How are new-age Ayurveda brands changing evolving in D2C market?
With change in aspirations of the community as a whole since the new millennium, winds of changes have started blowing from the last decade or so. People here in India as well as in the west have started talking about using Ayurvedic herbs as a preventive measure in health care rather than using only modern medicines. The onset of Covid-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated the number of such consumers. These consumers are demanding cleaner natural products, more transparent disclosures as well as asking for validated scientific data apart from just the classical textbook benefits of Ayurvedic herbs.
Consumers are willing to pay for the right quality and efficacy rather than just the brand name associated with the product. More culturally creative consumers are looking at whether the companies are following ethical practices while acquiring the raw materials, follow ethical business practices and treat the employees, the suppliers as well as other stakeholders in a fair manner. This is a welcome change, and it is likely to grow the market for D2C focused companies in India. Digital revolution in handheld devices is likely to keep the trend on the upswing for the next two decades for sure.
With many Ayurveda brands exploring and investing in Covid clinical trials, how is the Nisarga & AIIA clinical trial planning to break the clutter? What is the investment made for the trial till now and future investments of the brand from an R & D perspective?
There has been a hue and cry about huge funding for development of vaccines in record time. Most vaccine candidates were funded by big VC funds or even governments across the globe. Even in India, the government has actively funded and promoted vaccine research. However, this swiftness was not observed in ayurvedic research. Many big ayurvedic companies have claimed success by conducting their own trials in small patient populations and without adopting methodology of double-blind randomised trials. Most of these trials were aimed at “curing the Covid-19 patients ” by using both allopathic and ayurvedic drugs together and only few trials were conducted for prevention of Covid-19 infection.
As against this, Nisarga’s trial was based on its patent pending neem leaf extract, well researched for six years in preclinical studies with a reputed research institute in the United States and toxicity studies completed as per the US FDA norms. This double-blind randomised trial conducted for prevention of Covid– 19 is fully funded by Nisarga Biotech and conducted by All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi in collaboration with ESIC Hospital Faridabad.
The trial was conducted in 200 subjects for confirming the preventive effect of Nisarga’s Neem leaf extract capsules in subjects coming in contact with Covid-19 patients. Neem has been reported to exert anti-inflammatory, antibacterial/antiviral and antioxidant effects which makes it a potential agent to use as Covid-19 prophylaxis. This signal seeking study has shown very encouraging results which are being thoroughly analysed by the investigators and its final results is expected in next two weeks’ time. Noteworthy fact is that the side effects are mild to moderate in severity and well resolved with or without medication.
Has the investment interest of national and multinational pharma brands soared in the Ayurvedic medicine or wellness space since the pandemic ?
Sadly, it is impossible to have a patent protection for method of use claims for such herbal products in our country. This drives away the private investors from making investment in such research. Also, one can emulate the product without bothering about the quality of the product or standardising the product. In this pandemic situation our main motivation to invest in this trial is to demonstrate the usefulness and safety of our patent pending extract. By doing so, we can bring together the government as well as foreign buyers and investors to invest larger funds for a large-scale trial in thousands of subjects.
This should be given a serious thought by the experts in the field of Ayurveda as well as modern medicine considering the success rate closer to the vaccine (currently reported at 60%). I am giving a quote from Dr Bhargava’s, head of ICMR, press briefing on 23rd September 2020 where he stated ” We are aiming for 100% efficacy but may land up between 50% and 100%. However, it would still be an effective vaccine against the virus”.
Our honourable PM must grab this opportunity to showcase it to the world by adopting to our ancient science of Ayurveda for the masses after proving the efficacy of drugs in a gold standard clinical trial that can be conducted by the government funding in a private public partnership ensuring returns on investment.
What are the sales practices or marketing insights that can be adopted to keep the momentum going in the last quarter of the financial year?
This pandemic has created a new normal and everyone in the society is now aware that they have to focus on preventive health care measures rather than just medicating them with drugs. We will continue our endeavour to impart knowledge and create awareness amongst masses about the importance of use of herbal solutions made available to them using ancient knowledge and cutting-edge research. We will showcase our research to the consumers, keep on educating them on how to manage day to day life by using naturally available options.
Your future plans?
Nisarga is planning to continue its research and development for the purified Neem Leaf extract for use in cancer patients suffering from head and neck and colorectal cancer. The company has completed cell line studies, preclinical animal studies and patent filling of a purified extract of Neem rich in Nimbolide and other two markers. Company has completed the majority of the research work for creating a data pack for submission of IND applications in the US through its subsidiary in the US in about a year’s time, which would enhance the value of its IP many folds.
Creating a cancer drug passing through Phase I, Phase II phase III would cost any pharma company between $300 to $400 million in investment and a time frame of 10 years. With our IP, Nisarga is contemplating this investment can reduce substantially and also compress the timelines considerably. Nisarga is therefore betting big on this project and seeking partnership with a drug development or pharma company interested in partnering with Nisarga with capability to fund this research further for sharing the benefits of this research over the long run using its US subsidiary.