Co-founder Srijan Sharma told NutraIngredients-Asia the firm would bring in about 30 new products from several brands next year, consisting a range of capsules and powders.
These products will target conditions such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, neuro-degenerative diseases, anorexia, high blood pressure, diabetes, chemotherapy side-effects and viral infections.
Sharma pointed out: “There has been a rise in problems related to mental health all over the world and India in no different.
“Studies have suggested that three out of five people in India have symptoms of depression and one out of every five are clinically depressed.
“This along with the rising stress levels and unhealthy lifestyle has taken a toll on the general wellbeing of most Indians.”
The use of cannabis for mental health and psychiatric disorders have been widely debated by scientists and doctors. Jerome Sarris et. al., reported in BMC Psychiatry that isolated studies have shown medicinal cannabis in reducing social anxiety, stress, and even beneficial in people with ADHD although some research indicated no benefits for people with depression.
Hence, its use for mental health is still very nascent and researchers have called for additional studies in this area with safety considerations.
For Its Hemp, Sharma said with the shift towards health and wellbeing accelerated by Covid-19, cannabis products like CBD, seed products, and oils would offer a safe, non-intoxicating, and sustainable way to a healthier and better life.
“Ayurvedic cannabis supplements can provide an opportunity to deal with a number of these problems together without any strong or devastating side-effects.”
Amazon for cannabis
The firm was founded last year under the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade Startup India Program. The eight-staff strong team operates an online marketplace and knowledge resource.
The online marketplace is touted to be India’s first retailer selling hemp and hemp-based products some of which include hemp seed oil for arthritis, cannabis extract for eczema, hemp-containing chocolates and gummies as well as hemp protein powder.
Sharma compares its business to that of Amazon, working with manufacturers and distributors to retail their products on its online marketplace. “There are not many cannabis marketplaces in India, sure there are a few resellers here and there, but nobody is working on a proper marketplace model.”
Currently, there are 700 over products from about 35 brands on its platform. He told us: “We have the biggest collection of cannabis products available in India.”
Sharma added that the firm is also working with brands to help them understand what consumers were looking for in terms of cannabis products.
“We are trying to develop AI tech with recommendations for users when they answer a few questions on our platform.”
According to Sharma, cannabis is one of the most commonly used herbs in Ayurvedic formulations.
“Ayurveda has a deep and intricate history with cannabis. There are hundreds of formulations of cannabis or vijaya (as it is called in Ayurveda) that can be found in ancient Indian Ayurvedic texts.
“These formulations have been used to treat everything from stomach aches and loss of appetite to skin diseases like Psoriasis. There are also formulations to help with pain, sleep disorders, stress, anxiety and a plethora of other ailments.”
He explained: “We are improving on ancient Ayurverdic formulations and working with manufacturers to develop products combined with modern science.”
In India, the use of cannabis flowers and buds are banned, but the other parts of the plants such as the leaves are used for medical, research and horticulture purposes.
“That being said, the Indian Law does not explicitly ban or allow the use of CBD products and allows the use of cannabis plant extracts under Ayurveda to make dietary supplements,” Sharma said.
Most of the products (90%) available on Its Hemp platform are manufactured in India, although Sharma told us they also retail several brands (10%) from Nepal, United Kingdom, Germany and Denmark.
The firm said it undertakes a rigorous evaluation in selecting brands for its platform, with the process assessing nine parameters including quality, efficacy, and safety.
“There are various licensing and testing guidelines that the brands have to follow in order to manufacture hemp-based products in India. We only work with brands who can furnish the requisite reports and documents about their products especially bills of purchase of raw materials and certificate of analysis from third-party testing facilities. We hold our foreign sellers up to the same standards as well.”
While the firm is part of the government startup programme, it is mostly self-funded with the government providing tax benefits, mentoring, and networking support.
In the next few months, Sharma said the firm is looking for a pre-seeding round to raise about US$150,000 to expand its business.