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funding 06 Jul 2015

We have plans to raise funds for retail expansion: Iraya founder

Iraya Ayurveda products brand, which is the culmination of ancient Indian knowledge and advanced international expertise, is all set to hit retail outlets soon. Rahul Kale, Founder of the brand unveiled his business plans with WI Bureau.

Founded by Rahul Kale, Iraya Ayurveda products have created a good brand value in the Indian wellness space. The products are mild yet effective to use and are available in exclusive brand outlets and online at present. Thus, to grab the bigger market pie, the brand’s mastermind is planning to raise funds to increase its reach to retail outlets soon. Wellness India talked to Kale to understand his business moves with the already well excepted skin care brand.

Elaborate on Iraya beauty and health nutrition brand? What made you conceptualize the brand?
Iraya which in means ‘from the earth’, was originated from Indian Ayurveda. A holistic healing system, Ayurveda is the art of preventing diseases, and enhancing health and vitality. Its references are found in India’s most sacred and revered text, the Vedas which is the oldest known and written records of human civilization. Enriching recipes for flawless skin ageless beauty, health and longevity can be found in Ayurveda. We believe it is this philosophy that finds its way in every Iraya product. The Iraya range comprises of products that believe in natures owns healing process bestowing complete wellness and lasting beauty from within.
    In 2005, when I was representing an industry conference in New York, I decided to do some research on traditionally used formulations like Shatapadi and Kumkumadi. The more research we did, the more it intrigued me, was the level of research and study 5000 years ago, to have known about herbs, their pharmacognostic and phytochemical properties in depth. That's where we stepped in and did a huge amount of research in making Ayurveda relevant to the aesthetic sensibilities of a spa environment, while keeping the core principles and benefits of the recipes intact. We established a team consisting of cosmetic chemists; Ayurveda doctors, botanists and I had the good fortune of meeting a leading perfumer from New York, who collaborated with us to develop fragrances made of natural extracts and essential oils, which have become the trademark of Iraya.

What changes do you see in personal care products’ market with the entry of Ayurveda or herbal products?
Natural is the raison d’être of Iraya. We genuinely believe in the power of herbs and its benefits when used with Ayurvedic formulation. Today, the consumer is well informed. In fact, several Clinical Studies and Research papers show exactly how a particular recipe or herb interacts with the chemistry of our body and benefit us. There is tremendous synergy between Ayurveda and the spa, and there is no doubt that Ayurveda can contribute tremendously to the Spa & Wellness industry. However, it is important to understand how Ayurveda could be presented in a spa environment. The needs of a spa are very different from the requirements of an Ayurvedic Hospital and the key is how one can retain the benefits of the Ayurvedic treatments while adapting it to suit the aesthetic sensibilities of a spa client.
   At Iraya, we understand this well, and hence, we believe that we can offer a unique proposition to spas globally. Needless to say, there is a definite need for spas and wellness, and this industry has been growing phenomenally.

What challenges do you face in entering into developing markets across the globe or entering into untouched areas of India or abroad? Do you have plans to tap tier II & III cities in India? Which are the cities on your radar at present and why?
Absolutely, Tier II cities are the big markets of the future. Consumers in these cities are constantly looking at upgrading their lifestyles and with exposure to national and international trends; they aspire to the best in terms of lifestyle and products. We are already present in several tier II cities like Raipur, Amritsar, Mysore etc and planning to strategically enter in more such markets.

How your product format is different from the existing organic/Ayurvedic/herbal products, available in the wellness industry? How are you planning to take this format to the other untouched markets?
The efficacy of a product depends on the synergy of the herbs used. A powerful synergy gives you far more effective and lasting benefits. Our effort is to create products that are powerful, using potent herbal combinations, which can be easily assimilated into the body. Iraya products contain natural ingredients obtained from natural resources blend with essential oils instead of fragrance, colour of the product is due to natural extracts added and the most important of all – the percentage of herbal extracts in our products are high that makes our products highly effective.

We are committed to use natural alternatives while formulating a product, and are currently undergoing a program with a German council to get our products certified as Natural Cosmetics. For instance, we do not use synthetic colours and derive natural colours from the sources like beetroot for red, chlorophyll for green, turmeric for yellow.
   The processes we use ensure maximum efficacy and potency of the raw material and finished product.  Wood-fired kiln for slow processing of Ayurveda oils. We use cold-pressed vegetable oils, sesame oil, rice bran oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, apricot kernel for making soap.
  We persevere to ensure that our formulations incorporate the latest advances in science while being as natural as possible. Some innovations from our R&D lab that have been incorporated into our products include using emulsifiers from natural sources only (Sal Tree Gum, Beeswax), natural thickening and gelling agents (Acacia Gum, Xanthan Gum, Cellulose).
We believe in educating our customer about why we use what we use, and why we make such a big effort to avoid using certain ingredients. Of course, finally, we believe once a customer experiences the benefits to using the product, they will know whay all this makes such a big difference, and this is what makes Iraya products different.

What are your investment plans in the upcoming wellness ventures like online/mobile marketplace for wellness products? How much money you’ve invested or planning to invest in the same?
We have invested significantly in the online space in the past two years and are looking at this very seriously as a means of connecting with our consumers. Talking about products, the inspiration behind them, sharing how these products are made….these stories are very important for Iraya and our consumers and we can effectively share these through Within Iraya, which is our blog, magazine for interacting with consumers.

Are you in the process of raising funds for the expansion of your product portfolio or brand across the country? If yes, then please mention the names of your investors.
Yes, we do have plans of fund raising for the retail expansion, which is rather capital intensive. However, these discussions are really in the initial stage right now.

Do you have plans to franchise your business or have any other format in mind? Kindly elaborate.
We already have two franchisees in Pune and Amritsar. We are planning to appoint more franchisees across the country to open stores, shop-in-shops etc.

Define your target consumers? What is your strategy to tap the biggest lion’s share in the already existing herbal products market?
The Iraya consumer is typically between 30 to 55 predominantly used by women. The Iraya consumer is one who will not compromise, someone who believes in high quality without blowing the budget. Our customers understand and appreciate the benefits of using natural products. Our product line appeals to both men and women.

In which area do you face challenges while establishing your venture in untouched market; Hr, finance, PR or marketing? What procedures do you take to overcome these challenges and smooth functioning of your business?
Finance is the key to get everything on place, especially for smaller companies.  Several other aspects can fall into place once the finances have been taken care of. However, having a well thought-out strategy and marketing plan is very important before the company starts spending funds in those areas. We have a clearly defined marketing plan and strategy, but a lot of that is dependent on getting the finances on place.

How did you bring standardization in your business?
The biggest priority for us has been getting our manufacturing and supply chain upgraded to international standards. Iraya moved into its new state-of-the-art manufacturing set-up, which is made as per WHO c-GMP norms. This new facility has helped us establish new standards for manufacturing traditional Ayurvedic and Herbal formula with quality assurance, hygiene and a manufacturing environment at par with International Pharma standards.
   Our new manufacturing unit is located at the edge of Gorewada Biopark & forest, and spread over 5 acres, the new set up offers the best of technology and systems of product development. It includes an organic herb garden, traditional Ayurvedic Bhattis, modern cosmetic manufacturing systems and a state of the art laboratory for Total Quality Management.
   The unit has full infrastructure facilities like water treatment facilities, air-handling-units with built-in cooling system with team of fully qualified, experienced and trained personnel to handle the production and testing. We strive to ensure that environmental friendly practices are maintained with an effluent treatment plant and solar powered systems to minimize our carbon footprint.

What is the scope and future of herbal products in India with the involvement of Central Government and establishment of AYUSH ministry? What are your expectations with the future growth of your brand?
We are extremely optimistic about the future of this industry. The key challenge is to get certain regulations and guidelines on place. For instance, it might sound basic, but how does one define a ‘natural’ or ‘Ayurvedic’ product? Anyone can put label of ‘Natural’ without conveying to the consumer exactly what it means. AYUSH can play a major role in making the sector organised and also in helping us to expand in international markets by creating awareness absolutely the way they have been doing for Yoga.

What are the reasons behind venturing into an herbal wellness product line?
I was living in France in the year 2002-03 and at that time, I realized how successfully the French have taken their traditional practices and indigenous knowledge of fragrances, wine and even cuisines in creating global industries out of them. My family was involved in Ayurveda and cosmetics since 1980, and I decided to revive this business by bringing in what I had learnt from the global players.

Any merger/acquisition or tie-up in the kitty? If yes, please elaborate on the same. If no then why don’t you plan any bigger business move to lure limelight towards Iraya to upbeat the growing competition in the personal care and nutritious products market?
We would certainly like to expand in the retail market, and that is very capital intensive. We are talking to a few investors, primararily to the strategic investors who are already established in the Retail industry and who could apart from finances also guide us with their market expertise and provide access to such markets for us.
 

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