The ancient wellness practices of ayurveda never lost their shine for Indian consumers. But the year 2006 saw a resurge in demand as ayurvedic products evolved into 360-degree lifestyle brands rooted in the concepts of clean beauty and holistic healing.
The trend started with the launch of yoga guru Ramdev’s wellness brand Patanjali but quickly caught the interest of many new-age entrepreneurs who sensed the vast potential of this segment. Among them were Chandrakanta and Ashok Gupta, cofounders of Gwalior-based Amrutam, dedicated to providing beauty and wellness solutions by unleashing the power of cutting-edge beauty science.
Ashok Gupta was no rookie, though. Before starting Amrutam, he was a distributor of ayurvedic products and worked closely with niche manufacturers. The market exposure also made him realise that the existing products lacked the desired quality.
Keen to spread awareness about the benefits of authentic ayurvedic products, Ashok and his wife Chandrakanta set up Amrutam in 2006 and started manufacturing a variety of health malts. The ingredients were procured from certified organic farms located in and around Gwalior.
The company failed to thrive. To begin with, it was a newcomer in a market already ruled by storied brands like Himalaya and Dabur. Also, Amrutam was an offline niche business with a limited reach, and sales did not flourish as expected.
A decade after its launch, the financial setback came to a head, and the company was about to be shuttered. That was when the second generation of entrepreneurs stepped in to revive the wellness brand.
Agnim (principal, tech and growth) and Stuti (principal, brand and vision), who were working on their own startups at the time, wanted to save their parents’ business and make a successful venture out of it. Before helming Amrutam, Agnim started SqrFactor, a platform for architects, and Stuti founded The Lost Tribe Hostels for backpackers’ accommodation in Goa and Manali. Both companies are still operational, but the siblings had left to redeem their family business.
There was more to it than the long and arduous struggle for survival. Things were looking up, and the ayurvedic market was valued at $2.27 Bn in 2016, growing at a CAGR of 16%, a report by Frost & Sullivan said. This bolstered the duo’s confidence, and they decided to take the business online to boost slowing sales.
As per a recent report by Research and Markets, the CAGR has sustained at 16% and the market size is expected to reach $9.5 Bn by 2024, featuring continued growth opportunities for the likes of Amrutam.
Makeover For Sustainability
Production And Quality Boost
The new regime at Amrutam had its work cut out to get into the revamp mode. Agnim and Stuti realised that the company must scale up its operations and work relentlessly on creating high brand visibility to capture significant market share. To push product categories and enhance quality parameters, the brand has partnered with several farms and forests across the country as well as certified organic farms and started procuring best-quality herbs and spices.
Production is carried out at the Gwalior plant as before. But the company has started growing the ingredients on 1.5 acres of land around the manufacturing unit after supply chain issues hit its production during the 2020 lockdowns.
The brand claims all its items are handmade, and no machines are used during the production process to maintain product purity. But the quality procedures do not end here. Aware of the doubts of vigilant consumers who often complain against exaggerated claims, the brand has gotten its products certified by the Ministry of AYUSH (a regulatory authority in charge of quality control when it comes to ayurvedic products). The ministry has also certified the company’s manufacturing processes. Further, the brand also claims to adhere to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)’s cruelty free norms and is completely vegan.
At present, Amrutam has 133 SKUs across three categories — skincare, haircare and health supplements — and prices vary between INR 60 and INR 2,000.
The Digital Leap
The next and perhaps the biggest challenge for the company was the digital transformation. For a decade-old brick-and-mortar business, taking the direct-to-customer (D2C) route at the earliest to stay afloat was a difficult task, especially as the siblings had limited experience in the D2C space.
“Also, one of the biggest challenges online was to get people to buy from us. We didn’t have a widespread digital presence in those initial years. But the right way to do this is through collaborations and experimenting with marketing tools and strategies,” said Agnim.
There were tasks galore, from website building to digital marketing to logistics management. But the first step required creating an online sales channel. So, the company built a dedicated website, added the payment gateway and created a product catalogue with help from a few ecommerce enablers.
Amrutam did its brand-building through Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google ads. It also opted for influencer marketing to make people aware of ayurvedic products and their benefits and what the brand is doing in the beauty and wellness space. To make the marketing campaigns more effective and drive conversion rates, the company partnered with the digital marketing agency Adyogi in 2018. It also used CleverTap for data analytics and customer experience management for a short while before shifting to Zoho.
Logistics was yet another challenge for the new-to-the-digital brand. So, Amrutam decided to work with Delhi-based Shiprocket, a third-party logistics (3PL) company and a veteran D2C enabler, to reduce logistics costs and ensure a faster turnaround.
The much-needed makeover brought in results. Amrutam claims to have clocked INR 2.78 Cr in revenue and grown 240% YoY in FY21 compared to the previous financial year when it earned INR 69 Lakh.
Betting Big On Community Power
Initially, the company’s brand-building campaigns primarily focussed on sales generation and customer acquisition. But soon enough, the siblings realised that surface-level promotion would not create brand loyalists or translate into long-term retention.
In simple terms, Amrutam’s success as an authenticity-first ayurvedic wellness brand must be rooted deeper into people’s knowledge of the ancient science and their newfound trust in the brand’s offerings. Acting upon Ashok’s original intent of making ayurveda popular among all, the duo decided to make an impact through community building.
“Amrutam has always strived to serve the community in every possible way. And this time, we started to build a community of ayurveda enthusiasts and engage with them in meaningful conversations,” said Agnim.
This approach has two significant benefits. First, by focussing on the cause and the people who care for it, a brand may become the generic trademark of the segment itself. Apple, Harley Davidson and Red Bull are the best examples of this. The second and the long-term benefit is that customers eventually become brand ambassadors, thus bringing down both customer acquisition and retention costs.
In sync with this strategy, the brand has launched several community-focussed campaigns since 2020.
The first was a 10-episode mental health podcast wherein the host discussed a wide range of topics with therapists and mental health professionals. The idea came up during the 2020 lockdowns when Stuti and Agnim noticed how more and more people suffered from mental health issues. The company claims that the podcast series saw more than 8,000 subscribers, and season 2 is currently in the works.
There are more such projects. Keen to reduce its carbon footprint, the company collects used PET bottles from customers’ homes if they send in their consent by filling a simple form. It also aims to reduce plastic usage in packaging by 50% compared to 2017. Then there is Amrutam Global, a platform for video consultation with a team of 15 ayurvedic doctors.
In its latest community engagement, it launched a video documentary series called Amrutam Raga focussing on classical musicians and singers of Gwalior. The series was launched on the occasion of Diwali this year.
The company claims to have built a community of more than 1 Lakh enthusiasts across 40 countries due to these endeavours, and the engagement has driven its sales to an average of 3,600 monthly orders in 2021, up from 1,600 in 2019.
Lately, quite a few ayurvedic brands like Mumbai-based Cureveda and AADAR and Ambala-based Mother Sparsh have entered the D2C market. As the competition toughens, it has become essential to find one’s USP to stay relevant and grow. Amrutam’s differentiation strategy through community engagement has been successfully implemented by other D2C brands like Bewakoof (apparel) and boAt (wearable tech). So, it will be interesting to observe whether Amrutam’s latest branding strategy can bring similar long-term success to the brand.
This article was first published on Inc42.com by Akash