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Caring personally with products from nature

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With a borrowed sum of Rs 5,000, Rajkumar Nanda nurtured a natural product to make it a brand, which in the present has earned him a whopping turnover of Rs 30 crore – and is pacing to touch the 100 crore-mark soon. Post this landmark, an IPO will list Nature’s Essence.

Saurabh Nanda, executive director, Nature’s Essence, in an exclusive interaction with Indiaretailing discusses the brand’s journey so far, and the way ahead.

Q. Nature’s Essence has gone through a rigorous and consistent brand-building process. Please tell us how it began.

A. My father had borrowed a sum of Rs 5,000 in 1998, to implement his idea. The value of that amount in that period was not much different than it is at present. The product was outsourced and we did the packaging ourselves with papers printed on our desktop printer.

It was my father’s confidence in the product and his ability to convince that bagged him a grand order after his first meeting with the distributor. Though the product failed in the market, that was when Nature’s Essence was born. You cannot learn to walk unless you fall and get up again.

Q. How did you manage to reach your clientele without publicity? What made the brand presence so wide?

A. There was a vacuum in the herbal products category, and not many products could fill in that gap. We see unbounded opportunity here and are expanding our business by providing quality products at affordable prices.

Quality is the most used word in the industry, but if maintained, it is the mantra for every product’s success. We have never compromised on quality and authenticity of the product. Our specialisation is herbal products, and our team of experts work on natural formulations to constantly come up with innovations.

For presence in retail stores, we rely on our 700-strong network of distributors. We do not simply sell a product through them, but make sure that they have good knowledge of the product and are passing it on to the retailer. Retailers can convince a consumer only if he himself is convinced.

Q. What are your expansion plans? How is the company going about it?

A. We aspire to be in the top slot in the personal-care products category, and have major expansion plans for next two years. We are planning to have a pan-India presence by expanding our distributor network in the country to 2,000. Exclusive brand outlets are also on the cards. We will also be present at the upcoming international airport in Greater Noida.

At the moment, we are present in multi-brand outlets, department stores, pharmacies and salons across the country. The brand is available in Big Bazaar, Reliance Retail, Apollo chain of pharmacies, Guardian Lifecare pharmacies, Ebony and Big Apple, among others.

To extend the idea of educating and serving consumers, the company will open exclusive company-owned salons. The salons will provide skin and personal care services, and the experts at the salons will guide consumers about the best remedies possible. All Nature’s Essence products will be used at, and also sold through, these salons. Franchising of such salons is also being considered.

Internationally, we aim to have presence in 35 countries by 2008. The brand is currently retailing in over 16 countries. We have tied up with Al Kamali Group for its operations in Arabian countries.

Q. Any plans to expand the product portfolio?

A. We keep adding products in our portfolio. We believe in creating a need in the mind of the consumer, with the products we make. It is more about educating a customer about his personal care needs and providing him/her with the product as a solution for the same.

We have recently introduced the personal care range for men and will launch a colour cosmetics range at ongoing India International Trade Fair (IITF), where we have the biggest stall among all participants in our category of business.

We have about 20 products that are sold directly to the consumer, while some 200 products are in the professional segment, which go to salons and other beauty and health care service providers as also pharmacies. The company is also manufacturing certain products as private labels for some of the leading retail chains across the world.

The Nature’s Essence team of professional researchers and experts is consistently studying and experimenting to introduce innovative products in the market. At present, we have our manufacturing base in Haridwar, Uttaranchal. About 200 persons work in the 6,500 square metres unit. In two years’ time, a 1,500 square metres unit will get operational in Kotdwar, also located in Uttaranchal.

Q. The brand has created a niche and been able to establish a good retail network. How has it strengthened the company financially?

A. The company has been witnessing a multifold growth in the last few years and touched the Rs 30-crore mark this fiscal. We are confident of achieving Rs 100 crore turnover within two years, and have set a target of Rs 300-400 crore for year 2010. We will announce an IPO once we reach Rs 100 crore.

Additionally, we have clocked around five crore rupees through exports.

Q. Now that you are concentrating more on the consumer segment, what will be the branding strategy?

A. We have set aside an advertising budget of Rs 7-8 crore. The brand will focus primarily on electronic media and is in the process of roping in a celebrity for endorsement. Meanwhile, participation in major events like trade fairs and expositions will continue.

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