Health is wealth. All our earnings will be in vain if we end up being in a hospital bed. In today’s world, where everything has been copied from the western, the lifestyle we possess has also been deluded. Gone are those days where people had a mortality age of 85+. But the best change we saw in the lifestyle was the advent of “Ache din”. These good days which came in our lives 4 years back has created a wave of health and fitness concern. There has been a drastic change in the exercise regimen of the people.
Nowadays not only the golden agers but also the millennials have become health conscious. And what way could be the best than our own Indian Yoga. Needless to mention that Yoga has been the most effective way to create a healthy balance in our lives, we can see immediate results by practicing it correctly.
With correct knowledge about the asana and kriya, we need other supplementary things to be perfect. Have you imagined how can your practicing yoga benefit the environment around you? Or how can you as a Yoga practitioner ensure your part to save the environment?
Yoga asana are performed on a mat. This mat has importance which cannot be undermined. To have a yoga mat which is made of non-biodegradable components is like having a two edged sword. You use it only to realise that you have made a wrong choice.
Similar issue was faced by Puja Borker. While training herself in Yoga she was unable to find a yoga mat for her. She along with her husband Sudarshan Borker decided to resolve this issue. This gave birth to JURU Yoga Pvt. Ltd.
JURU Yoga is the brainchild of a husband-wife duo that was taken aback by the unavailability of Indian yoga mats made up from natural material.
At JURU Yoga, they specialise in 100% organic cork yoga mats that contains no toxic material or harmful chemicals. JURU cork yoga mat is a perfect companion for your yoga practice, with features like good grip, anti slip, reversible and durability. Their yoga mats are washable and smells earthy, making it the genuine and the best cork yoga mat that can last for years. JURU yoga is the best place to shop for yoga enthusiast. They do not only offer yoga mats but all the other products like eco-friendly yoga props knee pillow, eye pillow, rectangular and cylindrical bolsters, yoga mat bags.
This brand is saving the environment of all the toxic plastics. A huge shout out to this startup for the painstaking efforts. Grab your yoga mat soon before you start our yogic journey. Also let us have a look at their venture closely in this exclusive interview.
1.What is the Name of Your Venture? Any specific reason for this name?
Name of our venture is JURU Yoga Pvt Ltd, a eco conscious yoga brand from India.
JURU means joy and happiness, also portmanteau of JUte and natural RUbber, – both indigenous to India.
2.Who is your target Audience/clients?
Our target audience are yoga practitioners who practice at least 3 days a week. Yoga teachers and those planning to pursue a yoga TTC course in yoga, understand the need to own a natural and non-slip yoga mat. Thus we find that most of our customers fall in this category. In general, yoga-lovers continue to be our main target audience and this number in US alone is more than 36 million currently and growing.
Apart from this, international chain of spas and retreats have a customer base that appreciates and understands the need to make conscious decisions, such as choosing something organic or natural over plastic and non-biodegradable product.
3.Where is your venture based (city, state, country) & What are your geographical target areas?
We are based in Chennai and target India and International geographies in US, Canada, Japan, UAE, SEA
4.What problems does your venture resolve? What are your products or services?
A mat is as important to yoga practitioner as a weapon is to a soldier. Most of the common mats that are found in the market are made of what the environmental bodies are calling one of the most toxic plastic, that is PVC. These mats tend to have a short life-span, they begin to flake, smell, and become really slippery which is highly risky for a practice like yoga where much emphasis is given on balance and alignment. Also PVC can cause damage to the liver, reproductive system, central nervous system and respiratory system. Phthalates and toxic metals are used to make mats sticky and durable. Both can seep in with mat use and cause cancer. Moreover, yoga ais all about improving breathing capacity for good health and close contact with a PVC mat is likely to harm the body (not benefit).
Also considering yoga is from India, back when we started in 2014, it was really tough to get a quality and natural yoga mat in India. Most of the leading brands are American or are from Canada and Europe.
Thus we were inspired to make a mat that reflects the yogic principles, that of peace and harmony by being 100% natural and also make it in the birthplace of yoga, India.
We had started with matover – now called JURU travel and meditation mat, made of jute and natural rubber. It is light, foldable, reversible with two unique surfaces and is ideal as a mat-overlay or by itself as a travel mat on any soft natural surface like sand or garden. For those looking at investing in a durable and high-performance yoga mat, we have 5 kinds of cork mats to choose from, and the best part is, all come with the same advantages mentioned above. We have a perfect mat for every yogi. Main features of our mats are – excellent grip , reversible, odorless, comes with an antimicrobial surface ( a self-cleaning surface – which is one of the main highlights as you really do not have to worry about bacteria/allergies/infections), it is dust repellent and 100% natural – making it the ideal mat for yoga – where much emphasis is given on breathing.
Apart from yoga mats, we have a whole range of eco-friendly yoga props like knee pillow, eye pillow, rectangular and cylindrical bolsters, yoga mat bags, sandbag, cork blocks, yoga belts, blankets, etc. We work closely with the yoga community and continue to grow and innovate based on the feedback we receive. Our unique prop – headstand pillow (first of its kind) has gained popularity in the international yoga community. We are planning to launch a few more unique accessories in yoga and wellness category.
5.Share the idea or story behind the venture. How did it came to an existence? What motivated you to start your own venture?
I spent close to 8 years working for my family business (textbook publishing). the government’s announcement of supplying common textbooks to schools did not go in our favor. The private publishing houses had taken a big hit and we were one of them. Around this time Sudarshan (now my husband) and I had started a firm together in 2010, to provide a low-cost solution IT solution to schools that will enable them implement e-learning including language labs at a lower cost. Both of us were struggling with time and resources and could not really hire more people to help us expand to rural areas, which was our main target audience. We thus decided to close the business after 3 years. We moved to Bangalore and I decided to get certified in yoga teacher training
After I had completed yoga teacher training course and had started teaching part-time, I found myself struggling with my mat and this lead to some research in what goes into making some of the best and preferred yoga mats by popular yoga schools and teachers. Apart from performance, it was the idea of keeping it all natural. It is then when I realised that the mat we have been practicing on is made of PVC – definitely not the kind of material you want to practice yoga on!
Interestingly, all the popular brands were from the USA. Around this time, the make-in-India wave had caught up and motivated me to speak to local manufacturers and brainstorm ideas of how we can make something similar, here in India! I also wanted the mat to be natural and I did not want to compromise on grip!
I continued to work part-time and also continued with product R&D and testing. The first sample was ready – a mat over made of jute and natural rubber. It wasn’t exactly a thick yoga mat, but it was a perfect solution for avoiding contact with your slippery yoga mat made of PVC. I thought the name (JURU ) reflects all that we wanted the mat to be . My first business partner, also a part-time yoga teacher and now a good friend – loved the suggested name and agreed that we should keep it natural and also keep it Indian. We were pleased with the mat-over’s performance and started using it in our classes. Our students started to inquire. We began selling. And that’s how it all started!
We started sharing more info on our page, about the harmful effects of a PVC mat, explaining how much of a difference a natural matover can make. We then started collecting customer feedback and were pleased to know that quite a few of them appreciated that we were a made-in-India brand and that as yogis we really understood there struggle with a regular mat and were committed to give them a natural alternative.
The announcement of International Yoga Day by Prime Minister Narendra Modi inspired more people to take up yoga and also shifted the focus of yoga’s origin/roots back to India.We started receiving requests from existing customers for props and yoga mats and also international inquiries. We sourced a few more manufacturers and that is how one thing lead to another.
6.Who are your biggest competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
Our biggest competitors are US based brands like Manduka, Jade Yoga who also offer eco friendly mats, we will scale with a variety of other yoga wellness products that are eco-friendly and made in India.
Recently we were faced with the issue of addressing differences and distinguishing some inferior quality cork yoga mats sold in the market sourced from China. We continue to overcome this because of the quality we offer and hopefully the GOI has plans to stop influx of toxic yoga products to India.
7.How did you identify your co-founder? Tell us some thing about your co-founder/s
My first co-founder was Toral Walsh (a good friend now) who was also teaching yoga part-time. We had completed our teacher training together and shared the same interest, that is the need to go eco-friendly and finding a natural mat for our yoga practice. For the first one and half years, we were mainly selling it direct and taking orders on facebook. We launched our website just before participating in the yoga festival; however, it wasn’t an ecommerce site. We were purely a bootstrapped business model. There was a noticeable increase in inquiries (geography and number wise) post Jan 2015 but we were not prepared to put in any extra funds or cater to all requests (competitive shipping rates, online payments, customization, etc). My business partner was also planning to relocate (internationally) and we were not sure how we could close/transfer operations. Sudarshan suggested I speak to a few investors and consultants known to him and explain the business model and the market potential. This phase also got him interested in the yoga market as such. He was convinced that I should continue without worrying about immediate returns or investments and just focus on sales. We decided to move back to Chennai and register a private limited company and JURU Yoga was registered in November 2016.
Sudarshan brings with him 14 years or marketing and start-up experience and has worked extensively in making JURU a truly global brand.
8.How did you hired your first team members? What skills Do you want in your employees/team?
We sourced our team member from internshala, who currently is working with us as a graphics designer.
Growing a positive culture in the organization is important to successfully grow brand equity.
We look for candidates who can be creative in their space.
9.What expansion plans are you looking for the next 2 years, next 5 years?
We are looking at growing our distribution network internationally and increase our product range by offering other competitive eco products in yoga and wellness category.
10.Where do you want to see yourself in next 10 years?
We see ourselves as a leading global yoga brand from India with a majority market share of the international yoga market, which is currently valued at around US $80billion.
11.What are your goals over the next 1, 3, 6 and 12 months?
Grown a strong distribution network, build effective branding and marketing channels and also offer a customer centric ecommerce experience.
12.Have you raised any funding? Or have any plans for the funding?
We are a bootstrapped and sustainable business, and are actively meeting and talking to potential investors.
13.What were the problems you faced during the starting days and how did you resolve them?
Our biggest challenge has been gaining the trust of our target customers and also building and maintaining our relationship with our manufacturers. Being just a part-time yoga teacher with a new product, (which has now become a trusted brand) we spent much time and resources educating the users about the pros of cons of what they currently use and why they should make the switch to JURU Yoga mat.
We noticed that JURU’s biggest strength was its network of yogis and understanding their need and this was made possible by reaching out to them offline and online. We started sharing a lot of info on our social media page about benefits of using natural mats and harmful effects of toxic mats. Due to limited resources, we were very selective about the events we could participate in and worked with a strict/no marketing budget as such. Fortunately, the few events we decided to be a part of worked completely in our favor and gave me the confidence to continue R&D and launch more yoga mats.
It was only when we registered as private limited,we launched our e-commerce website, tied up with more like-minded retail partners and also worked on building our online brand presence on social media and through our blog.
14.What was the most challenging part of your journey till now? How did you overcome those challenges?
Now, as a Pvt Ltd, The biggest challenge we faced during expansion was to find the right logistic and digital marketing partner. We wanted to ensure our monthly sales do not drop. With growing online presence, we had to ensure we continue to innovate and have something new for existing users and keep them engaged. We were first trying hard to get in investments, so we could get the right people involved to expand. But when Sudarshan decided to join JURU full-time we took a decision to continue to sustain and expand as a boot-strapped model. When we got our first export order last year, things had begun to move in a faster pace since then.
Learning from our previous mistakes, we did not wait too long to stop something we were not happy about or launch something new we were 100% sure of. We experimented with a few digital agencies but realised we understand our market the best. We shifted to our own office space at the right time and continue to work with freelancers and Interns.
We have not just managed to maintain but have considerably grown our monthly sales and draw more traffic directly to our site. We have also started catering to international e-commerce sales and have tied up with logistic aggregators to offer better services. Sudarshan was keen on getting the DIPP recognition and we were thrilled to get the certificate under the StartupIndia initiative. We continue to place JURU as the global yoga brand that will rise from India!
We started 2018 with a target to be a recognisable yoga brand from India, and are excited to be part of the Festival of Bharat promoted globally by the Govt of India, to be held at Rajpath, New Delhi in April.
15.Are you married, single or in a relationship?
Sudarshan and I have been married since 2012.
16.What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Yoga and meditation currently top the list of my hobbies. It has been tough to get a non-work time in the last 3 years; however, I continue to take time off for my yoga practice and have also started teaching part-time again.
Apart from that, I love to write. My first novel was published in 2014 and I am hoping that soon I can take some time off to get back to completing my second book.
17.What’s your favorite food & holiday destination?
I love South Indian meals (vegetarian) and currently have Rajasthan on my list of holiday destination.
18.Whom do you consider your idol or biggest motivator?
My dad has always been and continues to be my biggest influencer. He was a self-made businessman and I have grown up seeing him face challenges (and overcome them) with courage and smile.
19.What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
I feel the the major difference is in the habit of staying motivated and being patient, even if nothing is moving as desired. Entrepreneurs get an opportunity to solve a mass problem with their venture while working on their passion, working for someone else is not bad either as long as you are working on something you are really passionate about.
20.If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I am grateful for the lessons learned and thus I don’t think I would like to change anything in the past.
21.How has being an entrepreneur affected your family & Social life?
The entrepreneurial spirit teaches you to never give-up and stay optimistic. The stress or point of stagnation can leave you in doubt (at times) but you eventually come out a stronger person. This I believe is a great attitude to have both in personal and professional life – however, without the practice of Yoga, I would have remained ignorant about this work-life balance. Moreover, my work demands I learn more about what I love, that is yoga, and connect with more yogis. I can thus say that my entrepreneurial venture, JURU Yoga, has had a rather positive impact on my family and social life.
22.Anything, you would like to say to our readers or upcoming entrepreneurs?
Every failure and every success is a lesson and not your final destination. Learn and move on. Also, it is important to remember that you do not have to do it alone. Working with like-minded people will help you reach your goal fast and also make your journey fun and memorable.
23.Tell us something about your education & family background.
I am a certified yoga teacher; however, I wasn’t introduced to yoga in childhood as such. I was in my early twenties when my family decided that all of us should learn yoga together. It was a wonderful experience, at least 2 hours of yoga, 3 days a week. We managed 3 months of routine. By then I had completed my BA Hons in International Business Administration from UK and was preparing for GMAT to pursue MBA in USA. My dad has always been and continues to be my biggest influencer. He was a self-made businessman and I have grown up seeing him face challenges (and overcome them) with courage and smile. A car accident in 2013 had resulted in spinal injury as a result of which he was bedridden for almost 14 years. He breathed his last on 17th September 2017. I spent close to 8 years working in our family business of educational publishing.
24.What is your USP which makes it unique & different from other start-ups in similar domains.
JURU is a yoga brand by yogis and this we believe has really helped us understand what will make a yoga practitioner happy. We are also committed to being eco-friendly and a made-in-India brand and continue to grow with the same belief. One of our important growth hack at JURU Yoga is to make products for our customers , listen to them and solve their problem, that has been our only growth hack till date and its working great!
25. What do you think is the biggest threat to the success of small businesses & Start-ups today?
The biggest threat we face today as startup is that large organizations (retail) try and squeeze you for every penny you make, the ecosystem is not aligned to support startups. Big brick and mortar retailers should make it easy for new ingenious consumer brands to be visible in their channels. Huge discounts make it hard to offer a quality product and cheap Chinese products are flooded.
26. Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?
We started this year with a vision to be recognised as a yoga brand from India, and proud to be associated with some highly publicised yoga events in India, which has taken us a step closer to what we would like to achieve in the next 5 years.
27.Please share complete name, address, phone number, email id & website of Your Business & Contact Person
JURU Yoga Pvt Ltd, New #5 (old # 3/1) TTK Road 1st Cross Street, Alwarpet, Chennai 600 018.
Email: [email protected]
Co-founder – Sudarshan Borker , [email protected], Tel: 9916116278