How often do we hear our parents attribute a good lifestyle with healthy food habits and a proper sleep cycle, as a solution to most of our problems?
Quite often, 26-year-old Vibha Harish admits, whose life changed after having followed this mantra.
Vibha was in her late teens when she was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD), a hormonal disorder quite common among Indian women. A young college student then, the struggle with PCOD and her quest to find a suitable treatment upended her life.
“My periods were irregular, I had severe acne and hair fall. I visited many doctors and opted for various treatments. But nothing helped,” says the Bengaluru resident, who was 18 at the time.
She wanted to get her PCOD under control and not the other way around, and, eventually, found a solution in this age-old wisdom.
“Within a few months of taking a herbal and ayurvedic approach to my lifestyle, I noticed a drastic change in my health. Even my PCOD was now under control,” says Vibha.
It was around the same time that she noticed many brands were offering wellness products that were fixated on providing a quick solution.
“For example, for acne, there were creams that solved the problem overnight. However, they were not focussed on providing an overall change in health and a long-term solution which would prevent the condition from recurring,” she adds.
She wanted to share with the world the alternative solution– a wholesome approach that had helped her, and so decided to launch a business that offers herbal, plant-based products which are focussed on enhancing the body through nutrition.
Within a single year, her brand CosMix, clocked a turnover of Rs 2 crores and Vibha got featured in the Forbes Asia’s 30 Under 30 list, for her brilliant idea that has helped hundreds of women across India.
Herbal approach to health
In the initial months of struggling with PCOD, Vibha tried a number of solutions. She consumed a variety of medicines that offered immediate results. They helped improve her skin condition and even minimize hair fall, but all these positive outcomes were short lived, A few weeks later, the same problems would resurface.
“This took a toll on me and I felt there was no escape from PCOD. However, my mother, Rashmi Harish who is a homoeopathy doctor in Bengaluru suggested that I try an ayurvedic approach to my diet. At first, I was unsure about it and did not take her advice. But every day, my mother would add superfoods or herbs like ashwagandha or Shatavari into my food. Slowly, my skin began getting clearer and within a few months my periods were regular too,” says Vibha.
These positive results prompted her to read scientific research papers on how such ingredients impacted and enhanced health and helped plant the seed of creating positive impact in her mind. Even after graduation, while working for a corporate company for a year, she continued to contemplate on the lack of work in this area that was brimming with potential. The fact that many companies were yet to tap into the use of herbal alternatives for women’s health bothered her to a point that she decided to start her own venture.
“Instead of waiting for others to bring these solutions to the world, I decided to work on them myself. So, I quit my job and started speaking to herbalists and ayurvedic practitioners from all around the world including Singapore, USA among others. With their help as well as my mother’s, I was able to understand how a mix of two herbs can benefit a bodily function. Apart from this, I also took a short online course on Herbalism,” says Vibha.
Once she acquired a good understanding of the benefits of different herbs, she registered her business in January 2019. She then visited several farms across Karnataka to identify organic cultivators and began to formulate six different products that helped improve gut health and build immunity.
“One had a mix of triphala, jeera and other fibres for improving gut health, while another had reishi mushrooms and spirulina for building immunity. By the end of 2019, I came up with six different products. All of them are natural and preservative-free,” says Vibha. All of these powders can be consumed by mixing them in water, food, milk, or can be used to make smoothies.
The products were sold online through their website. Within one year, they were able to launch nine products, build a customer base of 60,000 people all over the country, and earn a revenue of Rs 2 Cr.
Aditi Das, a 20-year-old student in Bengaluru is one of the regular users of CosMix products. For the last year, Aditi has been preparing for her Chartered Accountancy exam. This caused her to stay up late at night which eventually led to severe hair fall and skin breakouts.
After a consultation with the doctor, Aditi was diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance.
“For a few months, I was trying various ayurvedic solutions at home, but nothing worked out. After seeing an advertisement for CosMix on Instagram, I did some research on their ‘Happy Gut’ powder. It claims to improve stomach health which also improves the condition of hair and skin. So I purchased the powder and consumed it once every day at night. The results were not immediate, but after a few months, my hormonal acne vanished and even my hair fall has reduced. Now, I am consuming a variety of their products and so do my parents,” says Aditi.
Nutrition for all
During COVID-19, her business took a short break from manufacturing, to accommodate the safety concerns of its employees.
Around this time, Vibha discovered another problem with children between the ages three to six not getting their daily nutrition.
“Earlier these children, living in rural areas of Karnataka, were part of mid-day meal schemes which ensured daily nutrition. However, once schools were shut they were unable to eat nutritious food. Some of them were even malnourished,” she says.
Addressing this, In June 2020, when the restrictions were eased, Vibha and her in-house ayurvedic specialist formulated a nutrition bar made of peanuts, quinoa, spirulina, jaggery and more.
“They were essentially chikkis, but highly nutritious. It was specially formulated for consumption of children and the same was tested at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI),” adds Vibha.
Once it was certified, Vibha launched the ‘Nutrition For All’ programme and worked with Anganwadis (rural child care centres) to distribute the nutrient-bars to the children. To date, 2,50,000 bars have been distributed to 1400 children.
Through this venture, Vibha hopes to launch more products that would help women look at health holistically and not be pressured to conform to society’s beauty standards.
Edited by Ananya Barua