After losing her dog to cancer, this woman entrepreneur decided to build a cannabis wellness startup
For the longest time, cannabis was considered a taboo drug. But recent research studies have shown that cannabis can help relieve chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the use of CBD extracted from marijuana plants resulted in fewer seizures among children with epilepsy.
Richa Jaggi, Shivam Singhee, and Akriti Agarwal (who has now left the company) were aware of the benefits of cannabis-based wellness treatments and oils. Richa has used the products for her dog, and Shivam understood how cannabis extracts can help relieve insomnia. They became interested in bringing medical cannabis products to the Indian masses.
This led to the birth of Delhi-basedin 2020. The startup brings cannabis-extract products to the market and focuses on helping people suffering from ailments like stress, anxiety, insomnia, and pain management.
Building the startup
Richa adds after she lost her dog to cancer, it became her life’s mission to bring high-quality cannabis-based wellness products to the Indian market.
“I was also looking to start my own venture after a decade of rising up the corporate ladder as I felt the learning curve had plateaued. On the other hand, Shivam had been looking to start a medical cannabis business; so we got our resources together and started up,” tells HerStory.
However, the entrepreneurs weren’t sure about launching a cannabis startup in India.
“We were not sure about the legality and the possibility of doing this in India. After months of research and meeting people across the country, we decided to figure out the industry from within,” she adds.
The duo went through numerous studies and research on the benefits of cannabis.
“We have recently been in contact with some scientists who are working towards creating cannabis-based products that will help fight viruses like COVID-19. We are extremely excited to see what new products can be introduced in this market that can help millions of people,” adds Richa.
Richa says the team came together organically and quickly owing to the entrepreneur’s strong professional network amassed from her corporate experience with the likes of Ogilvy, Vodafone, Hindustan Unilever, Times Internet, and other brands.
“At Awshad we don't outsource any core operation to an external agency; everything is 100 percent in-house,” she quips.
What does the brand do
Awshad is a wellness company that provides ailment-focused products that are completely natural, toxin-free, and paraben-free, and claims to have no serious side effects.
“Our main revenue comes through online portals like our own website and a few aggregator websites. We are also selling our products through certain Ayurvedic doctors who have been trained to prescribe and dispense our products,” says Richa.
The products’ price points average at Rs 250.
“Our flagship product, the Full Spectrum Vijaya Oil helps people manage these problems and is even known to be very effective for people suffering from epilepsy and pain from cancer treatments,” adds Shivam.
The product consists of all the cannabinoids present in the plant such as CBD, THC, CBN, CBG etc that work together creating an 'entourage effect’ that is most beneficial for consumers.
The product can be purchased directly from Awshad’s website. Since it is a prescription based product, buyers will have to upload a valid prescription or book a video or a phone appointment with one of the startup’s in-house doctors.
The team had started working on building the startup in mid-2020, and launched its brand in September 2021. The business was conceived in the middle of the pandemic, making it extremely difficult to get off the ground.
“We also faced a lot of unique problems pertaining to this industry considering the laws and regulations regarding cannabis and medical cannabis are quite murky and unclear in India,” says Richa.
The team considers educating people about the product and its benefits crucial in de-stigmatising the cannabis plant.
“We have delved deep in educating consumers and doctors alike about this versatile and all-natural product, giving people a healthier alternative instead of consuming hard, addictive, and toxic pharmaceutical products available in the market,” says Richa.
Within a few days of launching the product in September, the product had started selling. Richa explains the team also started to receive some repeat orders and feedback from the initial customers.
“Our main hurdle is to be able to promote our products on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, however, strict and inconsistent policies of these platforms are making paid promotions for medical cannabis products challenging at the moment. This is a problem faced by all our peers trying to grow in this space,” she explains.
Market and future
“We spent over six months tying up with the right partners, vendors, and service providers to build our current platform. We have our in-house experts leading our IT and digital marketing teams who have helped us keep our costs and burn rate to a minimum,” says Richa.
With cannabis medicine gaining traction and attracting followers from around the world, the global medical cannabis market size is expected to hit $16.47 billion by 2021, and $46.18 billion by 2026, according to a report by Market Data Forecast. In recent studies, it was shown that cannabis could play a vital role in treating mild symptoms of COVID-19, the report stated.
The startup competes with HempCann Solutions, Bombay Hemp, and Wildleaf to name a few.
“The future of Awshad and the cannabis wellness space in India is tied together, and we have an extremely optimistic view of the same. We are already launching our pet products this month and have topical products such as salves and creams in R&D and formulation stages that we will be introducing early next year. We are excited to bring new formats and unique products that do not currently exist in the market, and focus on solving problems that are widespread and relevant in our society,” says Richa.
Edited by Kanishk Singh