Inspired by the wellness boom, this Mysore-based pharmaceutical company decided to launch a superfood vertical amid COVID-19

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COVID-19 has led a large number of people to focus on their health. As several sectors suffered from a lack of demand, the pandemic led to an unprecedented boom in the pharmaceutical industry.

According to a report by the research platform IBEF, the market is estimated at $ 42 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $ 120-130 billion by 2030. In addition, the subsequent increase in people’s interest for health and wellness products has further given impetus to the superfood industry, experts say. In recent years, India has seen the emergence of several superfood players such as Nourish Organics, The Green Snack Co., OZiva, etc.

One of the companies that decided to venture into this category during COVID-19 is Supreem Pharmaceuticals based in Mysore.

Founded in 1985 by SN Rao, B2B (Business-to-Business) company manufactures and sells pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products. He has more than 400 clients in India and abroad, including the likes of major pharmaceutical players such as Cipla, Cadilla, Sun Pharma, Dr Reddy’s, and more.

In a conversation with SMBShistory, Rao explains his entry into the new space and recalls his journey in building the business.

The pandemic affects

According to Rao, the pandemic has not had any negative impact on the company’s operations. In fact, he claims that the demand for products such as Vitamin D3 and zinc capsules soared almost 100% during the pandemic.

“It wasn’t like we weren’t doing well and needed to think about something else,” he said.

Apparently everything was going well for him. However, Rao had been planning to enter the B2C space for some time now. Over ten years ago, Supreme opened a B2C (Business-to-Customer) vertical, but had to go out of business because it “failed miserably”.

Looking back, Rao identifies the shortcomings due to which his products have failed to stand out. “Honestly, the packaging was not up to par and we used too many conventional methods such as relying only on distributors and not focusing too much on marketing. “

Today the roles have changed dramatically and he says the pandemic has a role to play.

As the health and wellness industry rang the cash registers, the team at Supreem realized that the next big opportunity was in the superfood category. However, this time, Rao felt that they must have a plan in place in order to ensure a successful entry into the B2C segment.

“It was like entering kindergarten,” he says, adding that they researched the market, devised an omnichannel strategy and set a marketing budget.

They also hired experienced industry professionals and launched their new vertical, Supreme Superfoods, last month. It currently offers 20 products in four categories including health management, performance food and drink and lifestyle management.

With over 40 SKUs, the superfood product line will include healthy snacks, candies, a versatile nutritional blend, scarves and capsules to help conditions related to diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol, in order to ‘dramatically improve immunity, digestion and clear stuffy nose or throat. The manufacturing of these products is outsourced from Vapi and Mumbai units. However, R&D is carried out at the company’s own facilities in Mysore.

The products will be present offline (through modern retail outlets) across Bengaluru and will be listed on e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Bigbasket, and more. Rao says the company will also go the D2C (Direct-to-Consumer) route and also plans to launch its own website soon.

Although this is a new vertical, Rao says they expect the business to grow at 30% per month.

How it all began?

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rao was exploring the world to find his true calling. After studying pharmacy, he landed a job at a Swiss-based healthcare company, Sandoz India. However, he felt dissatisfied with his job.

While continuing his job, Rao enrolled in an eight-week entrepreneurship course run by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce. As part of the training, they had to carry out a project on the launch and sustainability of a business.

“It was the turning point of my life. I realized that was exactly what I was supposed to do, ”he says. However, the real struggle began after this epiphany moment.

Rao says his parents were against him quitting his high-paying job and going into business. In addition, Mumbai, where he resided, was an expensive city and Rao did not have enough capital to start or maintain a business there, he says.

Rao invested Rs 30,000 of his money and took out loans to start the business. From Mumbai he moved to Mysore.

The first product he launched was a bottle of vitamin B12. From a single product, he now has hundreds of products in his portfolio. The company also entered the international market in 2002 with the United Kingdom, United States and Canada.

The company timed Rs 68 crore in revenue in FY21.

Going forward, Rao says he wants to completely focus on the superfood business over the next 12-18 months. The company also plans to expand its presence beyond Bengaluru to other southern and then northern states such as Delhi.


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