Offline optimisation: Indian e-commerce outfit HealthKart to up retail presence and in-house product range

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

In addition to new brands, HealthKart will continue to develop MuscleBlaze products, with more protein supplements and flavours to cater to different needs and preferences.
In addition to new brands, HealthKart will continue to develop MuscleBlaze products, with more protein supplements and flavours to cater to different needs and preferences.

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HealthKart — India's largest omni-channel nutrition platform — is planning further offline expansion and a more extensive in-house range of supplements, supported by a fresh round of financing to the tune of US$25m.

Raised by parent company Bright Lifecare from Belgian investment firm Sofina, the funds will be used to widen HealthKart's offline store network, establish more direct-to-consumer nutrition brands, and enhance its vertical integration.

Currently, the platform comprises an online portal and over 110 brick-and-mortar stores in 40 Indian cities. With increasing consumer interest in fitness and preventive care in India, it sees significant opportunity for sales growth and improved education in these categories.

According to Healthkart, its flagship sports nutrition brand, MuscleBlaze, is a market leader in India. Launched in 2015, the brand has since achieved double-digit market share and steady recall via digital channels.

Using a similar approach, HealthKart now intends to develop more of its own brands in other nutrition categories, including vitamins and children's nutrition.

Tanya Sen, investment manager at Sofina Asia said: "We look forward to partnering with HealthKart to further expand its brand portfolio and distribution network in the fast-growing nutrition and wellness space in India.

"We are impressed by the pace at which the management team has scaled the MuscleBlaze brand, and are proud to back their commitment to building a range of high-quality, authenticity-guaranteed products for the Indian consumer.

"This investment is part of our strategy to be long-term partners to talented entrepreneurs and investors building sustainable businesses in growing markets."

Sofina is HealthKart's newest investor, joining Sequoia Capital India, Kae Capital and Omidyar Network.

Expert-supported expansion

While India's relatively young population translates to a consistently large number of online shoppers, HealthKart places equal importance on its offline presence.

It hires nutrition experts for both its online and offline channels, to assist customers with their product selection and diet planning. With this round of financing, the company plans to not only open more offline stores, but also use data and AI technologies to improve customer service and consumer education.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia​, founder and CEO Sameer Maheshwari said: "Nutraceuticals are a nascent category in India that requires significant customer education to invoke trials and drive usage. Such education can be delivered in a much more effective manner in offline channels, through in-person interaction.

"Hence, we are planning to expand our network of stores, which house nutrition experts who can counsel customers in selecting the products most suitable for them, and advise them on matters of diet and fitness."

Dedicated development

In addition to offline expansion and consumer education, HealthKart has mapped out a detailed development plan to support its goal of offering full-stack product solutions to customers.

Already, it has put together an all-rounded R&D team whose 30 members include pharmacists and food scientists. The team is in the midst of developing next-generation nutraceutical solutions tailored to suit the preferences and needs of Indian consumers.

At the same time, the firm is looking into establishing a manufacturing plant to facilitate stricter quality control protocol, as well as shorter product development time.

With its plan to broaden its portfolio, HealthKart is also aiming to go beyond sports nutrition and cater to both children and adults across a range of categories.

Maheshwari said: "With a strong focus on product development, manufacturing and distribution, our mission is to make health and nutrition mainstream and bring best-in-class nutrition solutions to customers.

"We are exploring various nutrition segments, including vitamins and children’s nutrition. Within each of our upcoming brands, there will be several sub-segments and need states to which we would be catering.

"Vitamin supplements will be targeted at men and women aged 35 and above, and nutritional products for kids would be targeted at boys and girls aged six to 12. We will use the best clinically tested ingredients in our formulations, and offer the customer complete transparency regarding the science and efficacy of our products."

He added that HealthKart would also continue to develop MuscleBlaze products, with more protein supplements and flavours to cater to different needs and preferences.

"Flavours will be optimised for the Indian palate, and we will also optimise our MuscleBlaze products to increase the bioavailability of their protein content."

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