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Wellness Industry 2016-09-22

Word of mouth, teamwork and more; this is how Keva Ayurveda is growing from lakhs to crores

Keva Ayurveda is now present in many cities of India and is also set to go global. It’ll be setting up its centre in Perth next year. In addition, the revenue too has grown from Rs. 4 lakhs in 2011 to Rs 6 crore now.

By Associate Editor
Word of mouth, teamwork and more; this is how Keva Ayurveda is growing from lakhs to crores

The Ayurveda sector in India is set to hit Rs 7,000 crore by 2020. From brands like Patanjali hitting the FMCG sector to the government’s push to Ayurveda, the tide is turning in favour of the Ayurveda sector in India. The traditional ways of curing ailments are back and more players in this sector are growing leaps and bounds.

One such player is Keva Ayurveda. Started from Bangalore by Dr. Krishna Kumar in 2011, Keva Ayurveda is now present in many cities of India and is also set to go global. It’ll be setting up its centre in Perth next year. In addition, the revenue too has grown from Rs 4 lakhs in 2011 to Rs 6 crore now. In a very interesting chat with Wellness India, Dr Krishna Kumar tells us about the journey of Keva Ayurveda, its offerings, expansion plans and where he gets his motivation from. Here are excerpts from a very candid interview with him:

Tell us about Keva Ayurveda.

Keva Ayurveda is an ISO certified company. We started our operations in 2011 and we concentrate more on the curative side rather than the rejuvenating side. We concentrate more on spinal joint care, arthritis, obesity, acne. We have 5-6 specialties, one is weight management, second is joint care, third is skin care etc. While we do have rejuvenating massages, but the curative side is our USP. We do authentic Ayurveda treatments for ailments. Proper investigation is done before we proceed with anything, in the sense that if anybody comes with a pain, we don’t straight away give them an advice. We go through tests, scans before we start the treatment. Once the treatment is started, we repeat the tests to see the improvement.

Affordability and efficacy has been our USP in the sense that the way we are growing, we are very affordable cost-wise. We customise and improvise on each and every aspect, so if a person has been taking a particular medicine for a month and we see no improvement, we change for the further course rather than giving a strong or higher dose of the medicine.

Keva Ayurveda is mainly into Ayurveda treatments and second is Ayurveda products. We source products from across India. Every day new pharmacies are coming in Ayurveda, but we source products from the best in the industry. We have our own products too, but we source the products that we don’t have. Our own products are like oil, powders. We are planning to enter the beauty or the skin range by next year. As of now we outsource it. Till date, we have treated more than 15,000 patients and we get patients from across the globe. We are not promoting Keva Ayurveda; we are just a medium to promote Ayurveda.

We have a team of doctors. We have individual specialists. For e.g., arthritis people come to me, for gynaecological issues people go to Dr Deepika, for hair fall issues they go to Dr Tanmaya.

Tell us about your growth since 2011.

In 2011, when we started Keva Ayurveda, we did a lot of research and survey. We should know our competitors as to what they are doing. We wanted a healthy competition. Copying things doesn’t work now. We learnt from our competitors as to what they were doing and what they were lacking. Our USP was that we were providing proper treatment. In 2011, when we started, it was a very new business for me. Though I am from an Ayurveda background family, but I’m the first entrepreneur from my family. I didn’t know about the market in Bangalore or which field to decide.

Till mid 2014, we actually didn’t do any marketing other than the social media or posting articles. The only marketing tool which has helped us till date is word of mouth. That’s how we have been sustaining for the past 4-5 years. I made sure that even one person walking in must be treated well so that they refer us to people known to them. That’s how our revenue has been growing from lakhs to crores.

How did franchising happen?

We earlier didn’t give a thought to franchising as we wanted to first concentrate on getting perfection at our first centre. Then we started giving out deals on Snapdeal etc. That was to create awareness about the brand of Keva Ayurveda. We started with a very minimal price, but as the years passed, we started increasing our price. But we are still at least 30 per cent less costly than our competitors. Now we have multiple marketing verticals. We have a website; we are coming up with our own mobile app. In 2011, we started off with revenue of about Rs 3-4 lakhs, second year it tripled. We saw a 40 per cent growth.

Through an investor we were funded with around Rs 70 lakhs in 2011. That helped us in multiplying the branches. Bangalore has a huge traffic problem; patients started complaining and asked for more centres. We were unable to break even at Rs 4 lakhs. So after the investor came in, in 2012, we had two centres. In 2013, we started our Indiranagar operations. This was the main place from where our revenue got a 40 per cent jump. These are our three prominent branches in Bangalore.

We have a unique weight management program that includes no strict diets, and Ayurveda treatments. We have been rated as the second best weight management centre in India. We have film starts, IAS officials, but we don’t show them as our face to promote our brand.

After having 3 batches, we thought why not have franchising. We had prepared proper SOPs as to what goes in our auditor research, taxation etc. In 2014, we started our branch with a franchisee, who is an IT professional, and the returns have been amazing. For every year now, we are adding a branch. In 2016, we started our Tamil Nadu operations, then in Mumbai and Delhi. We have tied up with an Ayurveda centre in Delhi. In Feb 2017, we’ll be launching in Perth, Australia, that will be our own centre, not a franchise. Till date we have around 140 franchisee enquiries and among them, 40 are investors who want to invest. We are meeting each and every investor personally because even if one franchisee doesn’t perform well, the brand will suffer.

Tell us about your franchising model.

  • The franchisee should have an exposure in the business. It is better if they have exposure in healthcare domain
  • Investment of Rs 10-15 lakh
  • Another Rs 5-10 lakh as spare amount to run for at least 6 months.
  • Passion for service: We are in the service industry, if the service is good, only then the money comes.

By next year, we are planning to hit at least Rs.8-10 crores or even more than that. We have 2-3 investors coming in as we are planning to set up a resort in Chikmagaloor. It’ll be a complete integrated resort.

Does wellness tourism have a bright future in India?

Definitely! At Keva, we haven’t promoted any wellness tourism, but at least a couple of patients come from places like Dubai, Madagascar, Malaysia, US, UK. We got a call from Dubai asking why we don’t tie up with a wellness tourism agent. We are working on it.

This has happened only because of my team and not just me. I give ideas, but they are the ones who implement it. I’m nothing without them. We started off as a team of 3, now we are around 60. We have doctors, MBAs, finance people etc. Dr Deepika handles the content part, Dr Tanmaya gives inputs.

Ayurveda has come back to the limelight. Do you think it’s because of the Modi government’s boost to Ayurveda?

I think last year it got proposed that every allopathic hospital should have an Ayurveda wing. The main problem in Ayurveda was standardisation. That was lacking when we launched in 2011. Now that is slowly coming. Ayurveda is gaining importance because there are good players who are coming in. there’s a standard operating protocol. Earlier centres used to be dingy, unhygienic. We at Keva Ayurveda are very particular about the hygiene and cleanliness.

Ayurveda brands like Patanjali have started going mainstream. Do you think that’s the way forward for Ayurveda brands? Would Keva Ayurveda follow this trend?

Sri Sri and Patanjali are more into FMCG. They have entered everything. Patanjali has each and every thing. But we don’t want to enter FMCG; we want to remain in the service industry. We don’t want to enter the retail market as such as of now. The market is really good, but I want to say this to all the players that we must maintain the quality while the business grows. If any brand goes wrong, the whole brand of Ayurveda suffers.

Do you consider Patanjali and Sri Sri as your competitors?

I do consider them as competition. But I take a lot of inputs from them in the sense what they are into and how they are doing it. I take inspiration from them as to how they have grown tremendously. We never thought about the financial side. We have always wanted to give the best to the patients and the revenue comes in return.

Tell us about the challenges you faced in India’s wellness market and how you’ve overcome them.

Our formula was SWOT. Before we started we kept a focus on Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The challenges were plenty, it was very difficult to manage before the investor came in.

We started our website in 2012 and we began e-commerce in 2014. In 2015, we started our charitable trust where we do free consultations at old age homes etc.

Tell us about your journey to becoming an Ayurveda entrepreneur.

I was born in Hyderabad, but grew up in Mysore. I never thought in my whole life that I’ll be an entrepreneur. My mom and grandfather are both doctors. My grandfather is in the US. My mom had a hospital. I had a settled life. But it wasn’t challenging for me as everybody would know me as Dr Chandrika’s son.

In 2011, there was an opening in Bangalore, and my mom asked me to apply. When I applied and I got selected despite being one among 200 candidates. As I had experience in Ayurveda, they didn’t put me through training, I was posted to work directly. I was like a holiday doctor, in the sense that they had branches across India and whenever any doctor went on leave, they’d send me there. Initially I used to tell my mother I was getting bored. But it was my brother’s advice that helped me a lot. After 2-3 months, the exposure was really good. This gave me an insight into how big the Ayurveda industry was. I wanted to make some changes in that company but it has a fixed procedure. So I could bring those changes only if I had my own company. I worked in that organization for almost 1.5years and thought it was high time to start something of my own.

I met the investor and he said let’s start from Bangalore. That’s how we started from Bangalore. People used to ask what Keva means. Keva means a budding lotus, which signifies purity and authenticity, and even if it’s in a dirty pond, one will look at it and say wow. That’s how started in 2011 and the rest is history.

Now my mom calls me and tells me that people have started recognizing her as Dr Krishna’s mother.

Where do you see India’s Ayurveda sector 5 years from now?

I was reading an article that said Ayurveda in India would be worth Rs 7,000 crore in 2020. As I said, we have to make sure that the quality is maintained. We have to customize Ayurveda according to people. We must improvise at every step. The main problem with Ayurveda was that every Ayurvedic doctor used to practice allopathy. I was the topper in my college and when I go back, they tell me I’m the only one practicing Ayurveda and I feel really proud. Ayurveda is really blooming, we must retain our customers.

Where do you see Keva Ayurveda 5 years from now?

Across the globe!  

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