When the pandemic began, little was known about COVID-19, except that it was highly contagious and people with comorbidities were worse off. But even that much spurred 61-year-old Pushpa, who has been a diabetic and suffering from hypertension for over 15 years now. She resolved to (finally) start on a journey towards being healthy and fit.
“What do you do when you are in the midst of a pandemic with no cure in sight? The only logical thing for me to do was to take care of my family’s physical and mental well-being by way of nutrition” says Pushpa Kansil, Founder of Vedic Blends.
“Growing up, the answer to all wellness and nutritional first-aid came from my mother’s kitchen. She had a solution for almost everything; her form of nutrition was functional. I took a leaf out of her book and started using herbal blends, teas, and concoctions to better my family’s health.”
As the weeks passed and the pandemic spread, it became clearer that it would take months, if not years, for normalcy to restore. At the same time, the economy was nose-diving, taking with it many businesses – big and small – including that of her husband, who has a manufacturing facility catering to the automotive aftermarket sector.
The COVID-19 induced lockdown seemed like the final nail in the coffin.
“On the COVID-19 front, there was no cure in sight, and on the business front, no visibility on cash flows. With the livelihoods of our employees dependent on us, we just couldn’t get ourselves to close down the business, knowing it could be months before they would find other opportunities. We had to adapt, and quickly,” says Pushpa.
By then, Pushpa had created several recipes that boosted immunity using superfoods and herbs. The word also got out, creating a steady demand within her extended family and among her friends. This is what sparked the idea for ‘Vedic Blends’ – a bootstrapped startup focussed on creating plant-based functional herbal blends and concoctions.
A befitting response to both the sides of the pandemic – it aimed at not only bringing back a focus on health but also helped sustain employment for existing employees of the family and expanding to accommodate more, despite the economic downturn.
“When we started, I was making our products at home, and the reach was limited by word of mouth. But it helped us find our feet and a set of loyal customers who speak highly about the quality, taste and efficacy. The real growth started when my son helped us build our presence online. The same set of people who were using our unbranded products became our biggest proponents.”
Vedic Blends now has an FSSAI approved facility, retails on Amazon India and their own website, ships pan India and has an in-house nutritionist. Current offerings include products aimed at physical and mental well-being – Project Metabolism, Project Immunity, Project De-Stress and a one-of-its-kind Turmeric Almond Latte.
“We want to create value-added, functional products using nature’s best adaptogens, herbs and superfoods. When I think of a new product, I think of my kids and try to answer the following questions – can they fix it in under 2 minutes? What value does it add? Is it effective? Does it taste good? We knew we had got our products right when we started getting repeat orders, for us there can be no greater validation” says Pushpa, a mother of two.
Overcoming challenges of building a new business from scratch (raw material supply chain, packaging, production and logistics) during the lockdown wasn’t easy, especially for a 61-year-old who used to struggle with technology.
“The way to do business has changed completely. Most things had to be managed and coordinated remotely or online to minimize exposure. Everyone chipped in. My husband helped me set up food-grade manufacturing and establish best practices. Technology played a big role in helping us locate and connect with quality suppliers all over India. Extended family located in different parts of the country helped. I am proud to say that Vedic Blends now sources from farms & suppliers in Tamil Nadu, the Western Ghats and other parts of India. It is a phenomenal experience, and the learning curve is steep. The biggest challenge for me was and remained to get comfortable with technology – some things I understand, some things I don’t, but I learn every day.”
The micro-manufacturing unit is located in New Delhi. “Batch type production enables us to ship out the freshest blends to our customers.” Vedic Blends is funded by the mother-son duo’s savings. “It wasn’t an easy decision, putting our savings in a business that is fiercely competitive. Hence, it is a matter of great pride for us that our customer repeat percentage is more than 48%, we featured on Luke Coutinho’s wellness market and this Diwali we are doing festive gifting for a few families, startups and corporates, including Coromandel.”
A Botanist and Masters in Law by education, Pushpa, has worked as an editor at a law publishing in the past. “So many people are struggling without jobs, and the economic outlook looks dim. Small businesses will play a big part in the recovery and movements like ‘Vocal for Local’ help. We must all do our best to bring more people into the workforce and ensure a part of our spend goes to small businesses. I believe in Empowerment by Employment, and so far, Vedic Blends has enabled me to employ two women. My vision is to be able to support five more in the next six months.”
What can we expect in the future from Vedic Blends?
“We are strengthening our product portfolio with two product launches planned this year and a new category launch early next year. We will stay true to our product philosophy – all of these products will be proprietary plant-based recipes and formulations in the wellness and nutrition category. We are working to partner with e-grocery retailers and speciality stores. The ultimate goal is to spread the magic of India’s heritage at a global level.”
Get in touch with Vedic Blends here.
(Written by Abhinav Kansil and edited by Vinayak Hegde)