At 50, this woman entrepreneur started a wellness brand to offer superfood mixes based on traditional recipes
At the age of 50, Archna Soni, along with her son Dr Ujjwal Soni, started Ashvatha, a brand that offers natural, herbal, and Ayurvedic products based on traditional recipes in a contemporary way.
Saturday February 26, 2022,
5 min Read
For 25 years, Archna Soni dedicated her life to her family and raising her children. An avid follower of Ayurveda, spirituality, and a healthy lifestyle, she spent experimenting with different blends of superfoods and herbs for her family and friends.
Born and raised in Delhi, Archna has a BA in Mathematics and recalls helping her father in his restaurant business. She moved to Panipat after she got married to her doctor husband.
“My incentive was to provide my family with the best nutrition possible and keep them healthy. My kids were choosy, and I was aware that the health benefits should not compromise on taste, otherwise they would reject them. This made me craft a range of superfood mixes that were easy to incorporate into a daily diet, were healthy, and tasted good as well,” Archna says.
A passion that turned into entrepreneurship
For three years, Archana made these products specifically for friends and family, free of cost.
“When people came back asking for more and more each month, my son, Dr Ujjwal, saw it as an opportunity and suggested I take these products to the world in a proper way. I was more than ready, waiting for this opportunity my entire life, and with his support, I finally got my first entrepreneurial break,” she says.
She registered the business as Archna Foods in 2020, and clocked sales close to Rs 1.5 lakh in the first two months itself without any marketing strategy.
“The kind of response we got from people and seeing my enthusiasm, my son Ujjwal joined as the co-founder. We relaunched and repackaged our products as Ashvatha in December 2020, got listed at multiple marketplaces, and built our own D2C store and started sales in April 2021,” she adds.
The initial strategy was to keep overheads very lean. The founders understood that the journey was going to be tough and to sustain for longer periods, capital preservation was important.
Archna explains, “We didn't have an established manufacturing setup initially, so we converted our drawing-room and balcony into a manufacturing space. We didn’t have commercial grinding machines, hence used the smaller home mixer and grinders. My son and I were the makers, packers, customer support representatives, social media managers, performance marketers of.”
As Ashvatha began to gain popularity, the founders decided to employ women from the marginalised sections of the society and training them so that they could be financially independent. Currently, they work with four women in manufacturing apart from an all-women team that offers customer support and marketing.
Based on age-old Ayurvedic wisdom
With Ashvatha, the founders’ mission is to provide pure, natural, and authentic India superfoods based on age-old Ayurvedic wisdom.
The raw ingredients are sourced directly from the farmers in Kerala and Meghalaya. The raw spices and herbs are processed in its facility in Panipat, Haryana, by the women employees. The products are formulated according to their own recipes.
Currently, Ashvatha offers five products in its range that include Ashvatha Milk Booster, Ashvatha Chai Masala, Ashvatha Turmeric Latte, Ashvatha Detox Kadha, and Ashvatha Herbal Subji Masala.
Her son, Dr Ujjwal Soni, takes care of the sales, marketing, and technical aspects of the company while she looks after manufacturing and R&D.
Ashvatha’s target audience is millennials in the age group of 22-40.
“There has been a dramatic consumer shift towards healthy and conscious eating habits after the pandemic. We offer them healthier alternatives as well as other products for holistic health,” Archna says.
As a D2C brand, Ashvatha products are available on its own ecommerce store as well as listed on all major marketplaces like Amazon Launchpad, Flipkart, Bigbasket, DrinksDeli, OneGreen, etc.
Archna points out that there are very few established brands in this space.
“Startups like Auric or Wellbeing Nutrition either focus on supplements, Ayurvedic medicines, or on creating new categories. Our focus is on daily staples, for example, a chai masala or milk drink mixes. We know what people already like and we manufacture those products with the best possible ingredients, in the most natural form and fortify them with Ayurvedic herbs for holistic health. The strategy is simple for now - manufacture the best quality products in the most cost-effective way to reach the maximum number of customers,” she says.
The founders bootstrapped this company with Rs 5 lakh to set up Ashvatha’s ecommerce store and manufacturing unit. It started operations in April last year, and closed around Rs 30 lakh in revenue in December 2021. This year the company is hoping to clock Rs 80 lakh in revenue.
Initial challenges the founders faced include scaling up ads and operations which was very difficult without a proper team and cash flow.
“We had to re-evaluate everything and take small baby steps to slowly add in more people in the team. The biggest success for us was when people took time to personally text/email us their reviews telling us how much they appreciated the quality of our products. These helped us keep going even during our lows,” she says.
Going forward, the founders plan to increase Ashvatha’s presence on more offline and online channels.
“We are in touch with investors trying to raise funds for a much quicker growth. Also, we have several other products in development for holistic wellness,” she adds.
Edited by Megha Reddy