26 years, 17 states: The story of Ayurveda pharma company Maheshwari Pharmaceuticals

Started in 1995, Maheshwari Pharmaceuticals has established its presence in 17 states by onboarding over two lakh doctors and made Rs 36 crore turnover in FY 20-21.
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After working with Dabur for two decades as a Senior Quality Assurance Manager, RP Maheshwari decided to try his hand at entrepreneurship. Having spent years working in the Ayurveda sector, he decided to tap into the market and founded Maheshwari Pharmaceuticals India Ltd (MPIL) in Ghaziabad in 1995.

“Having a deep knowledge of the Ayurveda industry, my grandfather knew that it was a largely untapped market. There was a lack of availability for premium quality medicines at affordable price and he wanted to fill this gap,” says Nikhil Maheshwari, the third-generation entrepreneur and Director of Operations at MPIL. 

In a span of over 26 years, MPIL has established itself in 17 Indian states, partnering with over two lakh BMS doctors and clocked a turnover of Rs 36 crore in FY 2020-21. 

In an interaction with SMBStory, Nikhil elaborates how the business has grown steadily following an ethical business model and what the future of Ayurveda looks like in the Indian market.

MPIL's product range

Establishing a brand from scratch

For MPIL, establishing itself as an Ayurvedic brand among consumers was not easy as companies like Dabur and Baidyanath were leading the space not just in terms of brand scalability but also with the loyal customer base. 

“There is a process and a flow to establish a recognisable brand. My grandfather thought targetting consumers right from the start wasn’t a great, and so he decided to enter into institutional sales,” says Nikhil. 

Every state government allocates a part of its budget to procure medicines, and RP targeted that. Though the government didn’t procure many Ayurvedic medicines during the 1990s, Nikhil gives rough insight that 90 percent of the procurement was for allopathic medicines and 10 percent for Ayurvedic medicines.

RP started his business by collaborating with the government of Delhi, and then contracted with Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and so on.

After a year, in 1996, the second-generation entrepreneur Tarun Maheshwari joined the business. 

“My father joined the business after a year of the brand's inception and started working towards an offline business model. It was during his time that we expanded our reach to doctors and marketed the medicine in the offline retail channel,” Nikhil says.

Tarun embarked on an ethical business model where the company appointed medical representatives who reached out to doctors to pitch for the brand's medicines. MPIL established a state-wise team that functions along with stockists and chemists. 

Today, MPIL is present in 17 Indian states and dominates the northern, central, and western parts of the country. The company has tied up with over two lakh BMS doctors who prescribe MPIL’s medicines to their patients. At a very small level, MPIL also does contract manufacturing for some of India’s leading Ayurvedic brands.

Nikhil joined the business in 2019 and since then, the brand started focusing on digital sales model.

How the Ayurveda industry changed amid COVID-19

Ayurveda originated in India around 5,000 years ago, and has found mention in Atharva Veda, however, its influence has been waning with the adoption of modern medicine. Nikhil says that when MPIL started over two decades ago, the Ayurveda industry had been growing but there wasn’t much trust among people toward this form of holistic healing.

“The state governments had been procuring only 10 percent Ayurvedic medicines. It is after 2014 and formation of the Ministry of AYUSH that the awareness of Ayurveda among people has increased, and we have seen shifting trends,” he adds. 

MPIL still continues to do institutional sales and Nikhil says even now, the contribution of Ayurvedic medicines isn’t much as compared to allopathy, however, there has been a growth of 15 percent. He also adds that the demand from the government is also less, given the fact that Ayurvedic medicines are not life-saving drugs but are meant to prevent diseases and offer a slow cure. 

“The demand for allopathy will never fall or decline,” he said.

A lot has been changed since last year after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation and Ayurveda became a buzzword. “We have seen a sudden shift in consumer demand as people are moving towards this method of natural healing to boost their immunity. We have around 300 products, and in the last one year, the demand for our respiratory health product Amastha Awaleha has increased manifold,” Nikhil says.

Nikhil claims that the demand for immunity boosters has grown so high that an MPIL product is sold on Amazon every five minutes. 

MPIL is available on all major medicine delivery platforms, including 1mg and Netmeds.

Nikhil Maheshwari, Director of Operations, MPIL

USP matters

The market size of India’s Ayurvedic products is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15 percent between 2021 and 2026. According to a report, corporates throughout the country are emphasising on developing innovative products and creating awareness among consumers, which is expected to aid the growth of the market.

 

Talking about the growing competition from startups and also from the leaders in the sector like Dabur, Baidyanath, Patanjali, Sri Sri Tattva, and others, Nikhil says that each brand has its USP.

“You see, Dabur has Hajmola, and no other brand can ever compete with that product. For Re 1, they give you three-four tabs in a vacuum sealed pack. It is their USP, and so is the case with other players. Each brand has a USP and this is in our case too,” Nikhil explains, differentiating the brand from the competition. 

Operating in this industry for over 25 years, Nikhil says that MPIL has carved a niche for itself. One of the brand’s USP’s is making high-quality products at a decent price range, along with 100 percent natural products. 

 

MPIL procures most raw materials locally and has state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Sahibabad and Sidcul. The Sidcul facility is accredited by the Ministry of AYUSH, ISO GMP, and also has an Organic Certificate. Equipped with new-age manufacturing innovations, Nikhil claims that the plant produces two crore tablets per day, and also has a liquid filling capacity of 30,000 units/day.

The plan ahead

Nikhil points out that the only thing MPIL lags right now is extensive marketing. In the near future, the company is planning to ramp up its marketing initiatives.

MPIL is also planning to diversify its funds to expand to more states and onboard more doctors. “Creating a strong IT infrastructure and bolstering its presence in the digital age, we envision transforming the Ayurveda landscape in India,” Nikhil signs off. 

Edited by Kanishk Singh

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