Himalaya rides the wellness wave

Himalaya is reinforcing its herbal traditions to build its brand in two new categories: Nutraceuticals and healthy snacks. Encouraged by the growing health consciousness among consumers and by its own experience with herbal personal care products, the company is looking to reap the rewards of changing lifestyle preferences, especially in urban India.

The company says the year-old nutraceutical division is looking at a turnover of Rs 100 crore by the end of March 2017 and that its new products will cater to the need for preventive solutions for chronic diseases like diabetes and heart-related ailments. It will also bring out pain balms, healing oils and such other products and a range of nutritious-healthy snacks.

The big challenge, however, with building a brand in the nutraceuticals category is a volatile regulatory framework. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is still formulating the rules for the industry, which is likely to keep the market turbulent for a while. And the other hurdle to cross is matching the aggressive marketing efforts by big pharma players and homegrown challengers.

"Creating a brand and an enterprise in India is not easy," says Rajesh Krishnamurthy, business head, consumer products division, The Himalaya Drug Company. But he believes that the company has gained from its experience in the personal care market and that gives it the edge.

Build a niche

One way to ensure that the consumer recalls your brand is to create a differentiated proposition says Krishnamurthy. Recently, the company launched HiOwna Momz, a nutritional health drink for to-be and new mothers. It is targeting 10 per cent share of the pregnancy and lactation, ethical nutraceutical market, which is estimated at Rs 80-90 crore. This winter it plans to launch an improved version of Chyawanaprash, followed by new products for diabetes, weight management, healthy snack bars and so on. Over time, it hopes that the brand will begin to be identified closely with these categories.

The company's wellness division has been structured around three segments: Pure Herbs that packages herbal extractions in tablets and syrups, General Wellness (specialized creams and balms) and Nutrition that sells health supplements under the brand name HiOwna. "Today as customers are looking at more preventive healthcare it opens new opportunities," says Sudheer Srinivas, marketing manager, wellness division, The Himalaya Drug Company.

However the nutraceutical-wellness market, estimated at Rs 18,000 crore-odd in 2015 by Assocham in a joint study with market research firm, RNCOS, is fast getting crowded. Dabur, Organic India, Baidyanath, Zandu Pharmaceutical, Vicco Laboratories apart from the multinationals and Patanjali have all raised their game.

Himalaya says that unlike the big companies and the new challengers, it operates in niche segments. Its branding initiatives are category specific, driven by consumer insights. Harish Bijoor, brand consultant, says, "Himalaya over a period of time has attained some status and held that."

Learn from the past

The company says it is not the first time that it will be meeting FMCG and pharma bigwigs in the ring; its flagship neem-based facewash for instance competes with HUL and Garnier. "Thanks to the face wash, Himalaya could build its personal care business, which contributes over 40 per cent to the company's Rs 2,000 crore turnover," says Krishnamurthy.

Himalaya's success in the beauty care market has also been fuelled by an overall growth in demand; beauty and personal care has seen a year-on-year growth of 13.6 per cent in 2014-15 according to Euromonitor India. While nutraceuticals-wellness is expected to grow fast, it may be a while before it can get close to these numbers.

Also, the entry of players such as Patanjali has helped unlock the budget segment for such products. Can companies such as Himalaya play the price game as effectively as the new challengers? Bijoor believes that given the manner in which aggressive players are redefining the marketplace today, brands such as Himalaya would need to reinvent themselves. He believes that the herbal tag commands a premium while ayurveda attracts thebudget consumer. "If they (Himalaya) want they can remain as a niche player by focussing on herbal alone, but if ambitions are large then they need to reinvent themselves to tackle the rest of the market," he says. Interestingly Himalaya, in 1999, had entered the personal care segment under the brand name 'Ayurvedic Concepts'. But the company underwent a rebranding where the entire range was brought under a single umbrella - Himalaya Herbal Healthcare. Today it says it is a 'head-to-heel' herbal wellness company. "There is some amount of premium for being natural, but that doesn't mean customers can't afford Himalaya products," said Krishnamurthy.

Himalaya is present in two-and-a-half million outlets according to the company. It plans to carry through a similar sweep with nutraceuticals and wellness products. The company says it adds around 15-20 stores every year with each store costing around Rs 50 lakh.

Currently e-commerce constitutes just one per cent of the total sales revenue but it will go up to five per cent in the next three-four years. The digital space however has been a boon for brand building and Himalaya says it has launched a slew of campaigns around brand launches in the personal care portfolio that have used the medium effectively. The company will follow a similar strategy for its new products, too.

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