Written by: Ashok Jaiswar
About the author: Group Head Marketing & Corporate Communications – Greaves Cotton Limited & Ampere Electric
“We weren’t ready, but we adapted”.
Last 8-9 months have been the biggest learning period for all as once- in- a- century swept the whole world away with its own set of challenges & crisis. There were two options – to either succumb or rise up avoiding simply navel-gazing at the problem & show the courage to fight out.
One of my editor-turned-entrepreneur friends came up with this brilliant start-up idea & I feel worth a lot of learning for all young learning minds & even bigger brands who still think about living by their purpose but somehow lag behind owing to their internal complex processes.
Last summer when everyone got home locked, it became practically impossible for common citizens to move & this heavily affected the savings, which were just enough to pull out for a couple of more months. Like many, this entrepreneur started shortlisting options and finally decided to venture into the health sector & do something new. Immunity & Wellness were most focused subjects since pandemic has gripped the world.
The idea was to create a business model disruption by enabling local natives to sell their raw unadulterated honey sourced from the deepest interiors of untouched forest & sell it via E-Channel to end consumers globally.
As easy, it may sound here but bringing the idea to life was a combined result of multiple factors. He made this herculean task possible with his determination & solid passion.
A normal startup goes through cyclical ups & downs navigating through the maze of resources & process-related problems. The word start-up carries in itself indomitable spirit to start, keep moving on solving hurdles & overcome barriers. Successful start-ups also have this great ability to mobilise resources people and investments to collaborate and grow.
When the entire world was on standstill but zooming around to connect, this newbie was grappling to get through any proper network to reach & communicate to Adivasis, yes the native suppliers.
However, he never gave up.
He joined hands with tribal natives who were also keen to explore collaboration to sell their produce in the open market. They wanted to make a livelihood & see their products get voice & visibility in the marketplace.
Nature has its own friends & this specific tribal community had hidden knack of identifying special reserves of honey stacks deeper within intricate forests. It is not just important to have a good product but convince people at large about its unique value proposition. This required a different way of presenting & positioning the product. It was extremely important for these natives to be connected & convinced about burgeoning opportunities for their super healthy produce the yellow gold tonic honey. To educate them via frequent calls in poor network zone was nothing less than a humongous challenge. They were educated through a series of audio & video calls, a task difficult especially when the learners, the tribal were not having even the basic education.
Besides this, there was this logistical nightmare to supply in a safe & protected condition until it reached the packaging location & then to the dispatch point. When you are guided by your true north aka your purpose it becomes all the simpler. You make that happen. They say “Fortune favours the brave” & it supported this business idea as well. Over a period of 2-3 months, things were streamlined from convincing to sourcing, training to picking, branding to packaging, pricing to distributing via the e-commerce way & even featuring in top 100 brands in that segment on leading portal listing.
The digital wave had swept the country & with resource crunch plus Covid restrictions, it was difficult to place the product in physical outlets. Hence a conscious call to do business leveraging internet was the only way out. The fitness-friendly youngsters, caring couples, mindful moms, busy businessmen, an ardent athlete all seeking good health & well-being were hooked more on digital. Hence, social commerce was the easier way out to reach out to all from the Sarpanch to the Socialite.
Micro-Entrepreneur, Mega Dream.
A genuine attempt to empower local natives & grow with them was guiding force every single day of this journey. It was a perfect confluence of three entities coming together
- Producer– Natives / Adivasis collecting honey
- Seller–Start up Entrepreneur
- Buyers– Health Conscious People
Here is a list of challenges & learning summarised while this entrepreneur decided to create a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid.
- Identification of right communities to make them supply partners.
- Educate them (localities) about various opportunities to grow.
- Importance of keeping products raw, unmixed & authentic from the end-users point of view
- Potential to sell more at relatively higher margins than conventional markets.
- Value building- infomercials through smaller content & Social nexus
- Learning newer ways of digital e-commerce & even through WhatsApp
- Creating Story online -1st pick up – pack – dispatch in one go.
- Product listing on the e-commerce site
- Create. Own website and create compelling content
- Celebrate small gains to build positive momentum.
The best solutions come when you engage your best people at the start point itself. Build positive collaborative momentum or simply momentहम as these natives could understand better.
Any thoughtfully curated idea before launch requires carefully creation of customer’s journey maps & building a solid value proposition to win. Authenticity helps in such product lines & most difficult task with ever honey bottle here was to break the behavioural habit of the way very well ingrained as a habit within the user communities. in which till date the honey was perceived & consumed. This product being unadulterated came in various colour, less viscous form & was much thinner than conventional or products. To convince customers on originality is difficult but achievable. It requires persistent efforts & resource deployment to build correct messaging & imagery. For this Covid phase born brand all this has been very difficult.
Yet it became possible & got great community support to start the project ahead.
For some when this pandemic period was testing times, here was a new-age start-up company, which brought to life a health & immunity focused product set to grow in the market.
In summary, this idea curated at right time & in face of extreme adversity became advantageous because of its own merits.
An idea which brought social inclusion nurtured bio-diversity and hence sustainability.
An idea, which started with bootstrapped budget but with an ambition to serve the evolving segment of fitness freaks and health-conscious customers.
An idea, which fostered micro-entrepreneurship & support livelihood of people at bottom of the pyramid.
An idea, which could bring to forth hitherto less-educated natives to embrace the digital practice and grow.
An idea, which we as responsible world citizens should think and create similar propositions to catapult the economy from grounds-up.