A colleague of mine and I were recently given the opportunity and honor to personally interview Mr Ashok Gupta, the founder and owner of Amrutam. Given that Mr Gupta resides in the city of Gwalior and I stay elsewhere, the interview involved a mix of physical and electronic means. Siddharth was in the office by twelve and after a brief while was joined by Mr Gupta. Although I was connected to them over a video call, I could still sense the determination and passion oozing from him. His movements and actions were filled with an energy that was quite refreshing. In the short time I spent in his company, I was able to gather the impression that despite his accomplishments and position, Mr Gupta was a simple man with a simple goal. “To serve the society and help ease the suffering of those he could.”
Childhood and Upbringing
You can tell a lot about a person from their childhood stories and at the end of the day it’s the best way of knowing what they are made of! We started by talking to Mr Gupta about his childhood and how it shaped his life and influenced his goals. To what may come as a surprise to many, Mr. Gupta hails from a family of Halwais, traditional Indian sweet makers. After all, one of the many things which are famous about Gwalior is its Food; Poha, Bedai, Jalebi, Boondi Laddoo and other mouth-watering dishes! He starts by talking fondly about his family - how his father and grandfather were both halwais; in-fact his brothers carry out the family tradition even today, albeit in a different manner.
Despite their familial background, his father and grandfather were both supportive in his Ayurvedic ventures and shared his vision of helping others. Now you may be wondering, how Mr Gupta ended up practicing a profession that is so different from his family traditions. Although his love for cooking is well-known (you can often catch him cooking jalebis and bhajiyas for the Amrutam staff during small get-togethers) Mr Gupta has always wanted to satisfy people’s hunger in a way that benefits their mental, physical and spiritual health as well.
Although his childhood dream was to become a doctor, he made do with the lot that life threw him and pieced his fate together with his own hands. Mr Gupta fondly looked back upon a talk with his grandfather that in some ways shaped his life. His Baba, Vishwanath Ji, asked him what he would like to be once he grows up, to which Mr Gupta promptly replied, “Me Doctor banunga” (I want to be a doctor). His grandfather replied, “Tu Doctor to nhi banega, lekin tu Doctoro ko dawaiya btayega” (You will not end up a doctor, but you will provide them with medicines). This was the crux of his childhood, the earliest point in Mr Gupta’s life where he knew what he wanted to do. It was almost as if Vishwanath Ji had precognitive powers that allowed him to peek into the future and see what his grandson would grow up to do.
“आपका संकल्प ही आपका विचार है”
Coming from not-so financially sound family background, Mr Gupta’s journey to finally be able to cook recipes that would heal people wasn’t easy. To get ahead in life, he started working very early. At the age where others were graduating from colleges and universities, he had already experimented with numerous businesses from Book Publishing, Clothing to working as a broker, packer and supervisor to finally getting a stable job in an Ayurvedic company. This was the job that would open the gates to the dream he saw as a child.
Time is always of the utmost importance, says Mr Gupta. During his days working as a Supervisor in a Goods Distribution Company, Mr Gupta says he never wasted any time or money on trivial activities. Where others his age were out partying and going to theaters, Mr Gupta would instead use the time to study and read. Having received very little formal education, he sought to bridge the gap by collecting and reading as many books as he could.
The Yields of Hard Work
With time, Mr Gupta was eventually entrusted with buying and providing orders for the Ayurvedic Company that he was working in. 1984 marked the year when he received his first major order, from a small medical store in Mehgaon. Mr Gupta recalls the long journey from the company to the village and the subsequent walks to the interior of the village. He wanted the delivery to pan out without any problems. To this end, he split his funds for the journey and spent only the bare minimum lest he runs out of money. Impressed with his efforts, the company charged him with the delivery of orders which Mr Gupta carried out with great zeal and passion.
Mrs Chandrakanta Gupta (left) and Mr Ashok Gupta
During his time working with the company, he came to fully realize the importance of money. He believed it was the catalyst that enabled our five senses to work optimally and put us ahead on the path of life. However, he is also of the opinion that hard work does not go unrewarded, and that even when beset by financial troubles life always shows us the way ahead. He staunchly believes that hard and persistent work is of the utmost importance to achieve your goals in life. Given his own difficult upbringing, Mr Gupta made it a point to ensure that his children were well educated. Memories of his tough childhood motivated him to push his own children further along the academic path. He gave Agnim and Stuti complete freedom to study whatever struck their fancy, even going so far as to let them make independent decisions regarding their involvement in the family business.
Amrutam’s smooth transition from a local, offline brand to a national name can be attributed to two primary reasons. The first is their commitment to providing authentic and effective Ayurvedic formulations. In his travels, Mr Gupta observed that most Ayurvedic formulations available commercially had substantial amounts of glucose and sugar in their formulations, forcing the medicinal herbs and spices in the recipe to a backseat role. He wanted to create Ayurvedic products that contained optimal concentrations of herbal extracts that could efficiently cure the patient. As a direct consequence of this ideology, Amrutam boasts an impressive repertoire of Malts and other Ayurvedic formulations designed to provide relief for most known physical and mental ailments.
The second factor that comes into play is the strong familial bonds that Amrutam has cultivated over the curse of its existence. Even before the inception of Amrutam as a brand, Mr Gupta placed great emphasis on family. He truly believes that having a supportive and loving home makes for the best motivation in life. Moreover, Mr Gupta has focused on fostering a workplace environment that promotes a culture of mutual trust and benefit.
Mr Gupta showing us his prized book collection
Books seem to be one of the greatest loves of his life (besides his own family!). His office is lined with bookshelves which are filled with a collection of various books. Some were extremely old and he has spent a small fortune restoring and preserving these. He believes that books contain lost knowledge and we stand to gain a lot from studying them.
The Art of Ayurveda
While talking about Ayurveda a fervent energy would take over Mr Gupta. He explained how people who chased after instant cures provided by Western Medicine and Allopathy were painfully unaware of the long term effects it has on the body. Unlike Allopathy, Ayurvedic solutions aim to terminate the root cause of the ailments and provide long term relief from the conditions. In the words of Mr Gupta, “Ayurveda aims at curing the body as a whole while providing long term relief. It focuses on fixing the system, not just curing the ailment.”
The ancient texts and rituals have been a constant source of inspiration and motivation for Mr Gupta. He firmly believes that if one were to look well enough, we could find solutions to all our problems in the texts left behind by our ancestors. He applies similar principles while creating and adjusting his Ayurvedic recipes. The recipe for every single product that Amrutam caters is his own personal blend and Mr Gupta has spent many a day tweaking and fine-tuning them. Over the course of his life, Mr Gupta has donated large amounts of Ayurvedic formulations and powders to those in need. He says that helping others is a spiritual duty that each of us must strive to fulfill. When people would ask him why he did what he did, he would simply say that helping others is the only way ahead.
I was quite surprised to hear that the ingredients required for a few of the formulations had to be brought in from various exotic locations around the globe. Once the ingredients reach our warehouse, they are subjected to rigorous qualitative tests before they are purified and used for the subsequent recipes. Even more surprising of a revelation was the fact that every Amrutam product is made from scratch by hand. Not a single synthetic chemical compound is used to cook any Ayurvedic formulation. All the ingredients used in the products are obtained from natural sources. Mr Gupta says that doing it this way ensures that each bottle/packet containing Amrutam products are full of natural and revitalizing medicinal herbs and spices. The potency that comes from making each formulation by hand can never be replicated by machines.
An Unbreakable Family Bond
During our talk, it became quite evident that Mr Gupta was very appreciative of his family. He says that everyone had their own role in getting Amrutam to where it is today. The division of labor among his family was quite distinct. Mr Gupta managed the finances and the procurement of raw materials, while Mrs Gupta ensured that the packaging of products went about without any problems. Her own tale is quite a fascinating set of events and her meticulous support forms the base for the proper functioning of the business.
When asked about the contribution of his children, you could hear the pride in his voice as he explained that both Agnim and Stuti have been instrumental in the transition of the company from a local to a global brand. Mr Gupta describes Agnim as being quite the “tech-master”. While Agnim managed the internal workings of the brand, Stuti focused on better marketing and branding Amrutam to make it suitable for an online audience. To this end, they hired new printers, vendors and even changed packaging techniques for their products. The creation of the new logo for Amrutam marked the beginning of a new chapter in their journey.
Mr Gupta also stated that the reason Amrutam is so different from the other Ayurvedic brands out there is due to this very familial environment. The people who have worked so hard to get Amrtutam to the position it is in today are still affiliated with the brand and continue to give their best to it. The bonds formed among the people are of paramount importance and Amrutam as an entity works to nurture these bonds. Mr Gupta also mentioned that every person working for Amrutam does so out of their own will. There is no coercion to work, people put in their 100% simply because they believe in the brand and the vision instilled by Mr Gupta.
Persistence, Hard Work and Faith are the guiding forces that propel Amrutam. These, along with the bonds that we have made on our journey, are responsible for making Amrutam the Ayurvedic beacon that it is today.