A headache, a cut or bit of temperature will have me rushing to the local chemist for a quick fix. In India, where most of us are self-appointed doctors, few of us would dig into our house to find homemade remedies. If we have grandparents then they might have a word of advice on how simple and natural tricks can save us from a visit to the chemist or the doctor, or may be prevent occurrence of certain health issues by making a change in our daily lifestyle. But we hardly listen to them.
But what if the health advice comes from experts and in do-it-yourself form of interesting video content? With our stressful lifestyle and the rising costs in healthcare, globally people are hitting the internet button more often.
The West has always been keen in the age-old medical science that Asia and countries like India have. Despite all its infrastructure issues, India is also consuming online video content at an increasing rate.
Sensing it as a global opportunity, Mumbai based startup Homeveda is enabling the natural health & wellness space by creating interesting do-it-yourself (DIY) video content. Homeveda has over 1000 natural home remedies and information about symptoms and causes for over 250 common as well as chronic health conditions.The YouTube channel has more than 333 videos, is subscribed by more than 267K people and has more than 37M views.
After watching some of the popular videos related to hair care and breezing through the playlists like women, kids, oral health, among others I realized the immense potential of the startup. Now it was quite essential to know the brains behind Homeveda and their story.
The genesis of Homeveda
Homeveda was born in the middle of 2011 when three like-minded people – Hitesh Bhagia, Harsh Rohatgi and Vinay Mishra came together. It was Vinay’s idea to create a DIY video content portal in the health and wellness space.
Born in the steel plant city of India – Jamshedpur, Vinay after his schooling moved to Delhi to do his graduation in English literature. He worked for a year with Discovery Channel in the capital and later went for his MBA from IIMK.
In 1999, Vinay completed his MBA and since then he has been an entrepreneur with his first venture Intercept Technologies, India’s leading provider for Internet and technology-based marketing solutions.
“Intercept was Asia’s Doubleclick equivalent and during that time we were funded by WestBridge Capital Partners which later became Sequoia Capital. In fact we were larger than Doubleclick in Asia,” recollects Vinay while sharing his early entrepreneurial journey days.
In 2003, Vinay started his second venture Marketics Technologies which later got acquired by WNS in 2007 for $65 million. After this Vinay and his wife moved back to India from the US since the serial entrepreneur finds comfort working in the Indian environment. “I have always been comfortable being an entrepreneur and I felt that the returns are higher in India so I decided to move back,” he adds.
Vinay started two ventures – one with his wife and the other was Homeveda along with Harsh and Hitesh. “The idea for starting Homeveda was my desire to work in the video space. I did realize that health and wellness is a big space and I also realized that someone like me is comfortable in the DIY space being in written format. But saying that I did see a trend that globally video was gaining importance. And even if there wasn’t a huge demand for DIY video content, I felt that since the market is moving that way it will become video eventually.” He shares that prior experience in analytics came to good use at Homeveda.
Health is the largest segment outside of entertainment and sports that people go to on the internet and Vinay felt it must be tapped. This led the foundation of bootstrapped startup HomeVeda, which raised an undisclosed amount of funding at the beginning of this year from Blume Ventures.
Search for the third co-founder
Co-founder Harsh, who is also associated with Realimage, happens to be a friend of Vinay from his college days. With a strong background in video and television space, Harsh and Vinay were the ones who started brainstorming on Homeveda.“We started discussing the idea and we needed someone who can drive the idea on his shoulder and execute it. I knew Hitesh quite well and I thought he would be the right fit for Homeveda,” recollects Vinay who also happens to be a senior of Hitesh at IIMK.
Hitesh is a Delhi lad who did his chemical engineering from Mumbai. After working for a year in Uhde India, he wrote his CAT in 2007 and went on to do his MBA from IIMK. By 2009 Hitesh was placed in Citibank India where he worked for more than a year and half. However while talking to me over the phone, Hitesh shared that by the end of his MBA, he had thoughts of working on something of his own. “Back of my mind I had some thoughts to work on my own venture and I was quite convinced that the earlier it happens, the better it is for me.”
From his early college days, Hitesh had inclination towards a startup and he got convinced while working with Citi. “Working for 15 months in Citi, I was convinced that I would be a better fit working in a smaller structure where responsibilities and individual growth is more. This led the initiation of a quest to find out what can be done so that I can quit Citi at least,” he says.
Growth of Homeveda
With the operational setup in place, the startup looked for an expert in the space to help Homeveda since the idea was being executed by management graduates and not doctors. “We were not doctors and all the information that we were going to put on the internet required the stamp of experts from the field. So we looked out and started working with Dr. B.N. Sinha who was the ex-HOD of a leading Ayurveda college and part of the Ayush government board for producing medicine,” adds Hitesh.
Once Sinha joined as an expert, rest was the operational part of listing what could be done in the space in terms of remedies and thereafter doing a shoot of the DIY videos. The first shoot Homeveda did was of 200 videos shot at Mumbai which focused on alternative treatment using ingredients that users can find in their homes. Today these videos are content pillars of the startup.
Content creation isn’t an easy job and it is expensive too. Being a startup Homeveda kept its focus on the cost and while it believes in producing good content, it remains a process driven company rather than becoming over the top creative company. “We wanted to adopt cookie cutter process so that tomorrow we can create a lot of content and the business is easier to scale. So we stuck to a format driven approach in whatever we did keeping the cost minimal and decided to create videos along with text.” he informs.
The entire process started in June 2011 and by June 2012 the company went live with its first set of 200 videos. It is 2014 now, three years of existence of the company and there has been no looking back for Homeveda.
Today the show is being run by Hitesh along with the support of Vinay while Harsh plays more of an advisory role. The startup has built a decent team of ten based in Mumbai with all the videos being created by an in-house production team led by Harsh. “We don’t have designations as such in our startup but all three of us our shaping up the future of Homeveda,” Hitesh shares.
Localization and challenges
Sharing some of the learning, Hitesh shares that with time the startup had its own learning from the digital world right from content creation to getting discovered.
“We have built a good amount of content and we also have a strong community to support it. We see the business for our startup revolves around three pillars – content, community and commerce. So far we have been creating content but going ahead we want the community to create it. We want to act like the anchor point in this space,” he shares while discussing the current challenges of the startup.
To elaborate Hitesh cites an example, “Tomorrow if we want to target Mexican remedies then we should have a community member present in Mexico who should be ready to produce content for us. We will remain a content driven company but we also want to target local content producers from our community.”
The present challenge is also the next jump for the company where it is planning to build a large set of networks that would help in content co-creation and as a result help it reach a wider audience.
Another challenge that the startup is facing is toning the audience. Hitesh shares, “Our audience is split across our website and YouTube. The funding that we have raised recently is helping us to build a new website where we can provide a lot more personalized experience based on past browsing history along with mobile apps. The challenge is to own the audience so that we can serve them better with remedies.”
Along with this set of challenges that is in a way paving the success road for the startup, another aspect that Homeveda has been focusing on is providing localized content. Along with providing content in regional languages such as Tamil, Telugu, among others, Homeveda is now also working on producing content in Spanish and French.
“The easiest part is making localized content but the challenge is getting the content explored which requires more distribution activities. This is challenging since it is more of an operational job where you need to have more manpower to manage a large distribution. For example hardly 2% of population on YouTube changes their language of preference. So even if I create content in Tamil, until and unless I invest in its distribution, my returns are not high,” Hitesh adds.
The road ahead
After working in the Indian space along with Indian experts the startup is now pushing its boundaries. Today Homeveda is working with a lady based in US for the Chinese herbal space and at the same time it is also talking to experts in South East Asia for content around local medicine. “So we are going global in terms of partnering with experts and also exploring new forms of medicine available across the globe,” informs Hitesh
Today Homeveda has become a repository of DIY video content for all kinds of natural remedies in terms of consumers. Going further Vinay believes that while adding wider content the brand will become a “very strong objective non-biased brand for naturally taking care of you.”
While today most of us are reactive users, soon we will have to be proactive as it is about our health and our families’ health. The trend of being proactive towards health is coming back and thanks to Homeveda for filling the knowledge gap.