While the science of Ayurveda has always been revered in India, it is now fast becoming a part of the global health lexicon. And not to say home-grown Ayurveda companies like Adara Ayurveda have been amongst the leading agents of change. Nikhil Pradeep, Director, Adara Ayurveda takes The Dollar Business through the company’s origins and future expansion plans.
TDB: Could you tell us about the origins of the brand? What was the inspiration behind developing a brand based on Ayurveda?
Nikhil Pradeep (NP): Adara Ayurveda has an interesting story. In the late 1800s John Henry Garstin, the Private Secretary to the then Governor of Madras (Chennai), was visiting the ruler of Travancore, His Highness Moolam Thirunal Maharaja. Garstin was suffering intensely from diabetic blisters. The Dewan of Travancore, T. Rama Rao, advised Garstin to undergo treatment from one of the young palace physicians, the Kottaram Vaidyan, Vasudevan Unni.
Garstin was impressed and recommended the Governor to start the first ayurvedic pathshala (School of Ayurveda). It was set up at the Kashayapura (Ayurveda Manufacturing area) of the Travancore Palace and our founder, N. Vasudevan Unni was appointed as the superintendent and head physician. In 2016, we developed a consumer-facing brand, Adara, for authentic Ayurveda products, therapies, and holistic wellness treatments.
TDB: The company has seen a steady growth over the years. What would you attribute this success to? What makes Adara stand out amongst the competition?
NP: Adara in Greek means “outer and inner beauty”. We decided on this name because Ayurveda provides holistic healing of the body, mind and soul. Adara is a 133-year-old customer facing brand of the Kerala Ayurveda house. It brings everything from therapist training to manufacturing of products, all under one roof. Our mission is to create centres of Ayurvedic excellence that will offer holistic Ayurvedic wellness to every individual by drawing on our centuries of learning and our constant research to improve and innovate. We offer the best of authentic and affordable Ayurveda services and products to our customers.
TDB: Adara manufactures all its products locally. What have been the advantages and challenges associated with in-house manufacturing?
NP: We manufacture over 500 products at our own manufacturing units. The biggest advantage of keeping our production in-house is the continuous learning that it offers. This makes it possible for our manufacturing team to send feedback to the R&D team during each step of the development cycle, and that allows us to see what works and what doesn’t in a time-efficient manner. Having such feedback available immediately allows us to make improvements in the products, raw materials and process optimisations, while addressing issues that may have been overlooked earlier. This also helps us find, control, and eliminate barriers to our product’s evolution. The other big advantage of in-house manufacturing is knowledge protection. The combination and blending of the raw materials makes a huge difference in manufacturing. The challenges include the lack of skilled labour in the domestic industry and the high cost of the same.
TDB: Could you tell us about the company’s international business? How has demand for Ayurveda exports changed over the years?
NP: We export our products to over 20 countries including Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Russia, Philippines, Maldives etc. There has been a surge in demand for Ayurveda products and services all over the world. A common intent to go back to
nature and use natural materials and methods of ancient times is helping Ayurveda grow across the globe.
TDB: While Ayurveda is a traditional product, Adara also uses an e-commerce platform for sales. How has the response been?
NP: To expand our reach and business opportunities, we started our own e-commerce website where all our products are up for sale. We focused on our returns and digital media is one platform where we have been getting a good response for both products and franchisee expansion.
TDB: As an exporter, what challenges do you face and how easy or difficult has the process of exports been?
NP: When we started off, we wanted to provide the best quality products at a reasonable price. So, we got our products and raw materials tested by a third-party inspector. That was a tedious and expensive job. Also, the packaging materials for exports is completely different from that in the domestic market and the materials are very difficult to procure.
Although there are ample opportunities for exports, there are many challenges in this sector. The lack of knowledge on international and specific regulations of importing countries governing imports of such products, including quality, intellectual property rights (IPR) issues is a major challenge. The other issue is the lack of credible documentation of therapeutic values of medicines and their formulation, and that is a major constraint for export, particularly to countries like US and EU.
TDB: Can you tell us about Adara’s domestic business operations for both services and products?
NP: Since our inception, almost a year ago, we have come a long way. We have now started operations in Trivandrum, Ballari (district), Bengaluru, Varkala and Gurgaon. We have signed up for five more wellness centres that will be operational before the end of the year. We have also tied up with major Ayurveda colleges and hospitals for the supply of products’ knowledge.
TDB: Ayurveda, though an age-old practice, has a growing market in India as well as internationally. How important is R&D to the business?
NP: Ayurveda is an ancient “living system” of healthcare. Even though most of the ingredients and subsequent products are available in various texts, we have been trying to improve the quality of our products through R&D. Good R&D, including that on high-yielding variants of raw materials, is critical for long-term success. The government has to help the industry by providing more R&D infrastructure and funding, as Ayurveda has been the mainstream system of healthcare in India right from the Vedic ages.
TDB: With many big brands now taking the Ayurveda route, how has it impacted the market. Do you plan to expand your product porfolio?
NP: The estimated revenue in the organised sector, in 2016, was between Rs.10,000 crore and Rs.15,000 crore. So, it is good to see more and more big brands taking the Ayurveda route, as it helps improve the sector, both in terms of revenue and quality of the products and services. Everyone in the industry has taken the role of both competitors and collaborators. We too are expanding and are launching at least one over-the-counter product, every 3-4 months.
TDB: How do you see the company growing over the next five years? Are you even planning to expand your services internationally?
NP: Ayurveda offers immense opportunities in various fields of health and wellbeing. We aim to take the number of centres to 500, over the next five years. We are also planning to open our own Ayurveda college to improve the quality of education and for our own in-house requirements. We would love to expand our services abroad, but the domestic market is so vast that we have not found time to negotiate with foreign investors who have approached us.