Why I Gave up a Six-Figure Private Equity Career for Ayurveda
You may have spent hours as a child musing through the charming world of grandparents’ tales – personal feats wrapped in romance, sometimes, fiction. The stories I grew up on were rather unusual. Science was the hero and nature, his home. Ayurveda was not just a trope but a way of life for my family for over 150 years. My last name, Vaidya, is a Sanskrit word for an Ayurvedic practitioner. This didn’t mean much to me in a city like Mumbai where the 1990s was the era of obsession with imported products. I devoured the newly imported Japanese electronic sharpeners and Made-in-China remote-controlled cars. Indian products were perceived as a mere second tier commodities. Even though my grandfather was one of India’s most renowned Ayurvedic physicians, rarely did I understand the importance of the legacy he was carrying forward.
Had Ayurveda lost its value? Definitely not. Where did it go wrong?
While my generation, like the ones before, was passed down the traditional dos and don’ts of Ayurveda, the West embraced the ancient practice, albeit in a modern style. Yoga became cool, the pants and mats became sexy, and the meditation centers aspirational. Modern consumers found it relatable. In no time Yoga was a global phenomenon and it skyrocketed as a 36 billion dollar industry in the United States!
The 1990s and 2000s ushered an organic revolution in the West. Consumers in the West became weary of chemicals in daily consumption and questioned the role of artificial ingredients. Was it worth ingesting it all? Shopping from Whole Foods, an American supermarket chain known for foods without artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, and hydrogenated fats, wasn’t novel any longer – it was a well-informed lifestyle choice.
My brief stint in the US from 2009 to 2013 exposed me to this now-popular culture. On returning to India, I saw a similar wave in the consumer behaviour – but with an unusual twist. I began my career in private equity at L Capital Asia, an investing arm of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy Group. While the assignment was challenging, fulfilling and gave me a very comfortable lifestyle, I was seeing something change. The consumer obsession with imported products that I grew up had waned and Indians began to grow proud of their country and heritage.
They have now started to become happy to consume quintessentially Indian products. Urban India has also become much more conscious of health and fitness. The revolution that we saw 15 years ago towards healthy living and healthy eating had started to hit Indian shores.
Given the change in lifestyle and the macroeconomic change in government, India is experiencing somewhat of an Ayurveda renaissance. Herbal products have become increasingly popular, however, the potential for the science is still largely untapped.
Urban consumers have very limited knowledge on the scientific value as what Indian citizens above the age of 60 would know. They would know how Bhringraj is an important component of Ayurvedic hair oils but someone in their 20s will most likely be clueless.
History Towards New Age Ayurveda
When my grandfather passed away in 2013, our family felt the need to carry forward the legacy. By mid-2015, I felt somewhat of a duty to take forward what was fundamentally in my blood (and my last name). What really moved me, though, was a meeting with an Ayurvedic doctor. I went to see the specialist just to have a conversation and understand where the science was. The doctor was quite renowned in his neighbourhood but looking at the dismal conditions he worked in shook me.
This science that has so much potential and tradition is fundamentally undervalued. Why does an Ayurvedic doctor with years of experience still work in a shabby clinic? These questions began a quest to search for more.
What I saw is that natural foods and cosmetics have got large-scale adoption in India (and of course, around the world). Ayurvedic medicine (the core of my family’s knowledge) still has some a lot of to make till it can be seen as a genuine alternative to allopathy and, this will only come with consumer education. Modern consumers need to be explained about the science in a form that is appealing and accessible to them. For some reason, a large number of Ayurvedic product brands are stuck in the past and without ‘talking’ to the new consumers, it will be quite difficult to make Ayurveda a way of life.
Modern consumers suffer from lifestyle problems such as poor diet, lack of sleep and stress which Ayurveda can actually address. Urban environments and pollution have also led to conditions like a cough, cold and asthma to be a constant issue for modern Indians.
These are new age problems, and Ayurveda has answers to it all.
The lack of trust and information is the gap which needs to bridge. Ayurveda brands have not been able to leverage their potential and make the science appealing and accessible to modern consumers. In terms of potential and adoption, Ayurveda is just scratching the surface.
If yoga can become a global phenomenon – why can’t Ayurveda!
With 150 years of family legacy, I felt a duty towards my name, this rich science and most of all my grandfather. What he took to thousands of his patients needed to be shared with millions in India and around the world. Thus, close to a year ago I gave it all up to create and Ayurveda brand that made our science appealing and accessible to modern consumers. Then began Dr Vaidya’s journey.
Ayurveda exports around the globe last year were 400 million while yoga is a 27 billion industry in the US. Ayurveda is ours and India need to take it to the world – the time is now!
Authored by: Arjun Vaidya, CEO and 6th Generation Vaidya at Dr. Vaidya’s