Building a Brand Without Destroying a Legacy
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‘Rome was not built in a day’ – the French proverb stands true for legacy businesses, which have withstood the test of time to not only validate their products but also inspire the next-gen leaders to be entrepreneurs. Waking up to the changing trends and technological advancements, torch-bearers of these legacy business are either taking these conglomerates into new territories or re-inventing themselves, keeping the core values intact. Tracing their journey, Entrepreneur talks to these legacy masters
Established in 1884 by Vaidya N. Vasudevan Unni, former palace physician to the Maharaja of Travancore, Vasudeva Vilasam has an unmatched legacy in Ayurveda. He passed on the science to his sons, who passed it on to the next generation, making it relevant with changing times. Starting from just three basic products, the company has a product line of over 500 and has diversified into rehabilitation, spas and wellness centres. Pradeep Jeothi, Managing Director, Vasudeva Vilasam is the man carrying the legacy on his shoulders. He has a clear plan – he wants to move out of Kerala and expand across the country. His products are a hit with the European market, but in India their operations are restricted to the south. He intends to not only setup a manufacturing unit, thanks to the sudden demand of his products from North India. One of the lessons he has learnt from his forefathers is the need to believe in the product and stay true to the promise. “Wellness is a growing sector. We are planning to open clinics that cure pains, like shoulder and joints in Northern India. We will not only market our products, but also setup shops, for more prominence,” says Jeothi. The company’s forefather used to give three products to Brahmins bathing at the temple near the Travancore Palace, which were hair & body oil and a tooth powder. The company is still selling these core products, however, has rebranded them 10 years ago to make it relevant. Vasudeva’s products are also popular in countries, like Russia, Germany, Italy and several European countries. Already operating under healthcare, wellness and fitness products, Jeothi wants the company to branch out into the food supplement market, considering it as the next big thing. With a pan-India approach, he plans to set up a factory in Uttarakhand and Karnataka. True power of a quality product!
FOR HIM PRODUCT IS KING
Players who have been in the market for long are gearing for change. Cholayil group, which gave us the medicinal soap, Medimix is also taking note of changing trends. Remember, Medimix’s simplistic green and white wrapper packing? Well, that’s undergone a sea change over the years. It is now available in a fancy green carton. Realizing the competition in the market, Subramaniam Venkataraman, brand custodian, Medimix says the company wants to keep up the brand value and recall. “You can’t move to a nice packaging and let your products suffers in terms of quality,” he says. The soap, still manufactured using the same science, has been re-packaged to appeal to the masses. With increasing demand for such products, the company also has other brands in its kitty – Cuticura and Krishna Tulsi Soap, but Medimix remains their favorite child. “You cannot take a brand for granted. Companies have to continuously produce quality and communicate with consumers,” he adds. The group has now entered the intimate feminine wash segment, something which is a very nascent category in India at the moment. Venkataraman adds with the awareness around Ayurveda, Medimix wants to position itself as a company which comes with a very strong heritage, but answers a modern, contemporary need in the personal care space.
THE INQUISITIVE ENTREPRENEUR
Meet, Kerala-based Ayurveda Company, Dhathri that boasts of a 300-year-old legacy. The company entered the FMCG and modern pharma channel about 15 years ago and started repackaging their products. Since then innovation in design has been a key area for them.
The foundation of Dhathri Group was laid by Parameswara Vaidyar, nearly three centuries ago. He began healing people using the gift of Ayurveda in a small town of Kayamkulam in Kerala, India. Carrying forward the legacy today is, Dr Sajikumar, the company’s MD who is not only managing products, but also healthcare institutions and Ayurvedic curative services like hospitals and clinics. He was deeply inspired by his grandfather to carry forward his healing legacy. Studying yoga, reiki and acupuncture, he plans to make Ayurveda a part of everyone’s life. A keen observer of changing trends and wanting to add value to the brand makes him a true entrepreneur. “Whatever happens in healthcare industry, management, science is of interest to me,” he says. Dhathri’s flagship product is Hair Care plus herbal hair oil. The company has over 75 products in its portfolio, ranging from skin and hair care to wellness. The group’s latest venture is Dhathri ABS (Ayurveda, Beauty and Slimming) clinics for treating lifestyle diseases, which is growing at an alarming pace. They plan is to open such branches in the middle-east in the coming years.
BALANCED NEW-AGE ENTREPRENEURS
Natasha Tuli, co-founder, Soulflower has an interesting story to share. Recently, she gave moustache oil and a few soaps to a few cops near her residence in the plush Bandra suburb of Mumbai, for trial. They came back to her, with a review. Fresh and rejuvenated is what they felt! That is the power of natural products and the legacy in businesses help newer players to emerge and think out-of-the box. Tuli started Soulflower in 2001, offering handcrafted soaps, blended oils and spa treatments resurrected from ancient recipes, something that most people weren’t aware of. Well thanks to validation of Ayurveda products by Baba Ramdev, the scenario is different today, she adds. “When I started Soulflower, I had to tell people, it is soap and not a candle. People are getting aware and they really want to use it. Along with giving a natural product, I wanted to make stuff that looks good."
This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (August 2016 Issue).