Almost losing his father to a stroke, he went on a quest for answers and fell in love with organic wear - and swore to redeem the rudimentary function of clothing – to shield, rather than yield.
History will tell you that clothing was invented to protect you from the climatic threats that nature hurls at you, and to add value to your health by bringing your skin—your largest organ—in contact with nourishing agents. The same clothing, instead of protecting you, has now become the threat – corroding your skin and contaminating your blood stream with chemical dyes and synthetic fabrics. Rajiv Rai Sachdev, who almost lost his father to a stroke, went on a quest for answers and got introduced to the concept of organic clothing. Falling in love with the idea, he swore upon a mission to redeem the rudimentary function of clothing – to shield, rather than yield.
Fifty-two-year-old Rajiv is a Commerce graduate from Delhi University who went on to build a career in electronic media, with various patents in his name in the US, Europe and India. It was 1997 when he was based in Mumbai and had to relocate to Delhi due to his father’s illness, after he suffered a paralytic stroke. “I interacted with some of the top doctors and holistic therapists of the world to find a cure for my ailing father, and chanced upon Ayurvastra, i.e., health garments,” he recalls.
While doing research, he found that clothing was created, essentially, to safeguard the human body from outside invaders and harsh weather conditions, and up until 1856, the dyes used were natural, vegetable or herbal. “This created the big question – do the present-day garments really protect our body, as they are dyed and processed from harsh toxic synthetic chemicals that might be ruining our immune system through skin pores?” says Rajiv.
We know all too well what the answer to that was. For him, the answer was the Joy of Life range of organic, herbal wellness garments - inner and outer wear for men, women and children,made without using any toxic synthetic chemicals. “At that very moment I decided to do register this trademark and file the patents for USA, Europe, China, Japan and India,” he recalls. He developed this technology in collaboration with the Textile Technology department of IIT Delhi, and got his company incubated there.
In the long journey during the course of R&D, he met some renowned natural dyers and understood the lacunae in their dyeing & processing methodology. “I was convinced that I have to use modern nano-biotechnological interventions to overcome these shortcomings. So, I wanted to have my own herbal extraction plant to have quality raw material, and that’s how I met my other team members,” he says.
Joy of Life today is a manufacturer, exporter and seller of organic herbal hygiene & wellness garments such as inner-wear, kids wear, yoga wear, night wear, hospital scrubs etc. They use neem, tulsi, apple cider vinegar, healing crystals as value-additions to infuse skin hygiene and fortifying properties, the natural, organic way, alongside the other herbs they use as colouring agents. “Our technology and product innovation skills are ideally suited for women sanitary pads and tampons; diapers for adults and kids; burn and wound healing bandages; uniforms for harsh climatic conditions etc.,” he explains.
The media again played its due part in helping him raise awareness, and reach his target audience “The awareness for anything organic is at an all-time rise and there is a visible surging demand for this kind of products due to global warming, as the weather conditions are deteriorating worldwide. We used it to our advantage,” he says.
But the journey from eureka to execution was a seven-year-long one.
He first registered the company under the name of Advantage Organic Naturals Technologies Pvt. Ltd in July 2007. They shifted to IIT Delhi on only in March 2009, after a long wait.Then came media coverage that led to international recognition, where their garments were related with banishing cellulite.
The firm capitalised on the hype and filed fresh patents in May 2010 in the US, Europe and India, immediately after which, they bought a patch of land at Sadhupul, Himachal Pradesh for constructing a factory under the Single Window Clearance Scheme of the State government.
“One of the toughest challenges for us has been identifying & buying land for the factory, and arranging loans from the banks,” says Rajiv, of the trying times, which also coincided with them cutting off the umbilical cord with IIT Delhi, then.
A few bouts of good news also followed - they received their US patent in March 2014, and got their loan sanctioned from the Bank of Baroda later that year, too. Building on the momentum of the positive update, they finally began construction of the big factory in October 2014.
Just when things started to look up though, the same nature they were endorsing decided they’d have to work a little harder to appease it. The constructing suffered extensive losses due to flash floods near their site, which hampered and stalled work beyond control or predictions.
Their project, delayed by more than a year, was restarted in April 2016, but with more vigour than ever.
Currently, they are in talks with some leading companies for white labelling, and OEMs. In a span of eight months, their sales are chiming to the tune of Rs. 1.50 crore a month, with 10-15 percent average growth in the last three months, despite taking a minor hit following demonetisation.
The Indian innerwear market was worth Rs 19,950 crore and is estimated to grow at 13 percent to reach Rs 68,270 crore by 2024. “There are many players in the organic innerwear and outerwear garments space but very few with herbal colours, like Aura Herbal wear and Ayurvastra, but the key differentiator is our modern biotechnological interventions and our patents,” notes Rajiv, who was adjudged 'The Green-tech Entrepreneur' and honoured with 'Achievers Excellence Award' at NRI Global Summit 2010, in Dubai.
As far as finances are concerned, they have taken a term loan and a CC Limit from Bank of Baroda, and brought on matching upfront equity participation of their own. “We have very ambitious plans to have an integrated textile mill where we could manufacture all these products and we will bring a celebrity brand ambassador on board soon, too. And to achieve both these goals now we have started looking for good investors and VC companies,” Rajiv adds.