Welcome back to the second episode of our FinTechX, Emerging leaders podcast. I am Astha Raut, and we are in conversation with Vibha Harish, the founder of Cosmix, one of the fastest-growing ventures of India.
Vibha is the creator of the herbal nutrition and plant-based supplements at Cosmix, the one-stop solution to leading a healthier life and fulfilling your nutritional requirements. She made it to the Forbes 30 under 30 shortly after opening her venture and plays a significant part in supporting the malnourished kids in India. We will know more about that as we proceed.
So, let’s welcome our guest Vibha Harish.
Astha: Let me just start with my first question. It’s very generic. How was your childhood? What were your aspirations, your career beginnings, you know, your education and your hobbies. We would like to know about Vibha minus the entrepreneur in you!
Vibha: I got it. So, I mean, I grew up in Australia and my parents, although they were working in although they were employed, they always kind of had this little on the entrepreneur bug, and they used to, you know, go to flea markets and just sell some jewellery on the weekend. But, you know, like, that was kind of their lifestyle. And so I think I kind of grew up a little around the whole I think I loved business from a really, really young age, never really knew what to do with it.
I feel like I was just associated with it. But then later on, I think it kind of just moved away. And I started getting interested in other things. But in the beginning, it was just I remember my first toy ever was like a little cash. Is that what my parents bought me? So, yeah, I think that was kind of how things looked. I moved to India when I was in fourth grade. So after that, it was just normal life here. And I’ve always just kind of been interested, I think and is developing new things and working on new ideas.
I think it all kind of culminated in what is cosmic today.
Astha: So, yeah, right now that we are already on to Cosmic so lets know about your Aha moment that happened when you decided to start your own business. And how did all those ideas come to you?
Vibha: So I basically had PCOS a couple of years ago, and when I was diagnosed with that, my mother was a homoeopathic doctor. So she was able to really understand things and say, you know, don’t go for the regular but birth control pills and very heavy steroids and antibiotics or even surgery, for that matter. That might now be it would really be not like a holistic solution and may in turn cause, like, side effects. And so my mom was a big believer in natural medicine and treating your food like medicine and said, okay, you know what?
Here you go. I think it was just a continuous usage of these herbs. That kind of led me to understand that what it has an impact on my body, I think probably has an impact on many other people. And just more research, more understanding. And yeah, I think that was just kind of I was like, you know, everyone really deserves to have access to this kind of preventive medicine, food/medicine.
Astha: So would you like to tell us about the challenges that you have to see while executing the idea and how did you overcome all those things?
Vibha: Of course, a very, very big topic challenge and overcoming them, maybe one or two for me, just explaining to people that this isn’t like an overnight quick fix has been like a huge challenge, starting the whole educational aspect of it. And everybody comes in expecting anything. My acne is going to maybe go away tomorrow. But then it’s so important for me to explain and say, like treating each person is like a separate case and say, I understand that there is acne, but then there’s also you got help to take care of, and your liver helps to take care of, which are surprisingly very closely connected to your acne in many cases.
Or maybe your hormonal health. Or it could just be that, you know, your skin requires some, like an extra extra dose of, like, antioxidants until there could be so many reasons and just explaining that and helping someone understand that, you know, there’s a process and it takes some time and the science behind all of it. So just that, like hard core education and just giving a lot of information and being highly responsible about it because I, of course, have gone through so many periods that I’ve been so insecure about my body, so understanding and making sure no one else will feel that way is so important because they’re trusting us and coming to us.
And every word that we say matters, every word on our website matters. So yeah, that’s how we understand things. And that’s been a big challenge. But I think just thinking about even putting up an ad is easy, but like being responsible and taking so much more time and effort resources. I think this has been about a very mindful decision making and, of course, a higher, very mindful team for that. And I think that has been, I wouldn’t say, a big challenge, but it’s been a very important step in the whole process.
Astha: Yeah. Might have taken a lot of time to find the right minds.. Yeah. Coming to your company again. How do you explain that Cosmix is different from anything else in the market? I mean, I understand that there’s a lot in it that you actually help with your “Nourishment in All” programme there. Will come to that later. But I would like to know how perhaps it is different from the rest of the companies, those who are working on herbalism.
Vibha: I got it. So I think there are so many things that when I was entering the industry, I observed and I think if everything was perfect, I would have never started. So I think it was just seeing that there isn’t solid traceability when it comes to the supplement as well as just like, you know, some of the saying, yeah, I use it myself. These were just things that I really wanted to see and really wanted to understand. And I think really going back to Traceability was something that I just couldn’t find.
How much ever I say could even ask people. No one was giving any answers. And so I just felt like that was one big thing that we wanted to work on. Keeping formally super simple is something that we really wanted to work on. So I think he will really, two core aspects that we focus on in terms of the product. But as if you look at the whole company as a whole, it really focuses on education time and again. So it’s never just selling the supplement.
It’s always hye, there’s a supplement and let me talk to you about if you work on your gut, what will happen to your hair? What will happen to your skin? How are you helping those is an aspect. What is your skin you crave or what sources of energy that you could help your body with. And so all these different kinds of educational pieces, that is really why I think I think I don’t know about the conversation of what sets apart, but I think this is just something that I believe is the most important to serve our customers correctly.
And so that’s what we do. Yeah.
Astha: So Cosmix is basically knowledge, plus the product. Not just like bombing people with your products.
Astha: So that’s great. So tell us more about your strategy that was there to keep the balance between, you know, the cost of input and output. Your expenses, how you manage that, the products and to finish goods. So, you know, these things can help the young entrepreneurs products that are coming ahead.
Vibha: Oh, okay. There’s really ofcourse big topics, but we’ve been bootstrapping since day 1, and it’s been I think, I always say, have a bootstrap mentality when you’re really able to focus. I think many people get business slightly wrong, but, oh, let me just go in and raise some funds and things will be okay. But I think it’s so important. And even yes, when funds come, it’s still important to kind of manage your profitability and just keep the ball rolling. And I think that’s what it’s all about. I think many people lose the plot, and it’s so important to just continue to focus on your customers while keeping it profitable and again, not keep it profitable to put in your pocket. Profitable so that you can improve your business, improve your processes. Like we started with plastic packaging because we didn’t have the money. And as soon as the business did make some money and invested in packaging. So we didn’t start with any branding. And once we began, we branding and got some, like a little colour palette and things like that that matter slightly, of course, not more than the product.
But we invested all of our money for us into the product and the research and R&D everything else kind of came later. So yeah. I mean, if this is intended to kind of help people who are looking to take some action, I would definitely focus on investing as the most important thing. And then with the money that kind of rolls and through that focus on improving the rest.
Astha: We have all been through difficult times recently, how has the pandemic impacted your business, coping up with these changing times and how did you plan to commercialise your idea or product?
Vibha: We are actually a COVID baby. Around two month before that. It did hit us hard as we did not have any existing customer base, but we needed to adapt, we didn’t have a team, a retail store, did not rely on one. We were all focusing on online, u know double down all the efforts, really focus on education, and were mindful when it comes to health like about things like immunity. While we had an immunity boosting product, we did not want to advertise it during that time because u know u needed to be really really responsible.
Astha: Our listeners would love to know about the “Nourishment in All ” program. I read about it on your website and it really wants our listeners to know about it. Throw some light on it.
Vibha: Absolutely. During this process you know when COVID really started, a lot of reports of nourishment, especially in the villages and people losing their jobs, not able to feed their children. And so since we had superfoods that were sourced so well, and we thought we’re here getting the nourishment, but people who truly, truly need it aren’t able to get it. And by then we were at least able to stay afloat with our sales and stuff. So we thought we’re getting this amazing produce and,of course, because they’re buying in bulk, we’re getting them at pretty good prices.
And so we just thought we would make these bars that, of course, are approved by CFTRI. That’s the Centre of Food research in India to help nourishment with the help of our superfood. So we also partnered with a foundation. And so we started making these really healthy, very, nourishment filled bars that contain spirulina and different superfoods that would be able to be given to these children who were certified malnourished in Anganwadis in the local areas. And so yeah, with that intention, it started and we’ve been giving these bars to children, and they basically get their dosage of required superfoods every single day to help them. And it’s been such a successful endeavor. So many people have really benefited. Yeah.
Astha: Since we are running short of time, I will come to the last question, which is also kind of generic now. So what’s your leadership mantra like to achieve your level of success? Our young entrepreneurs will really have a great help if you could give them some tips on that.
Vibha: Okay. I mean, I wouldn’t think of it as a leadership mantra as such, but I’m just thinking now, after you ask your question. And I think two things that I’ve really done is I’ve tried my best to lead by example, which means if you ask someone to come at 09:00 a.m. Or check in at 09:00 a.m. Every morning, you do the same. And I mean, of course, it’s hard, and not everyone is perfect. But I do try my best on that front. I think another thing is to really always talk to your team about why a certain action has to take place, because I’ve worked with people who have been leading me who just would give me a task and not tell me why I have to do it.
But I think just knowing why for every little thing makes a huge difference and keeps people motivated in learning. And as long as they’re learning, I think it’s all fun. So yeah, I think these two things have made a big difference.
Astha: That’s great. Cool. Then we actually come to an end of this wonderful session with you.
Vibha: Amazing. I’m so glad.
Astha: Thank you for giving us your precious time. I’m pretty sure your work is going to motivate our listeners to explore more about herbalism, gain some knowledge about herbalism and bring out the healthier version of themselves.
Vibha: I’m so glad. Thank you. So great talking to you.
Astha: Thank you so much for that.
This is Astha signing off. We’ll see you in our next podcast. Till then, stay healthy and stay safe.