Age no bar: The entrepreneur couple in their 80s who became an overnight sensation
RK and Shakuntala Devi Choudhary started Avimee Herbal out of their home in Surat to solve their daughter’s hair fall problem in 2021. The brand has made ~Rs 13 crore worth of sales until July.
When Vinita Agarwal was having a hair fall problem during the second wave of COVID-19, her parents RK and Shakuntala Devi Choudhary—also known as Nanaji and Naniji—decided to make a natural hair oil at home to solve it.
Today, the couple has become an internet sensation, especially when the business enabled Nanaji to recently buy his first car at the age of 85.
After Vinita experienced positive results using the oil, RK and Shakuntala decided to send some to their friends and other family members, who too saw reduced hail loss and increased hair growth. Eventually, they started receiving orders from relatives living far away and acquaintances.
From one to two orders per day, Avimee started receiving thousands when their grandson Siddhant Agarwal and his wife Ambika posted about the hair oil on Instagram and created a page for them.
“From July and August onwards last year, we started receiving orders in large numbers. We weren’t prepared at all. However, our Nanaji was happy as his years of knowledge in Ayurveda was giving great results. We then registered the brandas proprietary in August, which we turned to Pvt Ltd in December,” says Siddhant, in an interview with SMBStory.
In a separate video interview with SMBStory, Nanaji spoke about his aspirations of making Avimee Herbal reach nooks and corners of India.
In a year, Avimee Herbal has made approximately Rs 13 crore in sales until this July, growing from Rs 80 lakh worth of sales until November. The brand, which started with just one hair oil, now has 17 SKUs in its kitty, including skincare, beard care, and other hair care products.
Run by family
“We are a family of founders,” says Siddhant, adding that everyone in the family started this brand together.
“When we started getting orders, we were all clueless. We never planned on doing a business; it just went with the flow. And so, everyone in our family, including the house help, used to stay up until 4 am to pack the orders,” he adds.
Avimee Herbal is being run by Nanaji and Naniji, along with their daughter who is a director in the company. Additionally, Siddhant is the Managing Director and handles strategy, technology, and operation, and his wife is a director who handles marketing while their other grandson Vibhor is the director of operations.
Siddhant claims that the company hasn’t spent any money on marketing to date. Business also increased when Mira Rajput (actor Shahid Kapoor’s wife) posted a video of Aimvee’s hair spray.
He says, “We haven’t even given out any free samples; there’s zero expenditure on our marketing and we would like to keep it as it is till we can. Our customers are our endorsements. What else does a brand need?”
The brand’s Keshpallav Hair Oil is its hottest selling product. Additionally, its Hair Tone PV1 Scalp Spray and Ortho CP Pain Relief Oil are also loved by the customers. Siddhant claims that since they have enabled cash-on-delivery (COD) orders, the return rate has gone up to 3% from the 1% earlier.
Overcoming backlashes and prospering
While Aimvee has become an internet sensation, the company has had its fair share of critics as well. Several people on the internet defined the company as a ‘scam’ and Siddhant says it was because during the initial days, many orders couldn’t be dispatched on time as only a handful of them were doing everything.
Both Nanaji and Siddhant didn’t have any online business experience since they both hail from textile backgrounds.
“We launched the website last August and had customers online pre-pay us for the product. They would share the payment screenshot on our WhatsApp number. We were very new to the online world and we used to check each message received on our number for orders and there were thousands of messages every day. Even if we could read one, we would get hundreds of notifications of different customers,” Siddhant recalls.
Gradually, they were able to address customer concerns on phone and Siddhant says things have got better now with around 20 people being hired in different departments. The company has also partnered with logistics startup Shiprocket to dispatch its products.
Recently, Avimee Herbal set up a 7,500 sq ft manufacturing facility in Surat where all products are made in-house with raw materials sourced from across the nation. As of now, the brand gets its products tested in a lab in Roorkee. Siddhant says that by August, an in-house lab unit will be set up, which would reduce the turnaround time.
Market scenario and future prospects
The Ayurveda market saw significant growth since the onset of COVID-19, mostly fuelled by recommendations from the Ministry of AYUSH. According to a Research and Markets report, the Indian Ayurvedic products market reached a value of Rs 515.5 billion in 2021, and is projected to reach Rs 1,536.9 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 19.78% during 2022-2027.
This period also saw the rise of many other Ayurvedic brands in India, including Amrutam, Kapiva, Krishna Herbals, etc. According to Siddhant, while Aimvee is very new to the market, the brand is largely playing in the domain of result orientation.
“Avimee Herbal’s organic market is what makes it unique from other brands,” he claims.
Talking about scaling and expansion plans, Siddhant says they are on a hiring spree. By the end of the year, the company is expecting to have 50 employees. It is also hiring a chemist to formulate products for skin care, and plans to expand to kids care and pet care soon.
(This story was updated to correct a typo.)
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta