The food industry and consumption patterns are going through a sea change with increased awareness leading to consumers wanting organic products more and genetically modified ones lesser and lesser. With that in mind 31-year-old Rishabh Chokhani, whose family was in the pharmaceutical manufacturing business, decided to set up his startup, Naturevibe Botanicals, in 2017.
“People interested in pursuing a healthy, nutritious lifestyle should choose organic botanicals over the conventionally- produced herbs because not only do they add flavour to your food, but they also boast of tremendous medicinal properties that prevent and treat innumerable diseases, while conventionally produced herbs and spices result from plants that are tainted with pesticides and synthetic chemical fertilisers, which can greatly contaminate the product and be a health hazard,’’ says Rishabh.
The organic route
A once obese Rishabh developed a passion for healthy living and became fit. He wanted to motivate others too to adopt a healthier lifestyle by starting a venture in the organic food industry. He worked in his family's pharma business.
“Our brand deals in health food and organic products that help people lead a cleaner and a healthier lifestyle which is GMO and chemical-free. Our products are sourced directly from organic farmers who use sustainable agricultural practices,” says Rishabh.
The Mumbai-based startup sells organic health products like superfoods (wheatgrass and chia seeds), Ayurveda capsules, essential oils, spices and grains, and culinary items like saffron and coconut flour.
According to Agademy, India has 650,000 farmers in organic farming. Rishabh says that India also has the biggest wild harvest area for organic producers globally with more than 80,0000 organic farmers.
Moreover, India ranks ninth in organic cultivation. Indian organic food market is anticipated to grow over 25 percent a total 0.4 percent of the agricultural land is designated for organic farming in the country, which provides extensive scope for expansion.
“A variety of our health products have amazing medicinal properties, which prevents and treats numerous diseases. As we deal in health food categories such as herbal powders, Ayurveda capsules, and superfoods, we promote natural solutions for preventive care,’’ says Rishabh.
The business model
Naturevibe Botanicals sells 98 percent of its products online and is a B2C brand.
The startup procures organically produced ingredients from 1,800, a doubling of the corresponding figure from 2018. After this, they start the production process of their products. “We also shelf our products in some retail stores in the US,” says Rishabh.
The path to success was dotted with many challenges. “The main issue faced at the time of building this business was the underdeveloped supply chain. Apart from this, there is a constant fear of yielding less organic produce due to primitive agricultural processes for preventing pest attacks. Another major challenge in procurement for organic farming comes at a higher price due to the labour costs and training required for farm maintenance,” says Rishabh.
Naturevibe raised $4 million from EuroAsia Organics and the total money invested in the startup is around $5million. Rishabh notes that it has gone from $3 million in 2018 to closing this year at $24 million. The 80-member team sells only online on its own website and on Amazon.
Initial investments were used to procure raw materials and machinery for the startup’s manufacturing facility near Mumbai. These funds were also utilised towards marketing.
The organic products market in India has been growing at a CAGR of 25 percent and it is expected to touch Rs 12,000 crore by 2020, according to a report produced jointly by Assocham and EY.
Naturevibe Botanicals offers organic food and health products that are free from toxic pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, GMO-free, and carry all the necessary certifications. The startup competes with 24Mantra Organic and Organic Tattwa.
Rishabh notes that once the coronavirus threat passes, the startup is looking to expanding its business globally and wants to start product exports to Europe and Australia.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)
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