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100-year-old Baidyanath eyes $2.5 Bn ayurvedic segment via online channel


There are hundreds of studies claiming that the market for ayurvedic medicines is worth billions of dollars. Multiple manufacturers are producing ayurvedic medicines under different brands in view of the market size.

But there was a time, when no such numbers existed about the market size and available opportunities in the segment, except that one company foresaw the potential of the sector – as long as 100 years ago.

Founded in 1917, Kolkata-based Baidyanath has been ahead of its time as a pioneer in ayurvedic medicine.

Not only that, Baidyanath was also the first company which launched an online platform in this space.

In 1998, the company launched AllAyurveda.com, which then offered content on ayurveda.

Fast forward 18 years, in the year 2016, the website – which had already been witnessing a continuous rise in traffic – thought of a turnaround. It took the plunge into ecommerce and launched a marketplace in the ayurvedic medicines’ segment.

“The vision of the company is to become the country’s largest natural, organic and ayurvedic portal,” said Sandeep Bali, CEO, AllAyurveda.com.

The marketplace, which works with ayurvedic medicine manufacturers, has over 4500 SKUs (stock keeping units) on its platform, of which around 1000 SKUs are from Baidyanath alone. It has tied up with over 45 companies to sell their products on the platform.

Growing graph falls flat

The large tie-ups and a large number of SKUs seem to be paying dividends for the company.

Last year, it clocked a turnover of $500,000 and claims to have broken-even already.

The platform also claims to witness around 1,50,000 unique users visiting the website on a monthly basis. It has a paid customer base of 30,000.

“We have been able to successfully acquire 40-50 per cent of the new traffic on the website,” said Bali.

However, the company hasn’t been able to convert more than one-fifth of the total visitors on the website. It admits that customer retention is the biggest challenge which has obstructed its growth numbers.

New acquisition strategy

“We aim to achieve the ambitious goal through technology that will empower both our e-commerce and content segments,” said Bali.

He explained that product discovery is still the biggest issue in this segment. Thus, the platform has categorised products and created a large list of categories. Besides, it has also created a search bar. Chat-based support system is another method through which the platform is solving the issue related to product discovery.

“We have trained personnel who give reply to the queries asked via the chat section. We have also enabled the chat through bots that, based on early interactions, can offer quick replies for simple queries. If it fails to apprehend the complicated queries, it directly forwards it to the ayurvedic doctors,” said Bali.

Tapping new shores

Currently, AllAyurveda.com has the largest market in metros accounting for 55 per cent of total sales. The demography of users varies between the 25-55 age group. The top selling categories are digestive health, sexual wellness, skin care and healthcare.

The company is aiming to increase the user base both in metros and smaller cities. This year, it aims to concentrate on fitness, beauty and personal care categories, where it also expects to see a fall in age demography of users.

AllAyurveda.com is also going to foray into other countries such as U.S., Russia, U.K and China.

The very next launch market will be the U.S., from where it receives around 25 per cent of total sales on the platform. “We have the whole set up such as warehouse, logistics, and distribution network in place in the U.S. We are also set to launch into that market,” said Bali.

The company is tweaking its strategy for the U.S market as it plans to sell ayurvedic products only.

Bali admitted that as the platform expands market base and business, it will witness an exceptional rise in burn rate. The company, which has currently broken even, will face the difficulty to remain so. However, it will try to maintain the financial status quo.

Market growth

In October last year, Union Minister of State for AYUSH Shripad Yesso Naik said a three-fold increase in market size of Ayurvedic products from $2.5 billion to $8 billion is expected by 2022.

“Ayurveda is witnessing a resurgence in India and around the globe. The government has already begun work on building All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)-like facilities for Ayurveda across India,” Minister Naik had then said.

The fact that Ayurveda provides a viable business opportunity is borne out by the long and successful runs of several brands in this field that include Dabur (launched 1884), Amrutanjan (launched 1893), Himalaya (launched 1930) Baidyanath (launched 1917), VICCO (launched 1952) and others.

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