Botanical boom: Indian firm plans APAC expansion while harbouring global ambitions
Coming from a pharmaceutical background thanks to his family's business in the manufacturing, export and R&D of pharma compounds, Chokhani first launched Naturevibe last year in the US, with the help of a US$4m investment from its parent company, Euroasia's Organics.
The business has since reached a value of nearly US$10m in under 16 months.
According to the firm, its products — which include superfoods, essential oils, spices, herbal powders and organic herbal teas —are gluten-and preservative-free, devoid of artificial chemicals, and contain only naturally occurring ingredients. They are also ISO 22000-, WHO-, GMP- and FSSAI-certified.
Additionally, Naturevibe has USDA Organic certification, non-GMO project verification, and membership in the Natural Products Association (among others).
It sells its products through its own website, as well as major e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, eBay and Snapdeal.
In June this year, the firm expanded to India, setting up its headquarters in Mumbai, where it has been receiving healthy response for its herbal powders that are currently available in India.
Chokhani said, "So far, the response has been good, mostly driven by Naturevibe’s popularity in the US. People have been reading about us online and become interested in us."
The company has yet to launch more products in India, as it is currently testing the market while changing the labelling and marketing of its existing products to appeal to local customer preferences in India.
One of its unique selling points, Chokhani says, is the level of control it has over its products from start to finish.
He told NutraIngredients-Asia: "Everything we sell, we grow, manufacture, pack, ship and stock in stores ourselves. This is what distinguishes Naturevibe from other companies — there is no one else involved. Everything, from the growing of our ingredients to the sale of our products, happens under one roof."
The firm sources its raw materials from the southern and western regions India, occasionally looking to China for items that can only be grown in the country's climate.
"We have our own buy-back contract with farmers in China. The farmers we work with are educated with our technological know-how to grow the ingredients the way we want them to be grown."
With Walmart entering India and the country's growing e-commerce sector, he believes Naturevibe has good opportunities for growth. At the same time, he wants to alter public perception of botanicals and organic products.
"When people hear the words 'herbs' or 'botanicals', they tend to think of ayurveda, but they are not always the same thing.
"We want to create a distinct identity separate from ayurveda, because botanicals have a wide variety of applications: medicine, aromatherapy, food, skincare, and cosmetics. This is exactly what we would like to bring to India, and the rest of Asia-Pacific as well."
Internal and external change
Chokhani also revealed a shift in Naturevibe's focus, from supplements with more generic wellness purposes to supplements meant for customers with specific health conditions.
"What we have done so far with our products is target overall well-being. But now, we plan to develop purely condition-specific products — organic, non-GMO verified supplements that can help with issues like hair growth and digestive problems, for instance."
India's organic food and supplement market is still relatively niche — a recent EY report stated an estimated value of U$540m, with a likely increase to US$1.6bn by 2020.
Chokhani is certain consumer perception is largely responsible for the slow growth of India's organic sector.
"I believe people want to buy organic products in India, but the price differences between organic and conventional products have been really big so far.
"People think organic items are just for the (upper) classes and not for the masses, which has been the biggest problem in the Indian organic sector.
"We plan to deviate from that, and to educate people on the differences between organic and conventional foods and supplements."
Going abroad, breaking even
Naturevibe plans to launch in Australia by the second quarter of 2019, and Chokhani is optimistic about its opportunities there, as well as in New Zealand (though he did not reveal when the firm plans to launch there).
"I believe our products will sell well in Australia as the organic market there is already well established. New Zealand's market is fairly small (compared to Australia), but there is a demand, and we plan to launch there once we understand the culture more, so we can better meet that demand."
He added that China was also on the company’s radar, and expressed confidence that Naturevibe will manage to breakeven in under a year.
"We plan to expand to China mainly because of its many e-commerce opportunities. Being such a huge country with such a huge e-commerce sector, we believe that if we can have a portion of the market share, we will be happy there."
Outside of APAC, Naturevibe is targeting Europe and the UK, and plans to eventually reach worldwide expansion.