This woman entrepreneur tapped into India’s growing ecommerce market for her holistic wellness brand amid COVID-19
For more than a decade, Neha Ahuja has been working in the beauty industry with brands like La Prairie and Christian Dior, looking after their spa and weekend businesses in India until she decided to don the entrepreneurial hat herself within 2017.
Neha, a certified yoga teacher, began practising yoga at the age of seven and has had a spiritual upbringing with high regard for Satvik foods. Life came full circle when she decided to embrace the holistic wellness and values she grew up with.
"Health — purely — means physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Once we have these three in balance, we reflect and live pure wellness," she tells HerStory.
With this in mind, she started working with brands on setting up holistic wellness destinations like the Grand Hyatt Mumbai and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Vidya Mandir in Bengaluru, among others.
In 2017, she set out to launch Kaashi Wellness Centre at the 350-year-old BrijRama Palace in Varanasi by offering various non-invasive therapies rooted in Ayurvedic practices. This includes yoga, meditation, and singing bowl therapies, aimed at restoring the body’s harmony. It attracts customers from around the world to explore and learn about the various spiritual philosophies tied to Varanasi.
The pandemic impact
In addition to the wellness centres, Kaashi Wellness is also an all-encompassing wellness D2C brand offering a range of premium clean skincare products, food and beverage products, and yoga-related accessories. It also offers consultation to develop wellness spaces and centres through B2B association.
After nearly three years of operations came the pandemic that threatened businesses based on retail and physical spaces. This prompted Neha to venture into the online market. Besides a retail presence in Mumbai and Pune, its products are available on the website as well.
With food and beverage products priced below Rs 500 and other products under Rs 3,500, the brand’s suite of products especially targets millennial audiences, who are always on the move due to their jobs or personal adventures.
Neha sources the products by partnering with NGOs across India. For instance, its tea products come from Siliguri, yoga products are manufactured by carpet weavers in Uttar Pradesh, and skincare products from in Uttarakhand where most effective herbs are found. She emphasises that the brand strictly sticks to eco-friendly packaging.
"The money generated from our partnerships also helps empower local tribal women through initiatives in health, food, and education,” she adds.
Navigating the market
The brand faces little direct competition as it offers various products and services but has different competitors in the respective D2C verticals in the wellness sector, which is valued at Rs 490 billion, according to FICCI. From the consumer's end, the priority on immunity and holistic wellness has only increased during the pandemic.
Neha says there’s lots of competition but clear communication with customers is key as Kaashi Wellness is focused on sustaining their customer relations. For this, it is developing personal grooming and wellness-related content on blogs. However, the founder says that communication and ensuring product quality will remain its core focus for the next two years.
At the same time, Neha says consultation with hotels and architects to build wellness spaces is not only a major contributor to its overall revenue but promises great opportunity in the field.
Having started with an initial investment of Rs 3 crore, Neha invested Rs 2 crore further during the pandemic to build the ecommerce experience and packaging. Bootstrapped so far, Neha has consciously not onboarded external investors but is open to working with investors who can add value through business insights in the wellness space.
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta