Building A Career In New Age Ayurveda
By Arjun Vaidya, CEO of Dr. Vaidya’s
‘Vaidya’, my last name is the Sanskrit word for Ayurvedic doctor and I come from a family with more than 150 years of Ayurveda heritage. While most around me grew up with allopathy, I grew up with an Ayurvedic lifestyle. I still grew up in the India of the 90s and early 2000s though where as consumers, we were obsessed with imported products. We played with Chinese remote controlled cars – anything Indian was perceived as second tier. During this time, Ayurveda and ‘Brand India’ has lost some appeal and at the back of my mind, I knew that things needed to change.
At the same time, Yoga had undergone a renaissance. The West completely rebranded this ancient Indian creation. With yoga pants, yoga gyms and yoga mats, today Yoga became cool, aspirational – repackaged for the 21st century. In its new avatar, Yoga become a global phenomenon and reached a market size of>USD 20b industry in the US. The West also underwent an organic revolution with Whole Foods type stores becoming a part of daily lifestyle. Western consumers became tired of chemicals in daily consumption and went back to our natural roots.
I lived in the US in the 2000s (from 2009-2013) and saw this movement first hand. After my education at Brown Univeristy in the US, I started a career in private equity. I worked for the consumer sector investing arm of the Louis Vuittton Moet Hennessy Group (L Capital Asia) and worked specifically on Indian consumers and brands. I was seeing something change. The consumer obsession with imported products that I grew up with was changing, as Indians began to grow proud of their heritage and became excited to consume quintessentially Indian products. The revolution that has taken the West by storm was coming to India.
Given the change in lifestyle and the macroeconomic scenario of change in government, India is experienced somewhat of an Ayurveda renaissance. A change in government in 2014, brought a new life to the science. With the creation of the Ministry of AYUSH and general consumer interest, large consumer companies began to create herbal product lines – something they had ignored for years!Yet, knowledge on the Ayurvedic science was dwindling. People above 60 would most likely know that Bhringraj is an important component of Ayurvedic hair oils but someone in their 20s will most likely have no clue.
When my grandfather passed in 2013, I began to think that our family Ayurveda legacy needed to be carried forward. What I saw is that natural foods and cosmetics have got large scale adoption in India (and of course around the world). Ayurvedic medicine (the core of my family’s knowledge) still had some way to go on the other hand. Modern consumers needed to be explained the science in a form that appealed to them, something they could access. For some reason, a large number of Ayurvedic product brands were stuck in the past and without ‘talking’ to the new consumers the task of connecting seemed very challenging.
Modern consumers suffer from lifestyle issues like poor eating, lack of sleep and stress which Ayurveda can actually address. But, decades of Ayurvedic brands could not establish a connect with modern consumers. With 150 years of family legacy, I felt a duty towards my name, this rich science and most of all my grandfather. What he took to thousands of his patients needed to be shared with millions in India and around the world. Thus, I quit my job and began a career in New Age Ayurveda. I was entering into an industry which I knew very little about but had faith as in terms of potential, I thought Ayurveda was still scratching the surface. If yoga underwent a renaissance and became a global phenomenon – why couldn’t Ayurveda!…
We launched Dr. Vaidya’s in October 2016 as a brand focused on “New Age Ayurveda”. Our motto is to take 150 years of family legacy and 5,000 years of science to consumers with packaging, branding and communication that is appealing to them. Understanding that Chyawanprash is bitter, sticky and inconvenient, our brand launched Chakaash – the World’s first Chyawanprash in a toffee form. While the paste version is good for you, palatability is a big problem. So, we took the super concentrated extract of Chyawanprash that we had in our family repository (as a capsule) and added it to a toffee to give you the goodness of the immunity and energy boost without the bitterness and stickiness of the paste. And voila! Kids actually started liking Chyawanprash in its repackaged form. Similarly, our brand launched LIVitup – Hangover Shield and Cycloherb to solve the modern lifestyle problem of PCOD.
In just 3 years, Dr. Vaidya’s has scaled to become India’s largest Ayurvedic products brand online, raised a series A of USD 5m and been featured in the Forbes 30 U 30 Asia List. The message of new age Ayurveda was one that consumers were waiting for as they needed a gateway to this age-old science in a format that actually appealed to them. Making a career switch to Ayurveda was a difficult one at the time because it meant a move from a stable finance job to a completely new world. While the experience has been tough, it has also been a very rewarding one and one that still has a very long road ahead. At Dr. Vaidya’s, each one of our products bears the mark, ‘Proudly Indian’ and wewill get this mark of India and new age Ayurveda to more than 50 countries in the next 5 years.
About the author – An ardent believer in the concept of Ayurveda with commendable business acumen, Arjun Vaidya is the CEO of Dr. Vaidya’s, a brand that is redefining modern-day Ayurveda. Hailing from a lineage of Ayurvedic experts, Arjun took it upon himself to establish a brand that would honor his family’s 150- year-old legacy and take it to the 21st century to cater to the requirements of new-age customers.
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