The Healthtech Hero
The man behind one of India's leading sports and nutrition brands HealthKart/MuscleBlaze
After graduating from IIT in 1997, Sameer Maheshwari moved to the U.S. and spent almost 12 years there before moving back to India for taking a shot at entrepreneurship. In the U.S. he largely worked in the tech sector and post that he did his MBA at Harvard Business School and did a brief stint of two years in Investment Banking. While living in San Francisco, he met Prashant Tandon that is when both of them decided to move back to India and take a shot at entrepreneurship. At that time, the Smartphone phenomenon was taking off In India and it was also the beginning of e-commerce. “We had complementary healthcare and tech background, and we wanted to do something in health tech and decided to pursue HealthKart in 2011. It was a simple model to build the largest online pharmacy using an e-commerce model in India,” shares Maheshwari. That is how the duo started focusing on all the categories typically kept in a pharmacy and they knew they would come down to medicines at some point of time once there was more clarity around regulations.
In 2015, both co-founders saw two different sorts of business opportunities emerging. “We had created a mobile app which got viral and a lot of people were using this app to figure out transparent pricing across multiple medicines and there was a clear opportunity to build up that model using this app as a center-piece,” mentions Maheshwari. At that point, 70% of business was nutrition and they had an opportunity to build the largest nutrition platform in the form of HealthKart. Given that Sameer and Prashant decided to spin out the pharmacy business which is called 1MG, which Prashant chose to continue and take it forward and Sameer continued to focus on HealthKart and focus only on preventive care and build a large business there. “It was difficult to sort of doing justice to both under the same umbrella,” claims Maheshwari.
2015 onwards healthkart began its journey to now being one of India's leading nutrition and supplement platforms. The omnichannel platform today operates 90 physical stores. The online portal provides daily consults and advice from a nutritionist in terms of helping people pick up the right nutritional products. HealthKart manufactures and distributes sports nutrition products, supplements, and healthy food substitutes under Muscleblaze, TrueBasics, and HealthKart VHMS (*VMHS is the entire vitamins & minerals portfolio).
Talking about managing a marketplace model along with building high-growth private labels, Maheshwari says, “We are building these sharply defined brands and portfolio of these brands on one hand and then with HealthKart, the marketplace which provides guidance to customers to buy products is emerging well. We sell our own brands but we also allow 3rd party products to sell on this platform. It is interesting how we separated out the two companies and both are big companies now themselves.” The nutrition business required them to building their own digital brand which required a very different sort of a product thinking mindset. MuscleBlaze has emerged as that hero brand offering a comprehensive range of products, engagement tools, and expert assistance for wellness and fitness needs. The $100 Million revenue company has been growing at 50% year-on-year. Talking about the pandemic impact Maheshwari says, “The whole need and awareness around preventive care products about multivitamins and all that has gone through the roof during the pandemic. We have benefitted a lot and we will continue to grow rapidly and we want to touch the 1000 Crore mark very soon probably next year and also our core business is operational and positive. The next step is focused on building these portfolios of brands and tap into the public market at some point in time.” MuscleBlaze started in 2013 today gets 50% of sales come through its own channels and 50% from outside of the HealthKart channels like Amazon, Flipkart. The brand continues to invest in newer brands and incubates them till they grow further like Healthkart. The brand has signed Golden poster boy - Neeraj Chopra, the Olympian Javelin Thrower & Wrestler Vinesh Phogat and is continuing to extend their helping hand to all the upcoming & budding athletes by building a culture of athletic performance with fitness and nutrition.