This fitness enthusiast built a sports nutrition brand clocking a revenue of Rs 60 Cr in 3 years

Samit Gupta started Neulife in 1999 with exclusive distribution of sports nutrition supplement brands and today it makes and distributes its own products.

Samit Gupta had just turned 23, and had gotten a fresh degree in bachelor's in Production Engineering from the KJ Somaiya Institute of Technology, in Mumbai. Fresh out of college and wanting to do something different, Samit decided to follow his passion. A fitness freak from the age of 13, Samit had from his teens seen supplements used and traded in the fitness industry

“Being one of the early adopters, I thought why not start trading in these products as an experiment. But that experiment went on longer, and led to the birth of Neulife. When I started it, I didn’t know it’s going to go on to become part of a multi-billion-dollar industry. In fact, until 2006, I was mostly doing a lot of personalised selling because the market was so small. Post-2006 was a tipping point when growth began to happen exponentially. By 2008-09, I can safely say that I had created India’s first Rs 100 crore sports nutrition brand with Optimum Nutrition (ON),” says Samit. 

In 1999, Samit started with exclusive distribution for some of the top supplement brands like ON, Muscletech, BSN, Isopure, and others. Until 2009, Neulife focused on getting the brand licensing and distribution model right. 

But during this time, one of the biggest challenges was the presence of fake and grey products in the market. Samit was focused on bringing in the right brand licensing. The fake products would sell cheaper and to tackle this Samit built a genuine sups website that provided information on products and why it was important to use genuine supplements. 

Samit, Founder of Neulife

Licensing to building a new brand 

The team soon began focussing on integrating into organised retail and set up a chain of 40 Neulife stores across 25 Indian cities. It was during this time that Samit also realised the need to build their own brands. By this time the distribution network had been set up. 

Having been in the space since his teens, Samit was able to tie up with gyms and reach out to retail stores. 

Samit wanted to focus on making better products than the ones that existed in the market.

“Products which were of high quality weren’t innovative enough, selling the same old formulas year after year, and products which were innovative didn’t measure up to quality standards. And brands which were both, weren’t consistent enough,” says Samit.

Having started with one person, Neulife now has a team of over 100 people. In early 2014, Neulife set up an in-house formulation and R&D capabilities team with food technologists and PhDs to focus on formulations and patents. He felt there was a need to move from a distribution and retail business to a distribution-led business. 

But the problem of building your own brand is to work along the regulatory grey areas that were present in the space. The team therefore worked with people who already were in the space to work around the regulatory challenges. Neulife operates on a QA-assisted lean manufacturing model and owns the whole manufacturing process end to end from ingredient to finished product.

Building to scale 

Samit says, “We conceptualised three distinctly positioned brands to cater to the three segments of the fitness/wellness space - Procel nutrition - a science-based sports nutrition brand with disruptive formulas. This includes - Pro Hydro; Vitrovea - a micronutrients and vitamins brand to cater to condition-specific areas of general nutrition. We have patents pending in this brand in the areas of bone health (TRIPLE CALCIUM), joint health (MEGACURC) and heart health (ANTOX-Q10); and KetoFuel - a whole foods ketogenic brand based on raw and preservative-free concepts. A category creator with our patent pending ketone boosting complex Ketofuel (patents applied in India and the US).”

These products were created in 2018. The team claims to have a run-rate sale of close to Rs 10 crore per annum. On a group level, the team claims to have clocked a revenue between Rs 40 crore and Rs 60 crore each year for the past three consecutive years. 

“Today, our biggest challenge is to continue innovating at a breakneck pace, and stay ahead of the curve with our disruptive formulations and superior products, which is why the need for funding. We’ve launched over 40 SKUs in 10 months across the three brands, which we’ve been working on for over three years. Each of them differentiates itself heavily from the run-of-the-mill products available in the market,” says Samit. 

Samit with the products and team

The market and future  

Between 2015 and 2023, the Indian dietary supplement market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20 percent, according to a study by Research and Markets.

Currently, Neulife competes with Healthkart and also the likes of Amway, which holds 33.5 percent market share, followed by Pfizer Limited, Merk, Bayer, and Abbott India Ltd

The Research and Markets report also suggested that currently, minerals and vitamins occupy over 40 percent of the market, the herbal segment around 30 percent, proteins account for 25 percent, and others make up the remaining five percent.

Currently bootstrapped, Samit explains that the team is looking to launch new SKUs and is also looking to raise funding.

Speaking about future plans, he says, “We have five pending patents and several industry disruptive formulations which are first to market on a global level. We launched our private label brands in October 2018 after a brief pilot test campaign in 2017. We hope to grow at 15 to 20 percent CAGR over the next five years. While performance nutrition will continue to post robust growth as the line diffuses between bodybuilders, weekend warriors and recreational fitness enthusiasts, we believe major growth will come from the healthy snacking isle,” says Samit. 

(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)


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