Your gut health is intrinsically linked to your overall physical and mental well-being, doctors say. The American Gastroenterological Association reckons that 60-70 million Americans have gastrointestinal diseases and these have the potential to disrupt their daily lives.

But solutions are available in Ayurveda and traditional Indian practices given the ready availability of inexpensive superfoods here—from Ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) and Moringa to Tulsi (Holy basil) and Lion’s Mane Mushroom.

#Phir Aaiyega | The story behind Better Alt by Akash Dhoot

Akash Shah (27) and Akash Dhoot (26), co-founders of Better Alt, are on a mission to take these desi superfoods global by combining them into blends and supplements that aid digestion, help increase immunity, and serve as brain boosters.

“Better Alt’s mission is to help people improve the performance of their minds and bodies through ancient Indian alternatives. We believe that sustainable wellness and nutrition have become very complicated; we need to go back to being simple and clean,” Shah tells About Amazon.

In just two years of operations, the Mumbai-based startup has made inroads into the United States market. During the 2022 edition of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale (BFCM) on Amazon’s global websites between November 24 and 28, Better Alt’s parent company Azuretale recorded a 3.5x rise in sales.

Deeply personal missions

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Better Alt’s journey officially started in 2021, but the seeds were planted when the co-founders became friends five years ago. “The first time we met, we both introduced ourselves saying, ‘Hi, I’m Akash’,” quips Shah. The founders’ personal journeys shaped their quest for alternative foods. Dhoot is an Ironman triathlon athlete but has an aversion to eggs for protein intake. Shah comes from a family of vegetarians who have relied on locally-sourced food for improving health over generations.

When customer feedback is priceless

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Customer feedback is a gift for young brands such as Better Alt. “We've read multiple reviews of people seeing improvement in their blood pressure levels after consuming our beetroot powder,” says Shah. He also talks about specific feedback in the early days that helped improve packaging for their bestselling Super Green Blend, a mix of 15 superfoods. The anti-bloating supplement didn’t initially come with a scoop but that changed after a customer’s feedback. Initially, the scoop was buried inside the blend, making it difficult for customers to discover, but the placement was modified following a customer’s review. These were instances of great learning and helped the startup’s 10-member team appreciate the detailing needed to shape every product, besides the importance of constantly listening to customer pain points. “Amazon has really played a big role in opening up communication between brands and customers. You can work quickly on what the customer demands,” Shah says.

Selling to the world with Amazon

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Better Alt and hundreds of other startups have benefited from Amazon Global Selling, a flagship program that helps lower the entry barrier for Indian small businesses to start or expand their exports business using e-commerce. The program was launched in 2015. to support Indian exporters to reach customers worldwide through Amazon’s international websites and marketplaces. Today there are over 1 lakh exporters across India on the program, showcasing millions of Made in India products to customers in over 200 countries and territories across the world. “Amazon’s Global Selling program has made things simple with respect to regulation and taxation, as the marketplace facilitator model takes care of everything,” Shah says.

Future plans

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Buoyed by the BFCM sale in the last year, Better Alt has plans to work with distributors and retailers to expand its presence in the US. Its Coffee Gift Box was popular with American customers during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“It felt really nice that people were gifting our products on such happy occasions,” Dhoot said. Going forward, the company also plans to start exporting to Australia and Canada.

On the product side, team Better Alt is researching on blends that solve for sleep-related issues and help reduce stress and anxiety. “Our blend will have ingredients such as Ashwagandha and parts of the Arjuna plant, which a lot of people in the US do not know about. You can consume it before bed time and get a sound night’s sleep,” said Dhoot. The US National Institutes of Health estimates that 7% to 19% of adults reportedly do not get enough sleep, 40% reportedly fall asleep during the day at least once a month, and 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders.