In India, for the most part, health supplements have been seen as a part of getting to six-packs and bulging muscles. But the use of such supplements and performance enhancers in sports has even created global controversies. However, from sports nutrition to personal safety and immunity, the focus of the world has shifted in the past four months, thanks to the pandemic.
Covid-19 has shifted the conversation around health supplements from performance-based fitness to immunity and health. More Indians are conscious about their health and nutrition than ever before, as pointed out in the latest DataLabs by Inc42+ report on the healthtech sector.
Modern-day urban lifestyles have led to a rising incidence of life-threatening diseases like cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, cancer and diabetes. This has led to a boom for preventive health and wellness solutions, which includes health supplements. Preventive healthcare will see the biggest jump on the back of fitness and wellness products.
A startup capitalising on the golden moment is Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and Sixth Sense Ventures-backed healthtech startup Fulllife, which manages Fast&Up as well as other brands. Its flagship brand Fast&Up is geared for daily nutrition, and provides a wide array of products like Vitamin C, energy gels, calcium supplements, magnesium supplements, hydration drinks etc.
Covid-19 Brings Immunity In Focus
Talking to Inc42, Varun Khanna, cofounder, Fulllife said that Covid-19 has accelerated the acceptance of nutritional supplements considering the importance of nutrition.
“Covid-19 has expedited the growth for us as the early acceptors were sports etc. That age group has now widened with increasing understanding of the need for it, as Covid-19 shows our vulnerabilities. We are now trying to get better solutions for masses,” Khanna added.
In terms of a direct impact on numbers, Khanna shared that the ongoing pandemic has put health and immunity on priority for most and this has led to an 8-10X increase in orders experienced by Fast&Up for its products. “This surge in demand also includes a lot of first-time users,” he added.
Explaining the challenges during the period, Khanna noted that the company has two supply chain centres but it has been difficult due to lockdown restrictions. “In April, we had seen the impact on supply-side as there was a 20% drop in capacity, which now in July is recovering to full 100% supply capacities,” Khanna added.
Making In India And Taking To The World
Founded in 2011, Fullife launched its flagship Fast&Up brand in late 2015, after the acquisition of a Swiss brand, under which it retails a portfolio of about 20 products spread across three segments – immunity, fitness and wellness – and which includes Vitamin C immunity boosters, electrolytes and vegan products.
It has two plants in Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh, with presence in 15 countries including the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Greece, and the UK. The company says it has good traction in these countries and aims to maintain similar growth in newer markets like the Middle East, US and others.
Addressing the distribution and manufacturing challenges for its D2C model, Khanna noted that awareness is always a key challenge. “We are in an extremely fragmented competitive space in India. Due to quality issues, the category has also been tainted and we need to work harder to stand out as a high quality and completely compliant brand. In this space of health and fitness, there is also no room for error. We need to ensure the customer experience is always consistent.”
At the moment, it only offers 15 SKUs across its brands but Fullife is now planning to move into new categories as it expands its footprint. One of its most in-demand products are the effervescent Vitamin C pills, which Khanna explained came about at the right time. “When we acquired the Swiss brand, it already had a few products, which were made after in-depth research. Since then, we have been investing in longer product development cycles and had strategised the launch of Vitamin C, which during Covid-19 has seen increased adoption.”
The company is now looking to add newer SKUs which will help it get into innovative products. Explaining the process of product development, Khanna said that the first 3-4 months are used for several assessments including clinical and market assessments. “We have a medical board of advisors who offer their inputs and advice on the product. We also assess vendors for sourcing our raw materials. Our objective is to meet the highest standards of safety, efficacy and compliance before we move into production,” the founder added.
The next six-seven months are used for product development and trials after sourcing high-quality raw material from India and overseas. Following this, the next three-five months are used to assess post-development stability to ensure there is no change in the behaviour of the product. Fullife also conducts several trials before the product finally is put to market.
The company also claims to be profitable and says it has recorded 50% CAGR growth in the last four years when it comes to revenue. Turnover has tripled in the last year, according to Khanna and that’s without targeting Tier 2 and below markets.
“We are just about scratching the surface of the immense potential of tier 2 markets. There is great potential for growth here. I believe localisation and word of mouth play a critical role in these markets. Tapping into local communities is also a great way to gain inroads into this market.”