Inspired by India’s healthcare boom, this 49-year-old Group launched supplements vertical amid COVID-19

Kerala-based Synthite Industries was founded in 1972 by CV Jacob. The business group, which employees over 3000 people, decided to penetrate the supplements space after it saw an increase in the demand for health and wellness products.
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The coronavirus pandemic has led to a large number of people focusing on their health. This has opened the doors for several opportunities for pharmaceutical companies. According to a report by research platform, IBEF, this market is estimated to be worth $42 billion in 2021 and is slated to reach $120-130 billion by 2030. Moreover, with the subsequent increase in people's interest in health and wellness products, it has further given an impetus to the pharma as well as the supplements industry, experts say. 

One of the companies that dived into this opportunity is Kerala-based Synthite Industries started in 1972 by CV Jacob. Headquartered in Kerala’s Ernakulam, it is known for manufacturing and selling essential oils, spices, dehydrated green pepper, and more. Today, the company has over 3,000 employees, and is run by CV Jacob’s son and second-generation entrepreneur – Viju Jacob.

In December 2020, Synthite Industries launched a supplements vertical – NatXtra. This brand was launched on Amazon, and is today present on medtech platforms such as 1mg, PharmEasy, and Netmeds. 

In an interaction with SMBStory, Mathew K Samuel, its Global Marketing Head, claims that the brand is growing by more than 40 percent month-on-month. He also outlines the reason why Synthite Group decided to foray into the pharmaceutical space and the strategies it is deploying to carve a niche in the market.

Mathew K Samuel, Global Marketing Head, Synthite Industries

Starting a B2C vertical

Mathew says that Synthite Group had been mostly operating as a B2B (business-to-business) company since its inception. In 2018, the company realised that it wants to explore the B2C (business-to-customer) market. While it launched a B2C gourmet brand called Sprig founded in 2014, it saw greater opportunities in the pharma space. 

Furthermore, Mathew says that the management saw immense potential in the health supplements market.

“Most of the foods are sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals. Moreover, the growing fast-food culture in the country has further given rise to worsening health conditions among Indians,” he says.

This is led to the germination of the idea and the concept behind NatXtra. 

It took about three years for Synthite to develop the products under NatXtra and finally launched them in the Indian market in December 2020.

At present, NatXtra offers four products – Ashwagandha - DSTR, Amla-CZ, CurQmeg-3, and Gymne-Mag D – that are priced between Rs 545 and Rs 1,045.

The products launched by NatXtra have an Ayurvedic foundation. The tablets are made from Ashwagandha, Amla, Curcumin, and more. Moreover, the brand counts Gymne-Mag D as one of its USPs. 

“Gymne-Mag D is a balanced formula with active Magnesium, Vitamin D3, and the extract of the herb Gymnema. Gymnema holds great promise for the millions of Indians afflicted with Type 2 diabetes, and the millions more who are susceptible to it,” says Mathew.

The Hindi name for Gymnema is ‘Gurmar’, which literally means "destroyer of sugar" or “diabetes killer.”

All products are manufactured at the company’s own facility in Kerala, which is Food and Drug Administration certified. 

Having a sound strategy

Talking about how the brand picked steam in the initial months, Mathew says that the brand consciously decided to “take the online route.”

The company got in touch with several advertising agencies and after the market research, they concluded they would get listed on an ecommerce giant like Amazon. Gradually, they got listed on other websites and also e-pharmacies like Netmeds, Pharmeasy, and 1 Mg. 

The company also started marketing products through Instagram. While NatXtra’s online campaign may come off as aggressive, Mathew clarifies that NatXtra is not a digital-first brand.

“While taking the online route has been essential for the business, we plan to strike a balance between the online and offline modes,” he explains. 

As a result, NatXtra is also present in pharmacies and retail shops in Kerala and Karnataka, and exports to countries like the US, Dubai, Canada, and more through a large distributor network. The company’s most prominent distributor at the moment are hypermarkets and retail conglomerate, Lulu Group. In the coming months, NatXtra plans to enter the Tamil Nadu, Delhi, and Maharashtra markets in the offline space.

This distributor network will be utilised for domestic as well as international expansion. 

Being bullish about the market 

Mathew says that he is bullish about the supplement category’s demand going up in the coming times as supplements are “becoming a part of India’s culture.” He says that youngsters and middle-aged groups have started consuming supplements. 

“Gym-going people now prefer taking ashwagandha rather than protein tablets,” he explains. Add to this, Ayurvedic products have received a massive push due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with their demand seeing an uptick in the international markets as well. 

And this is one of the reasons why, going forward, the company is focused on increasing its exports primarily in the Middle East, which includes countries like Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and then move on to Europe, Australia, and Russia.

To penetrate into the markets, it plans to get listed on the top retail stores of these markets (such as Walmart in the US) as well as on prominent online platforms. 


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Edited by Kanishk Singh