In Conversation With Rohit Kamath and Loveena Sirohi , Founders of India Hemp Organics
" We work to fight serious ailments and diseases that are prevailing in the country today, such as depression, anxiety, autism, chronic pain, inflammation, psoriasis, side effects of chemotherapy, etc. through completely natural ingredients, and no chemicals. "
While completing their Management Studies from Symbiosis University in Pune, Rohit and Loveena would often set foot for their trekking trips to the Himalayas. From an early age, the founders have been following a wellness routine that has majorly been dominated by plant-based eating and living and leading a lifestyle with a more sustainable approach.
1. Brief us about your business model. How did the idea come to start and how does it work (step by step procedure)?
India Hemp Organics (IHO) was incorporated on 21st January 2020. We are a medical cannabis startup in medicine and health, personal care, and food and nutrition space.
At IHO, we work towards re-creating the way cannabis is consumed and perceived within India. As a result of us researching, manufacturing as well as retailing, we have developed a wide range of Ayurvedic Proprietary Medicines. In a world that promotes foods full of harmful and artificial ingredients, and medicines that come with adverse side-effects, we aim at completely revolutionizing the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.
From the Hemp leaves, we formulate our medicinal range called “CannaBliss”, which comprises full-spectrum cannabis leaf oils catering to various ailments such as neurological problems, pain management, insomnia, side-effects of chemotherapy, and promoting daily well-being of the mind and body.
Post our CannaBliss launch on 21st October, we witnessed remarkable results in being able to treat people for the following: chronic pain, chemotherapy side effects, neurological ailments such as depression, stress, anxiety, insomnia, while also promoting overall well-being and balance.
We also have a personal care range that’s meant for topical application only and does not require a medical prescription. This includes the following oils that too are formulated using the Hemp leaves:
- Arthritis Relief, and
- Skin Care
These have shown results in helping patients that suffer from joint pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, inflammation on the skin and body, skin ailments such as acne, pigmentation, dry skin, etc.
And through the Hemp seeds, we make our nutrition products that comprise of
i. Hemp Hearts,
ii. Hemp Protein Powder, and
iii. A multi-purpose Hemp Seed Oil
All Hemp food products are known for their rich nutritional composition, with Hemp seeds often referred to as a vegan superfood that can meet almost all your daily dietary requirements alone. They offer a rich profile of protein, high fibre content, a balanced ratio of essential fatty acids (omegas 3 and 6), iron, magnesium, and more to help you reach a state of optimal health.
All our food products have just one ingredient in them: the Hemp seed, and nothing else. No preservatives, no harmful ingredients, no additives, just a boost of nourishment.
2. What are the unique key points of your company?
IHO is one of the fastest-growing cannabis-based companies in the country, at present and also one of the first movers in the industry. We are legally authorized by the AYUSH ministry to manufacture and retail Ayurvedic Proprietary Medicines made from the Hemp seeds and leaves. All our medications are made from completely plant-based ingredients as we promise to be authentic, natural, organic, and free from any artificial ingredients.
Unlike most allopathic drugs, we work to fight serious ailments and diseases that are prevailing in the country today, such as depression, anxiety, autism, chronic pain, inflammation, psoriasis, side effects of chemotherapy, etc. through completely natural ingredients, and no chemicals. We are firm believers that with the power of nature, integrative medicine, and a holistic approach to life, one can drastically improve their quality of life and combat most diseases. Currently, we are closely working with several doctors to spread the word on cannabis medication and treat more and more patients.
3. How are you different from the existing competitors?
We are a company that is constantly looking into the future for new ways to bring wholesome, potent, and pure wellness products to the global community.
Our Hemp is grown locally in India, following the process that Mother Nature set for us. All the fields are 100% organic and located amidst the luscious foothills of the Himalayan mountains, where our crops mature in a natural and pristine environment, untainted by harsh chemicals, compounds, or any sort of pesticides.
We are as natural as nature can get.
We also produce our Hemp in small batches. Though times have changed, we continue to believe in the power of small when crafting our products. Each batch of Hemp that we produce is hand-cultivated and carefully selected for the best quality and purity.
The world today has people that are sick and not able to function as their most optimal selves, diseases such as cancer, depression, heart ailments, and diabetes are on the rise, farmers are committing suicides, our planet is depleting and resources are becoming scarce...
In a world like this, we need to be the change-makers, the problem solvers, the healers, the visionaries, and the leaders of tomorrow, so we can create a better world for ourselves, and the generations that follow.
And in that effort of ours, we have found Cannabis, a wonder-crop that works to benefit all of you: from your mind, body, and soul, while also giving back abundantly to our people, our environment, and our planet.
We have put our heart and soul into finding ways that will benefit the health of our people. We truly hope that we can pass over our love in the form of pure and natural products our consumers can benefit from.
4. What is the funding status and monetization model?
IHO is completely bootstrapped and started off on family funding. However, with our plans for global expansion, we are currently looking to raise investments.
5. What challenges are you facing in running your business?
Currently, Cannabis is grown majorly as a wild and feral crop and optimum seeds are vital to ensure standardized output in India. However, as per the commercial cultivation policy in Uttarakhand, only seeds that are below 0.3% THC are permitted, which our country lacks. This law has been adopted by the European Union and followed suit in our country, without any domestic research done on our indigenous species. The main challenge we face is in being able to cultivate Hemp at a large scale due to lack of regulation of the seeds which are below 0.3% THC. We are working on launching a Hemp breeding programme with government and scientific institutes so we can cultivate on a large scale, as well as assist local farmers in the same by providing optimal resources.
6. How has been the people`s response so far?
Post our medicinal launch, we have received a phenomenal response from our customers. Our customer return rate increased drastically, as majority of our clients said they have been able to taper off allopathic medications and switch to cannabis-based medications offered by India Hemp Organics for a wide array of diseases, right from stress, anxiety, insomnia and depression to cancer patients that are battling to mitigate the side effects of chemotherapy, as well as patients suffering from irritable bowel syndromes etc.
With the lockdown taking place from early March 2020, we witnessed a big switch in consumer-driven behaviour towards their eating habits, as more and more people switched to a plant-based diet and healthy eating. The sale of our protein powders increased drastically, as unlike Whey, it’s completely natural and doesn’t come with any side effects of bloating, gas, cramps etc.
We also had mothers purchasing Hemp for their toddlers and babies, to kickstart their nutrition from an early age -- that really proved to us that we have been successful in our methods of educating the masses on the benefits of hemp health and medicine, as well as breaking the stigmas around it.
7. What are the traction details (like users, app downloads & other achievements of the company)?
On Feb 15th is when we launched our first line of food and nutrition products, 8 months later is when we launched our medicinal range of oils, along with our personal care (OTC) oils.
Within this short span of time, we have catered to 20,000+ customers all across India, and have recently expanded into the international markets. Across our social media platforms on Facebook and Instagram, we have a total of 15,000+ followers that have been acquired all organically, without any paid advertising or ad spends (as Facebook’s advertising policies do not recognise Hemp as yet), which has been a great accomplishment. We have an increasing demand with B2B and have our products placed on several offline stores and online marketplaces. We are only going to get bigger and better from here on!
8. How do you look at expansion?
Our vision lies in becoming a global cannabis-based company in the country basis the impact we are able to generate on human development and disease, through our cannabis-based health and wellness products.
We aim at continuous expansion into various health, wellness, and personal care products, with our core ingredient always being Hemp. Currently, we are in the health and wellness space with a wide range of offerings of medicinal and nutritional products.
However, our next target will be to expand into “classical ayurvedic formulations” using the Vijaya extract (Cannabis Sativa extract) and other adaptogens.
We are also looking to step into a premium and natural skin-care line with Hemp as our core ingredient.
Apart from the products we offer, we will also be deeply invested in two kinds of research:
The first kind of research studies will be rooted in medicinal cannabis, by conducting clinical trials on cannabis and its potential on pain management, combating the side-effects of cancer, neurological ailments, arthritis etc. This will be done in collaboration with some of the top hospitals and research institutes in the country.
The second type of research would be on studying the Indian cannabis phenotype, genotype, and chemotype in order to attain standardised Hemp seeds that are below 0.3% THC, and have a seed bank.
9. What are your marketing plans?
We are currently working with and partnering several doctors to build a community with a medical fraternity to educate on and prescribe cannabis-based medications.
Apart from that, we look to associate our brand with several like-minded influencers within the health and wellness space, to create content that’s fun and educational at the same time and spread the word about IHO and it’s hemp products. We are also working in cooperation with various marketplaces and retail stores.
10. What has been the biggest learning’s so far?
This is an industry that involves several players -- the government, policymakers, farmers, as well as consumers. We have come to realise that at the crux of anything lies pure awareness and education. Currently, Hemp and Cannabis have a bad name within the country due to the stigma built around its recreational uses and lack of research has taken place to prove otherwise. With the right platforms to educate the masses and the right thought leaders, we can greatly shape the future this industry holds, break stigmas, normalise cannabis and prove it’s efficacy in being able to heal several people. This plant alone can go on to incentivising the lives of our farmers, as well as becoming the next big green revolution. But yet again, in research-backed data, education and awareness is where the true change really lies.
11. What is the market size and opportunity?
The global hemp and cannabis market is expected to reach $42.71 billion in 2025. Within India, we estimate the domestic market to be worth $700-$900 million at present but with a population of approximately 1.4 billion and a growing middle class, the potential market for cannabis products is substantial.
Around The World