Based in Mumbai, Naturevibe Botanicals uses natural herbs and ingredients to make Brahmi leaf capsules, essential oils like clove oil, and superfoods that include amla powder, Yacon root powder and natural spices.Botanicals are gaining ground worldwide for its medicinal and therapeutic properties. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of the world population presently uses herbal medicine for some aspect of healthcare.
Botanicals, in layman terms, are fresh or dried plants, plant parts isolated or collective chemical components extracted and used in different ways and offer functional health benefits.
Twenty-nine-year-old Rishabh Chokhani, a graduate in management from Prin. LN Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research, Bengaluru, believed in a scenario where your food does not contain preservatives and even the cosmetics you use can be produced without parabens. Hailing from a family with roots in the pharmaceutical industry, he knew this was possible if all natural and consumable herbs could be accessible to consumers.
This laid the foundation of Naturevibe Botanicals, a company he started in New Jersey in the US in 2017. Naturevibe Botanicals uses natural herbs and ingredients to make products such as Brahmi leaf capsules, essential oils like clove oil, and superfoods that include Amla powder, Yacon root powder and natural spices.
“People in the US are increasingly becoming health conscious and prefer clean organic food over packaged and chemical-laden food. We are proud to say that our brand is immensely loved by people in the US because of the quality of our products.” Once the response from the US market was positive, he decided to start up in Mumbai this June.
Setting up and challenges
As Rishabh’s family has been in the business of pharmaceutical manufacturing and exports, research and development of compounds and distributors of cosmetic chemicals for a long time, it wasn’t difficult to build Naturevibe. The main challenge was getting the right amount of funding.
He explains, “The major investment incurred was for the set up of the manufacturing unit and the cost of land for cultivation, which is very high. The organic food and natural herbs market is capital-intensive and time-consuming. It takes time to grow the food and herbs organically, save them from pesticides and understand effective methods of cultivation.”
However, Rishabh had a helping hand. Euroasia Organics invested $4 million in the venture at the time of starting up.
Stamp of approval
NatureVibe Botanicals has received the USDA Organic certification, non-GMO-project verified, and is a member of Natural Products Associations (NPA) and several other organisations.
“The products are ISO 22000, WHO GMP and FSSAI (manufacturing category) certified,” Rishabh informs.
Rishabh says while in India there aren’t any government-ordained organic certifications, there are community certifications for organic produce and ISO standards for manufacturing. This, according to him, is a major reason for fluctuation in prices of organic products in the country.
He believes India is a difficult market to crack. “Here, consumers do not like to experiment with herbs in food. I wanted to change that perception, and make them more aware,” he says.
When Rishabh speaks about the specificity of the Indian consumer, he says that people associate herbs with Ayurveda, which can be only prescribed by an Ayurvedic practitioner. Moreover, most of the herbs and herbal products are imported from India (around 50 percent). Then why not bring this concept back to India, he asks.
To ensure the original taste of the herb, the firm does not add any flavouring agent. The entire process of bringing the herb into the market is also organic.
The herbs are procured from farmers, in the original producing regions, who are trained in organic farming. They are cleaned and sun-dried and parts are separated. They are then ground and packed according to varied needs. “Turmeric grows best in Western India. So we procure the produce from farmers and transport it at our processing facility at Khapoli, Mumbai,” adds Rishabh.
Most of its raw material is sourced from Western and Southern India. For example, Moringa is sourced from farmers in Solapur, Maharashtra and turmeric from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
“We do not use products that damage the environment or undergo chemical processing and extensive heat, as these inherently negate our core belief system of providing a nutritious, healthy lifestyle,” Rishabh says. Naturevibe Botanicals has an employee base of 40-45 members.
Revenue and business
The Indian organic market is gaining momentum and even a small farmer now thinks of making his produce organic.
According to a study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) and Ernst Young (EY) in March 2018, the market size of Indian organic packaged food is Rs 660 million in 2018 and projected to be Rs 780 million by 2020. The report also mentions that in the last five years, the urban demand has accelerated by 95 percent. Moreover, there is an increase in investments in Indian organic food companies as the sector is growing exponentially.
“In three to four years, the Indian organic market will grow by 25-40 percent. To begin with, we have launched herbal powders and the next lot of 30-40 products are ready, which are essentially food items such as spices and herbal tea,” says Rishabh.
But organic food products prices are heavy to bear even for an urban consumer. However, Naturevibe Botanicals has priced their products keeping market limits in view.
“A 200-gram pouch of herbal powder is priced between Rs 200- Rs 300. But, it again depends on the type of herb and its availability,” says Rishabh.
An organic explosion
With Organic India, 24 Organic Mantra, Naturally yours, Farm2Kitchen being the top contenders in the organic food market, NatureVibe Botanicals faces tough competition.
“Two months into the Indian market, we are ready with the second batch of our products. Right now, our aim is not to go behind money but create awareness,” says Rishabh.
With Amazon increasing its investments in the market and Walmart entering India with Flipkart, Rishabh believes Indian ecommerce market will be the next big thing in the next five to seven years. Thus its main focus is on ecommerce websites. Currently it sells through Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal and eBay as well as its own website (naturevibe.com).
After setting up a $10 million business of botanicals in the US in less than 16 months, Naturebvibe Botanicals plans to expand operations across the globe and enter Australia, the UK and the rest of Europe.