This woman entrepreneur is bringing Ayurveda into the mainstream, one natural cosmetic at a time
Vedika Sharma has been aware of simple Ayurvedic practices for as long as she can remember. As a child, she recalls being mesmerised by the concoctions being prepared at the factory of their Ayurvedic family business.
The family’s association with Ayurveda dates back a century when Vedika’s great grandfather Pandit Ramnarayan Sharma, who hailed from a family of landowners, decided to study Ayurveda and founded Shree Baidyanath Ayurved Bhawan in the city of Jhansi in 1917. Notably, his formulation Baidyanath Pranda became a popular treatment for malaria during an epidemic in India in the 1950s.
A fourth-generation entrepreneur, Vedika studied marketing management and communications in the UK, and has worked with brands like Coca-Cola, The Times Group, and Red FM.
“During the five years of studying abroad, I saw that many of my foreigner friends knew more about Ayurveda than my friends back home. That made me realise that I need to help the millennials and the youth reconnect with their roots and get them interested in learning about Ayurveda,” she tells HerStory.
Keen on clean and organic beauty products, Vedika jumped on the opportunity to start an Ayurvedic skincare brand, Mantra Herbal, in 2015. According to the entrepreneur, it fulfils the dual goal of appealing to a younger audience as well as promoting traditional practices of Ayurveda.
She emphasises that as a skincare brand, Mantra Herbal is different from her family business that focuses on medicine.
Although Vedika is not directly involved in the family business, she leverages Baidyanath Research Foundation’s facilities to perfect Mantra Herbal’s products through R&D.
She says, “The research foundation has a team of highly qualified vaids and scientists who take care of the formulations. For example, we share the product idea that there is a need for body wash for dryness in the winter, and they will research and keep formulating till the samples are finalised.”
Based in Delhi, the startup has a range of products for body, skin, hair, and spa treatments, priced between Rs 250 and Rs 4,000. They are available in over 150 stores in North India and Mumbai, and on major ecommerce sites including Amazon, Flipkart, Nykaa, and HealthKart, among others. Its products have also found a favourable market outside India in countries like the US, the UK, and the Middle East.
After the pandemic brought its retail businesses to a standstill, Mantra Herbal started focusing on its ecommerce business and ramped up its own website as well.
The FDA-approved brand also utilises only eco-friendly packaging materials that are either recyclable or biodegradable. Vedika adds that 95 percent of its over 200 employees are women.
Vedika, who started the business at the age of 22, says she kept working hard when people did not take her seriously in the beginning.
“Being a woman in business is not easy. Despite facing issues while dealing with retailers and distributors, I managed to win their trust over the years,” she adds.
Navigating the market
As the clean beauty trend picks up, the market competition has stiffened with the natural cosmetic market valued at $834.5 million in 2021. What sets Mantra Herbal apart, Vedika says, is its focus on being rooted in Ayurvedic practices.
The entrepreneur has several plans in the pipeline, including launching hemp-based products in the next few months after having secured the necessary permissions. By 2022, Vedika hopes to expand the startup’s retail presence across India and sell through 300 to 400 stores. The startup is also looking forward to opening its standalone stores.
While the entrepreneur declined to share the financial details, the self-funded venture is not looking to raise external funds anytime soon. “We intend to remain self-funded till we feel the need for outside expertise,” Vedika says.
Hailing from a family that is renowned for its rich Ayurvedic practice and business, Vedika says that she feels the pressure of meeting high expectations. However, she says she believes in her capability, has absolute clarity of Mantra Herbal’s vision, and is passionate about the work.
Edited by Kanishk Singh