How Just Herbs Grew 5X To Hit INR 100 Cr Revenue Run Rate In 3 Years Post Marico Takeover

How Just Herbs Grew 5X To Hit INR 100 Cr Revenue Run Rate In 3 Years Post Marico Takeover


Incorporated by Dr Neena Chopra, Arush Chopra and Megha Sabhlok in 2014, Just Herbs has been focussed on selling directly to its customers

The Marico merger in 2021 helped the Ayurvedic BPC Brand expand to over 500 retail touchpoints across India from just six

From garnering INR 17.5 Cr in FY21, the cofounders claim to have crossed the INR 100 Cr revenue run rate mark in FY24

In 2014, when Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) wasn’t the norm and ecommerce giants like Flipkart and Amazon ruled the online retail arena with an iron fist, Mohali-based ayurvedic beauty and personal care startup Just Herbs had already marked its foray into the Indian D2C realm.

Now, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that today the trio of Just Herbs’ founders, Dr Neena Chopra, Arush Chopra and Megha Sabhlok, have seen it all — the beginning of the era of online marketplaces, the rise and fall of private labels, and the rise of the D2C paradigm in India.

Imperative to highlight the meteoric rise of D2C was marked by the influx of venture capital funding around 2016-2017 and the emergence of new fashion, beauty, furniture and other kinds of brands.

During this time, companies like Pepperfry, Urban Ladder, and an array of lesser-known brands received significant growth and investment. This led to an increase in competition and customer acquisition and retention costs. While some survived, many had to close shops as funding dried up in the ecosystem and runways ran thin.

Amidst the hysteria related to VC funding, break-neck growth and the wave of shutdowns, the Mohali-based startup continued unhinged, banking on consumer-centric innovation, in-house manufacturing, and adaptability to market trends.

This is probably what made Marico, an Indian consumer goods multinational, acquire Just Herbs, the brand that offers a range of Ayurvedic skin, hair care and makeup products, in 2021.

Among other factors could be Just Herbs’ cockroach-like approach, which is the ability to survive despite all odds.

Notably, before being acquired by Marico, the startup sold via its website and online marketplaces and had six exclusive brand outlets in Chandigarh, Hyderabad, and Mumbai.

It was also the time when several D2C brands had a heavy reliance on VC money but did not flinch before burning it all. Bucking the trend, Just Herbs decided to merge with Marico, a strategy that helped it expand to over 500 retail touchpoints across India, all manned with beauty advisors for an impeccable customer experience.

It is on the back of this pivot that the brand’s top line has grown substantially since its acquisition. From garnering INR 17.5 Cr in FY21, the cofounders claim to have crossed the INR 100 Cr revenue run rate in FY24.


Just Herbs’ Inception Story

The inspiration to incorporate Just Herbs comes from Arush’s mother Dr Neena, a biochemist who was invested in creating skincare products using herbs and plants.

Inspired by her formulations, Arush and Sabhlok envisioned turning her formulations into a brand, and from there emerged Just Herbs. While Sabhlok became the financial controller and COO, Arush drove the business as the CEO.

Although the cofounders listed their products on Amazon and Nykaa, their key focus has always been D2C. According to Arush, they have been focussed on doing D2C when the term did not even exist.

The cofounders told Inc42 that they were initially focussed on building a product company and a brand, without much fixating on online sales. However, selling online felt necessary, this is because traditional distribution methods like selling via chemist shops posed credit risks, and margins in supplying to hotels were too thin to sustain.

“The online space seemed promising and made sense because many competitors only had basic websites without ecommerce capabilities. So, we dove into online marketing, learning Facebook advertising and Google ads. Despite disagreements and concerns about spending our savings, we persisted,” Chopra said.

He added that despite their presence on online marketplaces, they wouldn’t conduct business there, and it was only in 2021 that they actively started promoting their sales on these platforms.

The brand that started with only three SKUs today boasts 150 formulations across segments like skin, hair, bath & body, natural makeup, fragrances, and gifting.

How Just Herbs Cracked The Customer Acquisition Code?

During the first five years of its ten-year journey, the startup focussed on and grew through customer support by taking feedback from customers and enhancing their range of products.

However, as per the Chopras, navigating ecommerce complexities proved challenging. The reality of low conversion rates and fierce competition quickly set in, as understanding and adapting to the nuances of online consumer behaviour became essential for survival.

From 2014-2016, the founders focussed on their website as the primary sales channel. Selling directly through their website ensured quick payments, typically within seven days.

In contrast, dealing with distributors or platforms like Amazon took longer credit terms and was fraught with delays.

It was also the time when the website data revealed a low conversion rate of 2-3%. Even marketing methods like Facebook ads failed to deliver results. Thus, the startup turned to WhatsApp for direct customer consultations and feedback.

In 2017, the founders launched JustHerbs Insiders, a Facebook community for direct feedback, enabling 3,000 to 4,000 women to share experiences. That year, the company achieved sales of over 30 Lakh through its website.

This period also marked the startup’s first breakthrough when some buyers from the US expressed interest in featuring its products on TV.

“Initially, we started with around 100 orders per day on our website. This gradually increased to 500 orders a day, and now we are touching 5,000 orders per day,” Chopra said.

Chopra added that a standout success factor for them has been the development of a lightweight foundation, requested by members. Through Just Herbs Insiders (JH Insiders), prototypes were distributed to 300-400 women, a strategy that eventually proved beneficial.

“This resulted in the successful development of 5-6 new products, including our lightweight foundations and natural makeup lines,” he added.

Following this success, the company expedited its customer engagement initiatives. Amid the pandemic, they launched 16 herb-enriched lipsticks, which became top sellers, crossing the 10 Mn mark in sales in 2020.

Post the Marico acquisition in 2021, the company refined strategies for the management of customer acquisition cost (CAC), shifting focus to customer retention and nurturing.

The founders diversified marketing channels, moving from over-reliance on meta apps to Google Ads, affiliates, and influencers while prioritising cost-effective channels and exploring partnerships with banks to optimise spending.

The startup also made significant investments in marketing initiatives, such as collaborating with celebrities like Athiya Shetty and producing brand films, aiming for brand visibility.

Just Herbs’ Strategy To Lure GenZes

Over the last five years, Just Herbs noticed a gap in India’s booming Ayurvedic beauty market. The cofounders saw that while interest in Ayurveda was growing, there was little appeal to these products.

Bridging this gap, they decided to modernise their packaging and branding to attract younger consumers with a fresh, modern look. This approach helped them stand out as leaders in combining Ayurveda with modern skincare, according to Chopra.

Next, instead of directly competing with well-known brands like The Ayurveda Co. (T.A.C), Forest Essentials, Kama Ayurveda, The Body Shop and L’Oréal, Just Herbs aimed to be a leader in merging traditional and modern beauty. Chopra mentioned that they found their niche by focussing on younger people who were interested in modern Ayurvedic products.

Initially, their target audience was people aged between 30 and 45. They later expanded this range to include those aged 25 to 45.

“We introduced innovative products like lip and cheek tints and Ayurvedic micellar water to connect with millennials and GenZ, reaching an underserved market,” the cofounder said.

Additionally, they focussed on creating products together with their customers to ensure they are relevant and authentic.

What’s Ahead For Just Herbs

Going forward into FY25, the startup plans are aligned with Marico’s overarching objectives.

“With a presence in four portfolios, we aim to foster cohesive growth across all segments. While the past 18 months have been dedicated to completing the makeup portfolio, our vision now extends to establishing Just Herbs as a household name both domestically and internationally. Our ambition remains to make the startup a recognisable brand beyond India’s borders in the future,” Chopra said.

The startup also aims to continue innovating with an average of 3-4 new product launches per month.

Besides, it plans to focus on its recently launched Fragrance category, which is divided into four subcategories (perfume, deodorant, body mist, roll-on deo) for both male and female. This category offers cruelty free and vegan products, with prices ranging from INR 295 to INR 649.

While the startup’s future plans are aligned with Marico, Arush wants the brand to become a go-to household name in the Ayurveda industry, which is anticipated to become an INR 3.2 Lakh Cr opportunity by 2032, growing at a CAGR of 17% between 2024-2032.

Update | June 21, 15:00 IST

The story has been updated to rectify the revenue run rate of the company.

[Edited by Shishir Parasher]

Note: We at Inc42 take our ethics very seriously. More information about it can be found here.

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