Ankit Agrawal, 30, born in a Marwari family, grew up in an entrepreneurial environment in Biratnagar. His father is into the trading business and his elder brother in the capital market. After graduating in India, the young Agrawal also followed suit by pursuing his own venture rather than doing others’ job.
Agrawal, however, chose a different business idea which he claims is environmentally friendly and honours raw materials locally available in the country.
Agrawal started Naturo Earth, a wellness brand with a vision of utilising the raw materials, mainly medicinal and herbal plants that are in abundance in Nepal. After faring well in the domestic market in the first three years of operation, this business now wants to go global.
Utilising the strength of the country
Naturo Earth is not Agrawal’s first business; he had also tried his hand at restaurants as well as the academic industry in his hometown.
“While working in these businesses, I realised most of the people are engaged in import business in Nepal,” he says, “But, I thought of doing something that would utilise the strength of Nepal, that is vast natural resources. I began researching their potential.”
As a result, he says he initially found tea and coffee businesses lucrative. But, he also noticed that most of the organic tea products of Nepal were being exported via India to the western world with made-in-India tags as Nepal lacks logistic facilities.
Agrawal shares, “I visited several tea places such as Ilam and also met people involved in making organic products. I also went to many other concerned government agencies.”
Finally, he got to know about the potentials of medicinal and aromatic plants in Nepal, after undergoing many trials and tribulations for two years. This led him to establish Naturo Earth in December 2018 in Kathmandu, with a capital of Rs 2 million, as a wellness brand.
Sustainability at centre
Agrawal says he coined this name, combining two words: ‘naturo’ meaning ‘natural’ and ‘earth’ that stands for earthy products. “Our brand name suggests we mainly focus on manufacturing the products using raw and organic materials in a sustainable and environment-friendly way.”
This brand mainly makes products related to health, beauty, and lifestyle, including varieties of natural and organic handmade soap bars, moisturisers, honey, tea, hemp-based products, oils, and a lot more.
Started with 10 items, the brand now offers around 50 products to the customers, priced from Rs 300 to Rs 5,000. The company makes the products in small batches as per the customers’ needs.
Agrawal says, “Not only our raw materials are natural and organic but whole processing (manufacturing process) and packaging are also done in an environmentally sustainable way. To date, we are almost plastic-free as we mostly package our products in paper made up of elephant’s dung.”
In the first month of this venture, Agrawal got an opportunity to exhibit his brand products in the 2nd Middle East Organic Exhibition in Dubai where he was the only representative from Nepal. “There, I came to know that our products have huge potential in the international market also.”
Agrawal shares, “Although I had started this venture targeting the international market, mainly European and North American countries, as of now, Nepal has become our main market.”
In the early days, Naturo Earth used to sell around five products daily while the sales have increased by 10 times by now, according to Agrawal.
However, the journey was not easy and still not, summarise Agrawal, “The major challenge we faced and are still struggling with is the lack of logistic facilities to reach the international market. Another hurdle that stood across our way is the lack of awareness of using sustainable products in the domestic market.”
Fortunately, this has changed a lot and local customers are connecting well with such products, says Agrawal, adding, which is why Nepal currently has been his company’s primary market.
In order to create such a scene, Naturo Earth, from the initial days of operation, marketed its products via family and friends and then online, mainly social media platforms. “Likewise, word of mouth and celebrity reviews also helped shape our existence in the market,” shares Agrawal. “Till 2020, the 2017 Miss Nepal Nikita Chandak was our brand ambassador.”
As of now, there are three core members of Naturo Earth’s team. They are Agrawal himself, his sister Bhawana who looks after the finances, and his sister-in-law Gazal, who takes care of formulation of products, says Agrawal.
Presently, the products of this company are available in different online stores like Daraz, Sastodeal, Gyapu, and many physical concept stores in the Kathmandu valley including its own store at Jhamsikhel.
Along with that, Agrawal is planning to take this venture abroad in the next six months, to introduce more and more innovative products and increase the team.
Photo: Aryan Dhimal