A fitness enthusiast who is passionate about nutrition, Avnish Chhabria created the popular nutraceutical brand Wellbeing Nutrition to help people prioritise their nutrition no matter how hectic their lives are. Chhabria was among the three winners of the Amazon Global Selling Propel Accelerator 2021 (AGSPA) – a startup program that helps Indian companies build and scale for global audiences. Wellbeing Nutrition is today one of the leading nutritional supplement brands in the country and has raised $2.2 million in Series A funding from Fireside Ventures. Ahead of AGSPA 2022, he shares some of his learnings for aspiring entrepreneurs building from India for the world.
As someone who has always been driven by fitness, and more than that, the idea of wellness, I created Wellbeing Nutrition to help people view nutrition products as a lifestyle choice rather than as medicine. We did a lot of research, beginning at Johns Hopkins University in the USA with 6 scientists and 15 understudies, supported by an Abbott grant. After 4 years of research, 40 case studies, and 16 patents, we sailed high on the ‘plant-based nutrition’ wave by first launching in Europe and the US.
In 2021, our VC partner Fireside Ventures recommended that we participate in the first season of Amazon Global Selling Propel Accelerator program. We ended up being one of the winners, and learned a lot in the process.
Being available on Amazon has helped us see success in global markets like the UK, Europe, and US. It has even brought us leads from countries like Guatemala, Brazil, and Mexico. We've also ventured into exciting markets like the UAE, where understanding local laws are tough; we were able to break into the market thanks to Amazon.
Propel helps founders dive deep into their business and understand all kinds of challenges that come with being a digital-first brand.
Besides this global visibility, Amazon also enabled us to succeed through important local insights. India itself is such a huge market, but it is also highly competitive and complex. The team at Amazon really helped open up opportunities to discover new customers for us.
We've been an Indian company building for the world from day one, but we didn't launch here even though we always knew there was great promise. In 2019, we finally launched in India with Daily Greens – the world’s first plant-based multivitamin, certified by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
We listed 1,000 units on Amazon.in on a trial basis and that’s when the story turned for us. We were surprised that Indian customers were willing to pay a premium for wellness supplements that gave them the goodness of salads, especially in a country where fresh greens are widely available. There’s been no looking back since. Today India makes up 95% of our market, with high growth coming from the US and Europe.
Being a part of Propel can benefit founders immensely, as it did for us. The program helps founders dive deep into their business and understand all kinds of challenges that come with being a digital-first brand – regulatory issues, product sampling, enhanced listing, intellectual protocol, brand identity protection, as well as pricing strategies, marketing, logistics, and distribution. It offers a view on what the market is for a product, who the best sellers are, how to target consumers. Then there are critical insights related to visibility and selling online — such as which images attract more click-throughs, or which consumer is converting on a particular keyword — to be able to drive sales. These insights are gold for a founder.
Here are some important learnings I would like to share for founders looking to build global brands from India.
Competing on ‘me too products’ is challenging, unless you differentiate and find your niche.
Nail your value proposition
If you want to build a powerful brand, first examine your product critically and evaluate if it has earned its right to win. Is there a clear value proposition that you’re offering customers? The Wellness category, for example, has thousands of competitors offering products that are priced lower. Comparisons are bound to happen and you will likely lose pricing battles, especially if you’re up against well-funded competitors. It can be tempting to look at the success of a certain product and think, ‘Why can’t I do it too?’ However, competing on ‘me too products’ is challenging, unless you differentiate and find your niche.
Your differentiation need not be an innovative product; it could also be a powerful ingredient story, or a packaging story, or a sustainability story. Once you find that, you will discover avenues to scale. Ask yourself, ‘Is there a moat?’ Do you have a defensible business that will stand out in a cluttered marketplace? It should not be price. It should be value or innovation, otherwise, you will be drowned out in a market that compares you with everyone else.
Understand the customer
Everyone is trying to build for everyone. Build for a few. One mistake startup founders often make is that they try to build for everyone. Instead, it makes sense to build for a few and really understand that set of customers, and build deeper connections and feedback loops with them.
It’s not about seeing what works for another product or brand and imitating them. It really is about selling to a select and well-defined audience.
If you get the opportunity to be part of the Propel Accelerator program, don’t just look at it as an opportunity to sell to more customers. Instead, use it as a deep learning experience. Ask relevant questions; understand how to connect with your customer better.
Give yourself a year to see which products work; find the hero product. Every business has a hero product that consumers identify you with, that helps build connection and trust. Then you can find avenues to scale. It’s not about seeing what works for another product or brand and imitating them. It really is about selling to a select and well-defined audience. For us, our hero product is Daily Greens, and it accounts for 50% of our product sales.
Customer feedback is super valuable too. We got instant feedback through product reviews, where we were able to learn from this authentic and credible voice of the consumer. When a product batch was sub-par on quality, we recalled them, and in another instance when consumers asked for new flavours, we were able to innovate and deliver these. We actually have opened up nine new product lines based on the consumer insights we got from Amazon. For Daily Greens, we are launching two new flavours only for Amazon, and we built out a product for Apple Cider vinegar effervescent tablets based on the consumers that Amazon caters to.
Watch the story of Well Being Nutrition
Use failure as an opportunity to learn
When we launched Daily Greens, it was a runaway success. But when we launched Grandma’s Kadha, it fell flat on its face. Consumers just didn’t see the need for it. As an entrepreneur, you have to take that in your stride and continue evolving. Build the brand story and the consumer connect, and commit to constantly learning. For the first 1.5 years, we had no funding and really struggled with finances. But we stuck to our path and continued to hustle. Then Fireside Ventures and Amazon’s Propel Accelerator came along and things changed.
When you shift your mindset to understand that every failure is an opportunity to learn, you will eventually succeed. If you sold a thousand products the first time around but only one the second time around, understand why that has happened and you will have earned the right to win. Persistence is key.
As a small business, Amazon has helped us scale and build visibility. The ROI one can get from here is incomparable.
Data, data, data!
As a startup, we work with all kinds of datasets – what is the demographic, which market does the audience come from, what is the price parity that consumers are willing to pay in different regions, etc. These datasets are where Amazon can offer a wealth of insights. Use the Amazon experience as an opportunity to understand and analyze data, the insights and learnings they bring up and refine your offerings according to that.
As a small business, Amazon has helped us scale and build visibility. The ROI one can get from here is incomparable. For example, during our interactions with some mentors in the Propel program, we realized the importance of immediacy in a category like nutrition. People are unwilling to wait for 5-7 days for delivery, unlike the patience they would have for a rug or a tablecloth. This helped us re-examine our delivery models and course correct. Amazon also has a wealth of data at its disposal that can help guide pricing strategies, engagement and awareness campaigns, and more. This is gold.
Our journey with Wellness Nutrition has been exciting and rewarding. Today, we’re seeing 400% growth every quarter and are in the process of raising a Series B round soon. The road hasn’t been smooth, but we’re always working hard to ensure that we earn our right to win!
Amazon Global Selling Propel Accelerator 2022 will be announced shortly. Follow @amazonnews_in on Twitter and Instagram to stay updated.