This IIT alumnus quit her corporate job to start OZiva, a plant-based nutrition brand
Aarti Gill, Co-founder, OZiva
Born and raised in Chandigarh, Aarti Gill’s mother worked as an officer with the Punjab Government’s healthcare department. Over the years, it made her aware of different developments and innovations in the preventive healthcare sector and was the inspiration for her to turn an entrepreneur many years later.
However, Aarti took an unconventional route to get there. After completing her engineering from IIT-Roorkee in 2008 she worked with tech startups and corporate entities and then went on to complete an MBA degree at INSEAD, France and Singapore campuses.
The startup journey
Aarti recalls little incidents that left a big impact on her mind. She remembers instances of her mother being woken up in the middle of the night for medical emergencies in the neighbourhood. Also, cases where leading a better lifestyle would have saved lives. These set into motion Aarti’s decision to adopt a fitness regimen and a healthy lifestyle.
At IIT, she was part of the choreography club, and while working, she used to practice dance and Attakkalari, and choreographed couple of shows too.
At 24, she hit a roadblock. She began questioning what her purpose in life was. Work at a corporate job or use the education and knowledge to follow her interest in preventive healthcare?
She decided to do the latter and turn her fascination with active living into a business venture.
Along with her co-founder Mihir Gadani, she started Fit Circle in 2014, an app-based service platform that provided exercise boot camps, nutrition suggestions, diet consultations, and experts answering questions about diet and fitness.
Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out well. She recalls calling her father teary-eyed but didn’t tell him the reason for the tears.
“The only thing he said was he would be there for me whenever I needed him. I woke up the next morning with only one thought - I am not a person who gives up easily. After that we tried a couple of things and OZiva was launched in 2016,” she adds.
Today, OZiva is Rs 50 crore brand that has grown seven times in the last 12 months. OZiva provides plant-based and organic nutritional products. It also claims to be the world's first connected omni-channel nutrition brand where people can pick up a product from anywhere and consult a human expert digitally. Aarti’s first venture Fit Circle is still part of OZiva backend technology providing enhanced services and content to its customers.
Combining Ayurveda and modern food science
Aarti says their goal with OZiva is to enable people to make healthier and better life choices. To enable this, it offers a range of products that consist of botanical extracts, plant and whole food based nutrition. The products offer the benefits of Ayurveda combined with the convenience and results of modern food science. Her co-founder Mihir Gadani is a biotechnologist with experience in Botanical Sciences and forms the backbone of the philosophy of combining Ayurveda with food sciences.
She elaborates on how this is incorporated into the manufacturing process . “Ayurveda is about herbs and plants that have medicinal effects. We use such herbs and with the help of modern science, like extraction of nutrients, we are able to take plant extracts and derive natural nutrition for the products. Making the products clean and natural - free of artificial sweeteners and ingredients. ”
OZiva has an in-house R&D team that works on the formulation of potential products wherever the need is identified. Sourced ingredients are first sent to NABL accredited labs for rigorous quality checks which include nutrient profiling, filler ingredients, heavy metals and toxicity check, and potential allergens. After all the quality parameters are met, the ingredient is finalised. The products are manufactured at GMP certified and USFDA registered units. The final products are also tested for quality checks before being shipped to consumers.
With OZiva, Aarti and her team of 40 people are driving people to lead healthier lifestyles. Their efforts to be original are reflected by the O in the name, which signifies ‘Originality’. Ziva in Hebrew means “radiance and brilliance”.
Products are divided into two main categories - everyday nutrition and hair and skin care nutrition. Everyday nutrition that is available for women and men. Soon, they plan to expand to the children’s nutrition segment too.
Being a digital first brand, all OZiva products are available on its own website, ecommerce sites Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Nykaa, along with some select stores offline.
OZiva's products are divided into two categories - Everyday Nutrition and Hair and Skin Nutrition
Women make up 70 percent of OZiva’s consumer base. Its target audience stretches from urban centres to Tier II and Tier III cities. It has shipped products to more than 1,500 towns in the country.
Awareness about health conditions and disorders also forms part of OZiva’s vision. For instituting a conversation and awareness about PCOS, the company launched the #MyPCOSStory to help women take the right steps to improve their health. Hundreds of women came forward to share their stories, including actors Divyanka Tripathi and Vidya Malvade.
The products have also been used and endorsed by Indian Women’s Football Team captain Aditi Chauhan, and actors Debina Bonnerjee and Sambhavna Seth.
Future plans and lessons
Oziva is a relatively new brand but its topline revenue is just under Rs 50 crore. It plans to cross the Rs 100 crore mark in topline revenue this fiscal. Aarti says that they are looking forward to invest in people, products, technology, and the brand for increased growth.
In the end, Aarti says, entrepreneurship is all about achieving an equilibrium. “When I initially started, I used to look at the highs & lows. However, now it's all about equilibrium in every situation which is not possible if one keeps thinking about moments as highs and lows,” she adds.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)