Tracing nature

Nandan Biomatrix is of the very few companies which is into natural medicine. Arshiya Khan digs the roots of the company and discovers the benefits in going the natural way.

2007013111-4620004While some travel great distances exploring the space, some do the same but within the geosystem. Nandan Biomatrix has chosen the path of discovering and commercialising medicinal plants in the form of natural therapies. Nandan Biomatrix a decade year old company was started by Bhaskar Rao, with a vision of exploring natural plants and herbs in the quest of medicines as he had sensed the shift from chemicals to naturals. And this intuition saw the light of the day since lifestyle related complications are one of the most common complaints that are being heard across the urban population. Stress, strain and obesity being the root cause of these diseases, Nandan just might have the natural answer to this. “It is a fact that nutraceutical industry has a huge potential. It is growing at almost seven percent per annum and is still untapped. That’s how Nandan chose the area of well being industry,” opines C S Jadhav, Marketing Director, Nandan Biomatrix.

In the present industry scenario, stress, strain, obesity and diabetes are prevalent due to the changing consumer preferences, food habits, lifestyles, and environmental factors. With too many medicines and too little wellness, today there is an increase in awareness of health. People are looking at organic foods and medicines from natural extracts which have no side-effects. Nandan is planning to tap this need by offering botanical solutions. But these medicines are different from others which proclaim themselves natural, as Nandan’s products are clinically validated.

Where from?

Though Nandan’s products are planted firmly on the land, their roots lie in the ayurveda. Nandan has a strong belief that India is blessed with strong agro-climatic zones, vast knowledge on ayurveda and is rich in resources. “Based on the social acceptance of the ayurveda products, the company wanted to have an integrated model. So they laid the foundation of this model based on scientific study and a very systematic approach. This is what gave birth to Nandan,” says Jadhav.

Nandan has it processing industry where it has zeroed down to three main plants safed musli, aloe vera and stevia. With 20 processing units and 40,000 acres of land under contract farming, these natural extracts are processed under the quality norms for domestic and international markets. It is an integrated company encompassing activity right from cultivation wherein it has its own resource and agri-research centre spread across 600 acres of land at Zaheerabad. It is here that they do the research on cultivation, develop package of practices and then go for commercial cultivation. They also have their own R&D, processing and formulation facility. “It is for this reason that we initiated the R&D and manufacturing at our end so that we get the speciality and quality product. So our business models operates in such a way that the entire value chain is managed at our end,” says Jadhav.

The franchisee connection

Unlike others, Nandan has a sequential four-fold business model. But it solely rests on the backend support of its franchisees. And it has adopted a two-pronged strategy. They get the crops from the franchisees and supply it to the pharma companies. Franchisees are the farmers who have been cultivating crops for Nandan since it was born. Right at the core of the company lies the farmer who are under the vigil of the franchisees. These farmers (now franchisees) have been upgraded by Nandan Biomatrix to take charge of the crops. Right from cultivation, the manure and fertilisers to be used, the duration of the crop till the output as required by Nandan is taken care by these franchisees. “As the medicinal plant industry is unorganised and most of the produce comes from the forest, to commercialise is an uphill task. Cultivation at diverse places with different agro-climatic conditions is difficult to control and monitor. So Nandan has its franchisees in place to do the needful,” says Jadhav. “The other problem is marketing of the produce as this is an unorganised industry unlike pharma,” he adds.

The franchisee is very vital in the value chain because for Nandan it becomes time consuming to monitor the entire cultivation process. So one can call the franchisees as the wheels of Nandan on which it is rolling its natural extracts.

Cultivating culture

It is no doubt that the company is on the fast track recording a growth rate of 60-65 percent annually. And it owes this to the support of the back-end and front-end franchisees which are the wheels for Nandan. The unique cultivation and R&D drive the company. It has expanded its cultivation area from four acres to about ten thousand acres of land spreading across the length and breadth of the country. The in-house strength of the company includes 120 professionals who work in co-ordination with competent scientists, chemists, pharmacists and ayurvedic doctors. To guide them on the R&D aspects and patents is the scientific advisory team consisting of technologists and IPR’s. Even though there is no specific agency particularly in the area of herbal except for the license given by the ayurvedic department, Nandan strictly adheres to the standards maintained by WHO and cGMP.

India is becoming a diabetic hub and it is becoming very important to tackle it naturally or chemically. Nature being the biggest healer and the demand for medicinal plants expected to grow to $5 trillion by the year 2050, Nandan is on its way to find the cure for lifestyle disorders through their natural extracts.

Nandan is also targeting the aphrodisiac segment which is supported by an increase in the impotency scale and the market potential for the same. The estimated market for anti-impotency drugs in India is around Rs 5 billion to Rs 8 billion. Whereas projected global prevalence of erectile dysfunction by 2025 is targeted to be 322 million, out of which Asia contributed 80.9 million in the year 1995. Safed musli is one of the main plants that they process. Also called as chlorophytic borivilianum, has been depicted in traditional literature is indicated as an aphrodisiac.

Similarly the second one is aloe vera. The hair care and cosmetic industry is growing at a considerable rate with the rise of so many hair experts, parlours and saloons. In India the total market for cosmetics and toiletries industry is $652.2 million, whereas the market size of the skin-care segment alone is estimated $261 million. (Aloe vera, being a major ingredient). And the present US market demand for aloe vera is $60 billion. Nandan has indeed very smartly figured that out, and is working in the same arena with its product aloe vera.

And the third one is stieva. Stevia has an active ingredient called stevioside and also contains glycerocides. Thus it is totally zero carbohydrate, zero cholesterol and zero calorie. It also helps in the circulation of the blood, and regulates blood pressure. As the health awareness is growing there are products coming out in this category but the natural sweetener like stevia is also slowly catching up in India. During the last five years the nutraceutical market has witnessed an average growth rate of 9.9 percent annually, reaching $74.7 billion by 2007.

Business nature

Just as stars cannot be counted, so also one cannot have the exact number of products that can be rolled out from a single natural extract. Its no news that most of the ayurvedic products are not clinically proven. The forest produce cannot be relied on until the required altercations are made. This is where Nandan’s core competency will come from. Nandan does everything from identifying particular herb, toxicology and efficacy checks, to clinically proving it and then coming out with speciality products.

To manage cutting edge research, the company has joined hands with Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad and UDCT (Mumbai), to give a strong knowledge base to their research activities.

What lies ahead?

“We would like to be one of the largest players in the category of natural products by 2015,” desires Jadhav. They came and they rolled out. Will they sustain is only the question in doubt. Unlike we had predictions of astrologers and tarot card readers when the year of 2007 came in, business future for any market is least predictable. But like others even Nandan has its own plans for the future. It is looking at utilising in-house produce of extracts (aloe vera, safed musli and stieva) for crushing out some new products, for which they have 20 products lined up in the pipeline. However this is not going to be a smooth ride. “Scientific study and validation of the herbs is very critical particularly when you are looking at international markets which we have faced in the past,” adds Jadhav. Initially they targeted bulk sales to pharma companies, food and beverage companies who were looking for alternatives for sugar products. But now they are also focussing at international markets like South East Asia, Europe and USA. So also they are planning to launch it commercially in India and Middle East and set up a JVC in Malaysia, which will encompass their own facilities to market the products to the South East Asian countries.

After gaining an edge on supplying the extracts, to pharma companies it is now looking forward to utilise those same extracts to shape new products. In the next few months, Nandan is planning to launch a beverage which could be a combination of stevia and aloe vera. They have also applied for certification of aloe vera through the International Aloe Science Council for the same. Nandan is also looking for tying up with some other good distribution and marketing company to roll out their products. The strategies all in place and the stage is set, all one would wait for is for the great green revolution.