‘Vaidya’ is the Sanksrit word for Ayurvedic doctor and, Ayurveda has been a strong part of Indian tradition and culture for the last 5,000 years. Somewhere along the way, with Western influence and, the advent of allopathy, this rich Indian science lost its way. While it is a part of Indian culture, consumers began to prefer the quicker fix and went to chemical alternatives while ignoring its natural forefather. Vaidyas though stayed true to their tradition and continued to practice through these times and tried earnestly to spread knowledge and heal using this effective yet natural form of ancient science.
The story was pretty similar in the Vaidya family. Dr. Dhrijajlal Vaidya (a 3rd Generation in Ayurveda) moved from Gujarat to Mumbai with almost nothing except his belongings and secret family formulations (Ayurvedic recipes). With time, he built stature and a family in Mumbai and his son Dr. Natwarlal Vaidya decided to follow suit. He graduated from medical school in 1957 and in 1971, took on his father’s medical practice. Even in the time that Ayurveda was not as popular, he assumed legendary status and saw more than 300 patients per day. More than 12,000 patients wrote to him on a monthly basis and but, true to his family tradition of healing, he never charged a penny for consultation.
While Dr. Natwarlal (Natoobhai as he was fondly known) healed thousands, Ayurveda was not as renowned and trusted as it is today. Natoobhai did not believe in sales, distribution, marketing or strategy and so never cared to build a business. In the years of his healing though, he also completely healed his grandson, Arjun Vaidya, completely of asthma. Arjun suffered from severe juvenile bronchitis and through 14 years of pain staking Ayurvedic treatment, he was completely healed. This started Arjun’s strong belief and bond with Ayuveda at a very young age.
In 2009, he went to Brown University in the US. Experiencing the natural and organic products revolution in the Northeast and seeing consumers pay more for products with natural ingredients got Arjun thinking. But, his experience with Yoga really shaped his thinking. Seeing Dutch, American and French yoga teachers at college and the creation of aa USD 20b industry with yoga mats, yoga pants, yoga gyms and yoga music got him thinking. While India was sleeping, the West has taken one of her jewels and repackaged it into a format that truly appealed to modern consumers. Why couldn’t this happen with Ayurveda, he thought.
With this thought, Arjun moved back to India in 2013. He left an India that was obsessed with imported products but came back to an India that had a new found energy. India was now proud of her identity as Indian consumers were happy to consumer quintessentially local products. Ayurveda was also experiencing a renaissance. With new found consumer interest and the creation of the Ministry of AYUSH, the sleeping giant was waking up. Unfortunately, Arjun’s grandfather, Natoobhai had become very ill and passed away in December, 2013.
Before Arjun went to college, his grandfather made him promise that he would take on the Ayurveda legacy at some point in his life. While he didn’t study medicine and embarked on a career in private equity, his grandfather’s image was always at the back of his mind. Arjun remembered what he saw in the US with Yoga and, in 2016 he quit his job and decided to do something with the family legacy. While yoga had been repackaged, Ayurveda still had a long way to go. Ayurveda was still perceived as boring, old school and poorly packaged – the industry needed a change. Thus, Arjun created a brand to change the perception of the science and make it cool, sexy, fun and aspirational to modern consumers. His work was a tribute to his grandfather and so, the brand was named Dr. Vaidya’s after Natoobhai.
Over the next 3 years, Dr. Vaidya’s launched some truly innovative products. True to its motto of “New Age Ayurveda”, the brand launched Chakaash – The Goodness of Chyawanprash in a Toffee and LIVitup – Hangover Shield. While most Ayurvedic brands grew with an offline focussed approach, Dr. Vaidya’s was truly new age in its approach her too. With the data and smartphone revolution taking place in India, Arjun saw an opportunity in solving the problem of access with Ayurveda. While urban consumers had access to Ayurvedic products and doctors, consumers outside India’s top cities needed more. They needed access to high quality Ayurvedic products and content. Arjun’s grandfather offered a free consultation to all of his patients and in the new avatar, he took this online. Dr. Vaidya’s began to offer this free consultation to its online patients medium agnostic i.e. via phone call, video call, Whatsapp, live chat or email. Adding easy to understand content, a unique product offering and the ease of online, consumers took to the brand’s offering.
Today, in just 3 years, the brand has gone from 0 to 1,000 orders a day just on its own website. It has grown from a team strength of 4 to 90 and successfully raised the largest funding round by an Ayurvedic start-up of USD 5m. Yet, if one is to ask Arjun, the work has just begun. He says, “each one of Dr. Vaidya’s products bears the mark, Proudly Indian on it and, we want to see this mark of India in 50 countries over the next 5 years.” The brand has already gotten some global recognition (being the first Ayurveda company to be featured in the Forbes Asia 30 U 30 list) but, Ayurveda exports are still very small at only ~USD 100m per year. Yoga was made a household name by the West and Dr. Vaidya’s wants to be THE Indian company that takes Ayurveda to the world.