by Siya Aggrawal
A From Zero to One: “Scaling an E-Commerce Business from Scratch” by Trisha and Arjun Vaidya
We had a heartfelt and inspiring talk with Trisha and Arjun Vaidya. They gave us a glimpse of the entrepreneurial spirit in the youth, and clearly, it is the future of India. Arjun and Trisha shared their journey of building a new age Ayurvedic products business from scratch. They met in 2014, and as they started dating, Arjun took on his family legacy of Ayurveda in a new age format starting Dr. Vaidya’s in 2016. By 2017, they got engaged and Trisha joined the company. Over the last 3 years, they’ve built India’s largest Ayurveda brand online, touched more than 10 lakh lives, partnered with one of India’s largest corporations and even got married along the way.
In conversation with Arjun Vaidya:
Q: “How did your heritage and familial roots have a impact on the company”
What we do has a deep bearing to our family‘s legacy. We started a company from scratch , built it over four years, and now we have sold the company. Vaidya as a last name means Ayurvedic doctor. I come from a legacy of 150 years of Ayurveda in our family. As a family we own more than 100 Ayurvedic proprietary formulations that have been passed down from generation to generation. My great grandfather moved from Gujarat to Bombay in 1923 and set up an Ayurvedic clinic here. My grandfather went to medical school, as was customary at the time, graduated with a medical degree in Ayurveda and joined his father. By 71 he became Mumbai’s, if not India’s most successful and famous Ayurvedic doctor.
One philosophy that I greatly respected was that consultation was always free. He believed that people should not be restricted by their social strata. We have carried these same values with us. Even today consultation is always free at Dr.Vaidyas. As a marketing and branding person my father saw a lot of potential and wanted to make a brand out of what my grandfather had. However, my grandfather and my dad didn’t see eye to eye, as he didn’t understand the need for sales distribution, marketing strategy, etc. Thus my father went his own way and started his own legacy in the jewels and watches business.
I grew up with nebulizers, pumps and medicine for my Asthma. I also spent a lot of time with my grandfather who said that ayurveda can cure me. 14 years of treatment I was cured of juvenile bronchitis. Thus, growing up I started to understand Ayurveda, I was the grandchild that transcribed our scriptures to the computer.
Q: “How did your time in the United States influence your journey?”
When I was 17, I went to Brown University for my undergrad with the thought in my mind that I want to do something with Ayurveda. I wrote all my college essays on Ayurveda, my family’s legacy, and what I want to do with it in the future. Although my grandfather was keen on me studying biochemistry, economics and international relations; my experiences in the United States shaped the way I think today about Ayurveda.
In the northeast I saw the natural organic product revolution first-hand and saw people attached higher value to these products. I also saw yoga revolutionised, repurposed, with yoga pants, yoga clothes, yoga mats, centres etc. It became a multibillion dollar industry in the US. Yoga was taken from us, repackaged, made aspirational and sold back to us. That made me think, if this can be done with yoga why can’t we do the same with Ayurveda. I came back to India when I was 21 and this thought process in my mind.
Q: “Did you take away any experiences or learnings from your first job experience?”
When I came back to India, I started working in private equity and spent a lot of time on consumer focused brands in India. Over the three years I was there I spent a lot of time engaging with Indian brands. I saw a drastic change in the India I knew before and the India I came back to. I grew up in an India where everyone was obsessed with imported products. In the ‘90’s we thought if it’s imported it’s good and if it’s Indian then it’s substandard. I came back to a changed nation, we started becoming proud of our heritage. I saw consumers becoming happy to consume quintessentially Indian brands. 2014 brought patriotism and that pride to consume Indian products and with it a hinge interest towards Ayurveda began. This change to me was very exciting.
Q: “Did you always know you were going to go into Ayurveda?”
Well, I had a rich Ayurvedic legacy, manufacturing facility, all of these formulations and huge scope. When my grandfather passed away, I remember the promise that I had made to him, I would do something with Ayurveda and continue our family’s legacy. For this reason, I took the experience I learnt at my equity job and became an entrepreneur. Upholding the promise I made to my grandfather, I attempted to address the real need that was prevalent. This need was for our ancient science of Ayurveda to interact with modern consumers. To take 5000 years of science, 150 years of family legacy and to repackage and rebrand it to appeal to modern consumers. This was the thought process and journey behind Dr. Vadiyas. The company stands for a new age of Ayurveda.
In conversation with Trisha Vaidya:
Q: “How did the company expand and become as large and successful as it is today?”
At the time when the company launched there were only 2 products. We’ve reached 64 products now. I used to work for a company called Nyka and was tired of working for other people. I was looking forward to building something. Our main focus was our website where we started with getting one order in two days, this moved to 5 orders a day and eventually to 50 orders a day to now where we have around three and a half thousand orders per day. We started with a team of 10 people and today we’re at 150. We evolved in many ways; our office boy used to pack the orders, we had one customer service representative who used to answer the calls. On Sunday, Arjun and I used to bring the phones home and at our lunch table, we answer the calls. Slowly we realized we had to build teams, operation centers, etc. I think it was a boon that we began by doing this all ourselves as we understood who our customers are and what they need. We had read this somewhere and then adopted this philosophy, we don’t just want to cater to India, we want to cater to ‘Bharat’. We wanted to go beyond our social circles and reach tier one, two, and three consumers. That’s what we ended up doing. 83% of our orders come from tier 2 cities.
Through this journey, I learned a lot more than I knew about my own country. I learned about different cultures, different perspectives, and more. The forefront of the journey is what the customers want and how to cater to them. We had no investment at the beginning and were using money Arjun’s grandfather left behind so we were very cost-conscious. We ourselves went around town to outside locations and handed out our product and recorded consumer responses. All this helped us learn and understand who our customers were and gave us insights that allowed us to reach this level. We learned what it took to build a brand, the hard work, the passion, and the hands-on experience we need.
YouTube. “Episode 08 : In Conversation with Arjun and Trisha Vaidya.” YouTube. 12 May 2021. Web. 28 Jul. 2021. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWLxIaxtJXo>