Roping in the right business partners

Roping in the right business partners

Krishan Guptaa, Managing Director and Global Chief-executive, Organic India

Bhupendra Singh runs a cable network business in the Vidarbha region and is based in Chandrapur. Confined to a wheel chair for over five years due to a knee problem, he could not stand despite several treatments. His daughter, one day, brought him a few Organic India formulations, Flexibility and Osteoseal – herbal supplements for bone-related problems from a Fab India store where Organic India products are retailed. Within four weeks he was on his feet and shared these products with his friends having similar problems.

But the story does not end there. Convinced about the effectiveness of these products, Singh persistently followed up with Organic India to open an exclusive outlet for Organic India in Chandrapur.

According to Krishan Guptaa, managing director and global chief-executive, Organic India, Lucknow, this is how the outlets in Meerut, Dharamshala and Lucknow came up too – through keen customers wanting to distribute its products.

Backing belief

Organic India, which produces and retails organically grown products – mainly herbs and related formulations – plans to open 12 stores this year. It has already identified partners in Gurgaon, Hyderabad and Bhopal. “We do not want people looking for quick money, but only those who are convinced about our product line,” clarifies Guptaa.

Its numbers justifies the patronage it already has. The company recorded a turnover of Rs. 60 crore last year and is expected to touch Rs 100 crore this fiscal ending March 2011. In the next three to four years, it plans to double its turnover, which Guptaa claims is a conservative estimate. Apart from having its exclusive retail outlets on the distribution side, the company also plans to strengthen its supply base by adding farmers to the current base. Take for instance, the company’s initiative in Chitoor, Andhra Pradesh where it has started a dehydrating unit for drying mangoes. This is in collaboration with the U.S-based FDFI (Fine Dried Food Intl, Inc.). It is also planning to encourage organic mango cultivation here and has partnered with farmers from this region.

The story so far

It was necessity that brought about the creation of the company. Organic India was established in 1997 when Dr. Narendra Singh – a qualified medical professional with experience in herbal formulations – discovered that existing formulations that used herbs grown with pesticides were ineffective. This motivated him to start the company with Yoav Lev and his wife Holly Lev, whom he met by chance and who shared his faith in traditional medicine. Till 2006, the trio focused on strengthening organic cultivation, but the journey was not smooth. Though there were several farmers growing crops organically, they were wary of organisations getting involved due to bitter experiences in the past. “Dr. Singh is from Azamgadh and he started with one farm in the region. Slowly, it grew and today, we have thousands of farmers working with us,” points out Guptaa. The company invested close to Rs. 100 crore in that period, mostly through funds from the founders and worked hard to convince the farmers about their commitment to Organic India’s vision.

It entered the market in 2007, ensuring a strong supply chain, with four variants of tulsi tea. Today, it has 18 variants of tulsi tea, 26 formulations or health supplements, ghee and Chyavanprash as its major products. Organic India is also into grains due to the demand in the market.

Communicating the benefits

Organic India’s 250 sales people educate doctors and retailers through presentations to create awareness on the benefits of organically grown products over others. The ghee, for instance, is produced from cows that are not injected with hormones and the milking is done in the traditional method, causing less stress to the cow. The milk is returned to the calf after taking the butter out.

“It may seem as if organically produced products are more expensive. But, where you need a spoon of non-organic ghee to get its benefits, three fourth a spoon of organic ghee is enough,” says Guptaa. Their strategy is to promote awareness about organic products rather than sell Organic India products. He also stresses that more than the grains, it is in the herbal products that organic growth matters more. For a festival like Holi, the company has introduced organic colours made from tulsi and turmeric. “Regular colours are carcinogenic. There was a purpose behind celebrating Holi with colours – to prevent germs prevalent during the change of season from harming us. But, by using synthetic colours, we increase the risk to our skin and body,” he says.

 

At Organic India, exports contribute to over 60 per cent of the company’s revenues. The brand is now sold in 35 countries across continents.

 

Educative articles in health magazines, emailers and other information presented on the Internet are some ways of creating awareness. Guptaa also conducts lectures in colleges and institutions to spread awareness on the benefits of consuming organically grown products. Visitors from abroad who have used Organic India products become their ambassadors and today, exports constitute 60 per cent of the company’s revenues. The brand is now sold in 35 countries across continents.

Closer home, display boards and dispensing machines in strategic locations such as malls and airports (currently in Lucknow) are the other ways the company plans to promote awareness.

‘Organic’ growth

“The greatest challenge is in having a team that embraces our vision,” says Guptaa. Currently, the company employs 400 people as direct employees, in addition to contract workers at research centres and farms, and the farmers.

Research is the backbone of the company, lead by Dr. Singh in collaboration with scientists from India and the U.S. The intention is to marry tradition with the modern and substantiate claims with proof. The products are also certified as required across the globe.

Clearly, for Organic India, growth includes having the right partners – be it on the production side or retail, the right products and the right people.

Meera Srikant has been working with publishers and publications since 1993, writing and editing articles, features and stories across topics. She also blogs and writes poems, novels and short stories during leisure. Writing for The Smart CEO since 2010, she is also a classical dancer.