recommendations. In addition, several offline stores also act as counselling centres for in-person consultations.
In 2020, HealthKart launched its TeleConsult platform — a chat and audio support extension of HealthKart Consult.
Making Nutrition Affordable For All
“Users now expect convenience and speed while shopping online. Partnering with Simpl has helped us provide easy and seamless checkout for our customers allowing them to shop with greater flexibility while buying high value products,” Maheshwari said.
The CEO says HealthKart’s mission is to make nutrition accessible and affordable to everyone in the country, but there is a key challenge.
Supplements like whey protein and protein shakes can be too expensive, especially for young shoppers with limited means. Moreover, the prices of high-protein whey have gone up globally in post-pandemic times as it is now considered a superfood with numerous benefits.
In early 2022, HealthKart partnered with Simpl, a one-tap checkout network to enable consumers to buy high-value items in three zero-interest EMIs. This has led to a surge in sales and further widened HealthKart’s customer base, bringing on board first-time borrowers and other consumer segments largely overlooked by traditional service providers. .
“We have seen an increase in the average order volume (AOV) of those who use Simpl. In addition, the fintech player has helped us offer seamless checkout experience to our customers via our website,” said Maheshwari.
HealthKart says that Simpl facilitates nearly 7% higher AOV compared with other payment methods. Besides, it has helped create a hassle-free purchase experience with its one-step checkout solution.
“Indian consumers have become quite health conscious and understand the importance of taking the right nutrition when it comes to enhancing their fitness regime. Our partnership with Healthkart will enable more consumers to make purchases using a convenient and hassle-free checkout process, while enjoying other benefits Simpl has to offer,” said Nitya Sharma, cofounder and CEO, Simpl.
According to Sharma, there has been an increase of users choosing Simpl’s Pay-in-3 option to buy products from the Healthkart platform.
For context, Bengaluru-based Simpl is a one-click checkout network with over 20K merchants on its network, including global brands such as Puma and Crocs. Simpl allows merchants to increase order volumes and frequency while reducing cart abandonments and dependence on cash on delivery.
While it claims to offer a seamless checkout experience to partner merchants, the fintech players also claimed that its solutions can help merchants boost their average order volumes by 35-40% on average and increase conversions by up to 65%.
The Way Forward
The growing popularity of holistic lifestyle and better health awareness have led to the birth of several nutrition-focussed marketplaces like HealthKart, Wellcurve, Cora Health and more.
“People are more conscious about what they eat and what [supplements] they buy. Vitamins and minerals are an integral part of healthy living. So, their consumption will continue to grow in the coming years. We also see similar trends in categories like protein and sports nutrition,” said Maheshwari.
Market estimates reveal a similar scenario. According to a report by Research and Markets, the Indian dietary supplement market was valued at $3.9 Bn in FY20 and is estimated to reach $11.6 Bn by FY27, growing at a CAGR of 16.2%.
While HealthKart enjoys the first-mover advantage in this space, it plans to stand out from the competition by doubling down and expanding its offline presence and private labels.
Understandably, quality and innovation will be critical here as knowledgeable customers always look for best-of-breed products. Moreover, private labels can be game-changers in the long run as brands are increasingly switching marketplaces or opting to sell on their websites and apps for better customer retention and greater profitability. Eventually, it will boil down to consumer trust based on product performance.