A new high for Ayurveda medicine: this startup to research the use of cannabis for pain managementDipti Nair
Gurgaon-based healthcare startup NirogStreet to research the medicinal use of marijuana for pain management.
At A Glance
Founders: Ram N Kumar, Aradhna Rai, and Shrey Jain
Year it was founded: 2016
Where is it based: Gurgaon
The problem it solves: Marketplace for Ayurveda doctors. Bridging the trust deficit between Ayurveda doctors and public by introducing technology-enabled learning, evidence-based treatment and research.
Funding raised: Bootstrapped
Cannabis. Marijuana. Hemp. Either you are smiling reading this or have your eyebrows raised. Either way, now that I have your attention, here’s the good news.
Since the government issued the first-ever licence to Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to grow medicinal cannabis for research purposes last year, there’s been a lot of activity in this space.
NirogStreet, a marketplace for Ayurveda doctors, will partner with CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM) to do joint research on medicinal cannabis (marijuana) for pain management. The aim is to work in the disease areas of diabeties and pain management and developing nutraceutical products using rich bioresources of Himalayas. In the area of pain management, the company intends to work on the plant-based classical Ayurveda medicines mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic texts.
The startup will work in the disease areas of diabetes, Alzheimer's, and liver protection medicines. According to founder Ram Kumar, results of the research will be shared with Ayurveda doctors through their platform and mobile application.
CSIR has been collaborating with Mumbai-based Bombay Hemp Company and they have already spent two years collecting “over a hundred different accessions of cannabis from various parts of India.” Baba Ramdev-led Patanjali had also indicated that they are looking into the benefits of indigenous plants, including cannabis, for use in medicine, at their development centre in Haridwar.
Make Ayurveda mainstream
Established in 2016, NirogStreet wants to make Ayurveda the first call of treatment and establish a trust for Ayurvedic practitioners and medicines across the world. Ram Kumar says that by partnering with CSIR-IIIM, they aim to bring evidence-based treatment to Ayurveda.
Talking about the partnership, Ram Kumar says, “In today’s modern healthcare system, Western medicine science pushed by market forces is still enjoying global acceptance because of technology, innovation, and evidence-based cure. Ayurveda, India’s thousands of years old effective and safest medicine system, is still waiting to join the preferred league of modern healthcare.”
With its technology-based intervention, NirogStreet curates and empowers doctors by working closely with the Ministry of AYUSH, regulators, and research organisations. Doctors also create and publish case studies and research reports on the platform to bring evidence-based treatment similar to modern medicine.
There are over 500,000 registered Ayurveda practitioners and over 21,000 Ayurveda graduates complete their degree every year. “However,” says Ram Kumar, “quality education and care remain a challenge.”
Thirty-five-year-old Ram Kumar’s personal health, which rendered him bedridden for a couple of months, compelled him to think of starting NirogStreet. “I was on so many pills and medication, but one fine day we got to know about an Ayurveda doctor and here I stand talking to you,” he says.
A former business leader and technocrat with experience of setting up and growing companies across IT and media segment with pervasive technologies and business processes, Ram Kumar has bootstrapped NirogStreet for two years now. He is, however, in talks with a few Japanese investors to raise funding.
The market size for Ayurveda medicines is $3 billion and is expected to grow to over $15 billion in the next 10 years. “The best part is Ayurveda is truly Make in India for the world as every component is dependent on the domestic supply chain,” says Ram Kumar.
At present, the startup makes money through subscription fee from doctors and margins on e-commerce.
Talking about the business model, Ram Kumar says, “The Ayurveda ecosystem and market has so many broken links. Doctors don't have access to good quality learning, research and Continuing Medical Education (CME). For medicine, it is a highly unorganised segment with fragmented supply chain and a lot of bad quality medicines.
“Our business model revolves around subscription fee from doctors in a freemium model, B2B medicine e-commerce, and making research mainstay. We want to give modern science validation to various Ayurveda medicines to make it mainstream.”
A big high
At present, NirogStreet is a 15-member team, and Ram Kumar says their biggest challenge is not the competition. “Our biggest challenge is that technology is new to traditional practitioners. Initially, it was a challenge to convince elder practitioners to use technology. In our experience, perseverance and hustling is the key. Building a community is a difficult task but once we have done so, there is no looking back,” he adds.
While the experience of entrepreneurship has brought many personal developments in his life, for Ram Kumar being at the forefront of mixing technology and traditional medicine system is a bigger high.