From BOHECO to India Hemp Organics, these 5 brands are making hemp-based products popular in India
Often regarded as the ‘trillion-dollar crop,’ hemp seeds from the cannabis plant is widely used in foreign countries for fibre, pharmaceutical, healthcare, and more.
However, the cultivation of cannabis in India is under strict regulations, despite its mention in ancient Indian Vedas. The cannabis plant and its various benefits for treating ailments can be traced back to the early texts of the Ayurveda.
While the misuse of the plant for drugs has led the government to put stricter restrictions on its cultivation, it has, however, eased some regulations to allow industrial hemp cultivation, helping entrepreneurs unfold its emerging opportunity.
The industrial hemp market is projected to surge at a CAGR of 34 percent from $4.6 billion in 2019 to $26.6 billion by 2025. The stats reveal that hemp-based products hold a promising future in the Indian business ecosystem. At present, only over 30 Indian brands are providing hemp-based products. Here are a few.
Yash Kotak, cofounder of Bombay Hemp
A group of six co-founders — Avnish Pandya, Chirag Tekchandaney, Delzaad Deolaliwala, Jahan Peston Jamas, Sumit Shah, and Yash P Kotak — came together to make cannabis cool again.
Their startup BOHECO — short for Bombay Hemp Company, “makes apparel, beauty products, building material, and much more, out of the most misunderstood product."
BOHECO’s first offering in the market was a handloom fabric — handspun and handwoven by a women SHG based in Uttarakhand. The idea was to connect local artisans working with wild hemp to urban communities. It was important for the founders to change the perception of cannabis from “dope” to “hope.” Hence, it integrated a social impact story along with the positive environmental impact narrative of hemp.
With just Rs 13 lakh investment, today BOHECO is a Rs 2 crore brand. Its products are available across India through ecommerce platforms.
BOHECO’s ayurvedic medicine and wellness range includes some of the first-ever licensed hemp leaf-extract products, which include cannabinoids such as CBD and THC.
As was determined after an interaction in 2013 on the effects of cannabinoids on the human Endocannabinoid System (ECS), these cannabinoids contain a therapeutic value for multiple symptoms and ailments.
Loveena Sirohi and Rohit Kamath, Co-founders, India Hemp Organics
Avid trekkers and college friends Rohit Kamath and Loveena Sirohi make sure they spend at least two-three months in a year under the shadow of the Himalayas.
It was during their first trip in 2016, the duo realised that the local population of Uttarakhand relied a lot on hemp and cannabis for treating various diseases and ailments and using it for making several sustainable products.
The duo sat with farmers and understood the benefits of the plant, realising hemp can be used to create over 25,000 different sustainable products.
They found a big opportunity in the market. However, before laying the first brick, Rohit initiated his research on the laws surrounding businesses that use hemp in their products.
He read up on the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the NDPS Act, 1985 to understand the legality of an industry that is so widely misunderstood, and one that is still coming into fruition.
While the NDPS Act prohibits the sale and production of cannabis resin and flowers, it does not prohibit the use of seeds and leaves of the same plant.
Armed with the knowledge, Rohit and Loveena started India Hemp Organics in 2020 in Bengaluru. The brand operates in medicine and health, personal care, and the food and nutrition space.
Founders of Hemp Horizons
Rohit Shah, Kartikey Dadoo, and Kanishk Yadav wanted to bring back the ancient knowledge of using cannabis with new and improved techniques for daily medicinal applications. In 2017, the trio founded Hemp Horizons.
The Noida-based cannabis startup also provides contract manufacturing services to five other hemp brands in the country. Under its Health Horizons brand, the startup sells top-of-the-line hemp products.
Rohit says over 75 percent of the people that approach Health Horizons are scared to talk to their families, or of the authorities as bhang/cannabis/hemp are still taboo in India.
However, hemp seeds are known as the ‘world's most nutritious seed’ out there. For this, the trio constantly does a lot of awareness campaigns to make people aware of the incredible benefits of this miracle plant.
The company focusses on product manufacturing and packaging and operates B2C and B2B business models. In the former, it sells both online and offline top of the line hemp products around the country.
In the B2B segment, it does contract manufacturing, which is white-labelled by over 70 percent of brands. It also provides an end-to-end solution to brands so they can focus on marketing and sales.
India Hemp & Co's founders
Shalini Bhattacharya was crippled by chronic backpain in 2017 when she was working in Spain. Round after round of MRIs and different painkiller regimens failed to bring her any sort of long-term relief, and she forced herself to slow down.
She researched various alternative pain management therapies, and that’s when she stumbled upon CBD (cannabidiol), and life, as they say, changed for the better.
CBD is the better-behaved cousin of THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana responsible for the ‘high.’ Used in as many as 191 formulations in Ayurveda, the Vedic-age herb is known to cure a variety of ailments, including pain, muscle spasms, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Recently, CBD has been known to help in cancer treatments to alleviate nausea and pain associated with chemotherapy and radiation, and provides relief in people with advanced arthritis and chronic pain.
After finding a natural, harmless way to manage her pain, Shalini began reading up about other uses of the plant. She realised that she had seen it grow freely in the Himalayas, and also found that the locals use it widely as part of their daily meals and to make chutneys and pickles.
Shalini, and her sister Jayanti Bhattacharya, set up India Hemp & Co in 2019 to bring hemp products from the foothills of the Himalayas to the rest of the country. With a laser-sharp focus on sustainability, right from sourcing to packaging, the startup sells four simple, clean products — hemp hearts, protein powder, seed trail mix, and hemp oil — on its website.
Deepika Sharma, Founder, Hempstrol
Hemp was a huge part of Deepika Sharma’s childhood while growing up in Delhi. Her parents — who hail from Shimla, Himachal Pradesh — were familiar with the traditional healing benefits of the plant.
In fact, some of Deepika’s earliest memories of her grandmother is seeing her prepare hemp seed oils to be used as a moisturiser to ease her body aches in winter. She also grew up savouring the Bhaang Chutney (Hemp Seed Dip) that her 85-year-old grandmother would prepare.
Jaipur-based Hempstrol would not have seen the light of the day if not for Deepika’s trip to the interiors of Rajasthan. She came across a woman who was struggling with menstrual cramps and did not have access to basic feminine hygiene.
After a year of researching, product development, and testing, Deepika introduced her first product menstrual cramp relief oil — a blend of Himalayan hemp seed oil and Himalayan lavender oil.
She claims the rich content of Gamma-linolenic acid and magnesium in hemp is effective in reducing various symptoms during the menstrual cycle. According to the founders, Hempstrol’s products fall under the guidelines of the FDA.
In many cases, it has also helped decrease breast pain and tenderness, hormone imbalances, and inflammation as well. The use of cannabis to relieve menstrual pain is an ancient practice that has helped historic figures such as Queen Victoria.
Monetising the plant’s medicinal benefits, the startup has also introduced Hemp Extract (CBD Oil) and Pet CBD Oil and mask made of hemp fabric, which is priced at Rs 999.
In line with the domestic and international standards for hemp-based products, the startup operates on the B2B model globally and works in the B2C retail space in India. Bootstrapped with investment from friends and family networks, the startup has reinvested its profits into research and development of new products.