In October 2017, Aadil Shah faced a healthcare situation which led him to explore the world of ayurveda with the help of his family. Much to Shah’s surprise, he recovered sooner than he expected. This particular incident pushed the entrepreneur to explore this ancient system of medicine and adopt a better lifestyle. Most importantly, it triggered a passion for ayurveda that led to the launch of ayurvedic brand AADAR.
“I found that the market was still at an inflexion point,” the cofounder said, and added, “Today, consumer behaviour is changing drastically, and the working-class group — between 28 to 45 years of age — are living in a fast-paced lifestyle and are struggling to take care of their health. In these critical times, the need for the ayurveda kind of system becomes more evident than ever in the history of humanity.”
In June 2018, Shah and AADAR cofounder Pratul Mangal launched the direct-to-consumer (D2C) ayurvedic healthcare brand with the vision of bringing back the good old habits for the digital-savvy audience. Starting with a couple of ayurveda formulations that had been running in his family for generations, AADAR began developing products that aligned with present-day consumers.
A serial entrepreneur, Shah said he always had that itch to make an impact through startups. in 2013, He had cofounded edtech startup Manch, along with IIT-Bombay alumni Rajshekhar Ratrey and Vikas Verma. In 2016, Manch was acquired by Mumbai-based edtech startup Toppr. “After the acquisition, we helped the business to grow from a few lakhs to almost a crore in a month,” shared Shah. Along the way, Shah continued to work at multiple startups.
Today, the ayurvedic products ecosystem is burgeoning with new-age wellness brands and large corporates turning their attention to this space. The likes of Dabur, Himalaya, Patanjali, Kama Ayurveda, Cureveda, Khadi Natural, Vaadi Herbals, Forest Essentials, Biotique, Kapiva, Dr Vaidya, Cureveda, Ohria, Mamaearth are among the leading players in the ayurvedic and natural products segment.
As with many other new-age brands, AADAR has gone for a direct-to-consumer approach in an attempt to get closer to the consumer. Currently, the company is leveraging digitally-enabled online channels such as Amazon, Flipkart, Meesho, 1mg, Netmeds, Pharmeasy, Practo, Lybrate, Shop101 among others, besides selling its products on the platform. Unlike in the west, where D2C brands usually eschew such online sales partners, in India, brands cannot afford to do so as it severely limits their reach and increases the cost burden.
AADAR said that it started its product journey with digestives and created vegetarian omega-3 products, followed by products that claim to control cholesterol, tackle obesity, boost immunity. In addition to this, at present, the company offers products in categories for respiratory ailments, menstruation-related issues, multivitamins for energy and balance as well as sexual wellness products.
Shah said AADAR uses 100% natural ingredients to develop its products. For instance, its Re-Lax Pro digestive pills uses herbal ingredients such as senna leaves, trivrut and harad, where its immunity-focussed products use ashwagandha, amla and giloy. For its sexual wellness product called PERFORMANCE, it uses ingredients such as gokhru or small caltrops, noni fruits and berries, and saffron.
AADAR claims that all its products are tested for heavy metals and its manufacturing facilities are certified for good manufacturing practices (GMP). Shah added that all AADAR products are vegan, organic, plant-based and cruelty-free. “We are seeing the shift already, the present-day consumers are consuming very little artificial and synthetic products,” he added.
Backed by venture capital firms like LetsVenture, Sprout Venture Partners and JITO Angel Network, till date, AADAR has raised total funding of $250K.
The Covid-19 Impact On Ayurveda
Since March, when Covid-19 cases started skyrocketing in India, AADAR claims to have seen massive surge in demand. While Covid-19 did have an impact on its operations, wherein the supply chain came to a drastic halt, shipments got delayed, the impact was minimised as these products are considered essential commodities.
Sharing the operation strategy during the lockdown, Shah said that the company bounced back in no time. When the lockdown was announced, it started supplying orders that were coming directly on its website, and slowly as the ecommerce marketplaces opened up, there were delays, but things were quickly back to normal.
“Pre-Covid, consumers knew ayurveda, but did not recognise it. A lot of effort went into educating and explaining them the health benefits among other nuances. Today, it has flipped 180 degrees, where customers themselves are well aware of the benefits, and the need for educating them is almost negligible” shared Shah, “Instead of push, it has now become a pull.”
With the consumers foraying towards trusted brands which throw a lot of emphasis on sanitation, health, hygiene and nutrition, amid Covid-19 pandemic, AADAR told Inc42 that its immunity and omega 3-related products witnessed a spike of 50%-80%, digestion-related products saw 20%-30% increase and products for respiratory ailments also picked up momentum. Overall, the company has around 13 products across various categories, including immunity, digestion, diabetes, respiratory, menstruation among others.
“Our main focus towards scaling the business was to focus on the market unit economics. In other words, selling products that are doing well in the market. For instance, we saw our products doing well on Amazon and Flipkart, so we focused our resources on building a brand presence in these marketplaces and grow,” Shah added.
Shah also claimed that the company is doubling its revenue every three to six months. In the span of one year, AADAR is said to have seen 7-8X growth in revenue. Also, it is continuously looking at adding more and more products onto the platform, and said several of its products are in the proof-of-concept and patient stage. “All these products that you see on our platform were not rolled out in a single day. It has taken us close to two years to add them,” avered Shah.
Sharing the future roadmap ahead of the company, Shah said that it envisions to become an INR 100 Cr ($13.9 Mn) company by 2023. “Given the present day scenario, we are confident that we will be able to achieve this, and scaling up is the only way forward for us,” said Shah.