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OrganicShop.in, the Indian startup gone global

Mr Terapanthi, Founder, CEO of OrganicShop.in is a serial entrepreneur with a vast experience of over 20 years. In 2011 he founded OrganicShop.in. Today it is a leading online organic brand offering a whole range of products from clothing, to food, cosmetics and the list goes on and on. OrganicShop now goes global with onlineorganicmart.eu. With the online market both at home and away growing at a very fast rate, the future seems quite bright for this young startup.

How did the venturing into EU happen for Organic Shop?

An extremely critical aspect of venturing into the Europe market first is that Europe has evolved as one of the leading markets and producers of organic products worldwide and this sector has not fully been tapped by the global players in the industry. This gives Organic Shop an opportunity to bring the best organic and green products to the end consumers and vice versa. Europe is one of the leading markets and producers of organic products worldwide and this sector has not been fully tapped by global players. The industry has witnessed a transformational shift as more and more people are keen to embrace a healthier way of life. We have ventured into the European market with a view to bring the widest range of organic products to the European market. We have inked a deal with a Europe-based company TradeFormAir Ltd to look after marketing and distribution under the brand Online Organic Mart Europe Ltd. Apart from Europe, Organic Shop also has plans to next venture into the US market, for which the company will talk officially only after April, 2014.

You provide a range of options for a consumer to choose from. Do you believe you are now a complete solution for anyone looking to buy any kind of organic product?

In an effort to bridge the gap between the farmers who produce products in small quantities and lack market exposure for their products, and bring their products close to the consumers, Organic Shop started with textiles as its flagship product line. Today, Organic Shop offers a range of close to 6000 certified organic products that includes organic clothing, food, cosmetics and wellness products, textile products like yoga mats, towels and comforters, organic spices, green tea, grocery, organic cosmetics, herbal and health products to name a few. Reaching this amount of success in terms of the variety and range of products is an achievement for a start-up like ours that started with a team of 2 people in 2011. We think that we still have a long way to go to be a one-stop shop for all the organic products requirements of our devoted customers. We are in the process of further beefing up our product catalogue. We have very recently added Health Aid, UK’s premier manufacturers of nutritionally balanced supplements and Tree Hut, a leading organic brand most popular for its body butters, moisturizing lotions and other cosmetic products in our products catalog. We are in the process of enriching our product portfolio with organic ittras (perfumes), organic candles and beauty cosmetics which will complete our product portfolio in the truest sense. We are expanding aggressively and we aim to enhance our product portfolio by 50% till 2015. Once these products and the related brands are added to the cataloge, we will be a complete solution for people looking for a end-to-end organic product portfolio under one website that will have all the big and small organic players as its partners.  

Indian Organic product export was significantly more than the domestic consumption until a couple of years back. However the domestic market is growing quite fast. So

  1. Where do you see it five years from today?

There has been plenty of policy emphasis on organic farming and trade in the recent years in India at various levels as the country is believed to be well placed in this regard. The positive development of the Indian organic market reflects the ambitious plans of the country to rapidly expand organic agriculture and to establish itself in the international top group of suppliers. The domestic market is also pushed with great commitment. Indian organic market sales are expected to grow to the equivalent of 690 million US dollars this year, according to the International Competence Center for Organic Agriculture ICCOA. This is almost four times as much as the total market volume of 180 million US dollars in 2010. With such promising trends witnessed in the organic market, we can very safely and confidently say that the Indian organic market is all set to become one of the top three countries in the import and export of organics and will grow in double digits, nearly 25% y-o-y. Currently, the Indian market for organic products is consistently growing at 14% y-o-y since 2010.

  1. What are the major factors behind the sharp increase in domestic consumption?

With its natural variety of climatic zones and forms of vegetation and the marked farming tradition, India has excellent qualities. Apart from the health and financial advantages of the organic farming method for individual producers and their families, the long-term preservation of biodiversity and climate protection benefits nature. Many politicians and companies have recognized this and are investing in the organic sector. Many federal states create incentives for converting to organic through financial funds and grants.

The central and state governments have also identified Agri Export Zones for agricultural exports in general and organic products in particular, in some states. Products suitable for local production and processing have been identified and many facilities and incentives are being offered to encourage production and export of organic products in such zones. Several countries are interested in buying organic cotton, the annual demand for which is around 15 million bales (Bajwa, 2003). The growing interest in organic and ethical production and trade has been both consumer driven and trade driven.

The Indian organic market is quite conservative, the masses still believe in buying from large stores. Do you see a change in the trend? What are the advantages of buying organic product online?

We, at no given point of time in today’s world, can say that the customers in India are anymore conservative while buying online. The number of Internet users in India had reached 20.5 crore as of October 2013, registering a year-on-year growth of 40 percent over 2012 and by December 2013, it reached 21.3 crore, ranking second only to China that has about 300 million internet shoppers, thereby, surpassing US. Accordingly, the online buyers of organic products are also increasing rapidly. We believe that the issue is not about consumers being conservative, but being uninformed. As long as they are informed, they will always prefer to buy online considering the shifting pace of a fast lifestyle both in metros as well as non-metros. We need to first inform the masses at large all about organics, the certification process, the various credible certification authorities, the benefits of organics, the dangers of GM products, so on and so forth. Most importantly, the customers need to know that there exist products in several categories of organics and not just food and health supplements.

Buying online always is a thought out; much researched and informed buying than impulse buying in retail outlets. Being Online facilitates the consumers to cross check the certification, the origin of the brand, product reviews and even talk to one of the executives from the brand online to understand the product better before he/she buys it. Moreover, price comparison is also a click away. Organic products are not very widely displayed in different retail outlets in India. Infact, you might not be aware of some outstanding products that come from the remotest part of India and due to the costs involved are not opting for retail format and are adapting to online marketing. We have such brands on our website that depend completely on online marketing of their products. While it is difficult to access choices of brand and product variety in multi-retail stores, it is a matter of one click online. Hence, more than conventional goods shopping or any other sort of shopping, online shopping for organics makes a lot of sense for people who want to do compulsive shopping.

What are the prime difference between the Indian Organic market and the European markets? How have you dealt with these two markets differently?

The Indian economy is still quite reliant on agriculture and it contributes nearly 14% of the country’s gross domestic product, and almost 60% of the population is dependent on agriculture. The trend of organic food, which was initiated in the developed regions such as Europe and North America, has expanded to developing countries like India and China.

Europe and North America are the largest consumers of organic food. However, the organic food market in Asia is likely to account for the highest growth rate over the next five years. The growth in the organic food market of India can be attributed to the radically increasing awareness regarding organically grown products.

While Europe is among the top two markets developed for the organic culture and is growing at a steady rate, India is rapidly emerging as a country with great potential for organics. The market has started to pick up in India as the awareness grows and flows from the metros to even the smaller towns, hence penetrating to the nook and corner of the nation which is a good sign. We entered Europe to offer a one-stop solution for all the organic products dedicated only to Europe through www.onlineorganicmart.eu. With a dedicated team of experts in the marketing and distribution of products in Europe, we are able to venture in the countries with a completely different business strategy. The mission is to unify the already developed but scattered organic market of Europe. We identified during our research that Europe has a lot of potential to further capitalize on its capabilities to develop organic products and the current growth is extremely promising. The customers in Europe are informed, educated and aware of organics and various processes to organics and hence the strategy there is one level advanced in contrast with India. Also, the other end, i.e., the manufacturers and the suppliers are more welcoming to the concept of online participation and collaborations. But there are other challenges to overcome there. Logistics, IT support, local market understanding and a standard consumer support is what we are building on right now to take on the market to the next level.

Where do you wish to see your company 5 years down the line?

Our mission is to build organic shop as a trustworthy and transparent organization by offering genuine organic products for a healthy living across the globe. We have recently ventured in Europe, and the next obvious venture markets are US and UK. In another 5 years, we intend to double our product offerings and brand alliances. We plan to capture 40% of the online organics retail market and we are all set to achieve this. Similarly, in Europe, we plan to further strengthen our brand as successfully as we have done in India.

One suggestion for aspiring entrepreneurs

It is never too early or too late to act upon the idea that you believe in. All you need is some patience, focus and determination to be prepared for all the highs and the lows of your business while still believing on your idea that got you started.

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