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By TPCI | August 6, 2019

In 1906, in undivided India's capital, Delhi, a devoted, determined, yet unworldly man, Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed, laid the foundation of Hamdard Dawakhana. What started as a small Unani clinic in one of the by lanes of the historic old Delhi, Hamdard has become synonymous with integrity and high quality in the field of relatively inexpensive Unani medicines.

The early makers of Unani brands and the protagonist of the natural-Unani medicines in India, Hamdard, has revived itself from a dwarf spell through a profuse transformational period. With additional new features in the already existing products and fresh novel launches, Hamdard has caught up the market with great pace, again.

In this interview with IndusFood, TPCI, Mansoor Ali, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Hamdard, talks about his plans to turnaround Hamdard Laboratories into a modern 21st century brand, the new products in the pipeline and his plans to tap the growing herbal export market. Below are selected excerpts from that meeting.

1. Hamdard enjoys a long presence in the market. How the journey has been?
Mansoor Ali: Hamdard Laboratories India is the 112-year old, organization which is the maker of iconic Unani brands and herbal FMCG products such as RoohAfza sharbat, Safi blood purifier, Roghan Badam Shirin, Joshina, Sualin and Cinkara tonic.

Established in 1906 by Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed as a small Unani clinic, Hamdard grew into a recognized name under the noble vision of renowned Unani physician Hakeem Abdul Hameed, who was conferred with Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri by the Government of India for his service to society.

Since then, Hamdard is a progressive, research- based, health and wellness organization with a focus on developing innovative and natural solutions for the masses based on Unani system of medicine. Today, Hamdard India has a wide portfolio of over 500 natural and herb based products and is amongst the leading Health & Wellness companies in India.

2. What are the USPs of Hamdard?
MA: We at Hamdard, believe in producing brands that can be consumed by our wide demography of consumers and embody complete wellness on a daily basis. At present, we are among the leading Health & Wellness companies of India, with presence across 4,50,000 outlets in the country, offering a wide portfolio of more than 600 products of which nearly 580 are medicinal products and the remaining are FMCG.

We also have an extensive portfolio of products in the consumer health segment like that of Safi blood purifier, Roghan Badam Shirin, Joshina, Sualin and Cinkara tonic that has made Hamdard a household name amongst its consumers. We have also established our stronghold in the beverage segment with RoohAfza becoming one of the company’s largest and most nostalgic, heritage brand.

3. Rooh Afza has a long history in the market. What is its current market share?
MA: We are the market leaders in this category. Today, the concentrated syrup market is around 70-80 million bottles a year and as per last year’s stats by Euromonitor, we enjoy 50 percent of the market for concentrated beverages.  Rooh Afza and the red colour are synonymous and is a source of many million stories in each and every Indian household.

4. How do you see the sustainability and competitiveness of Rooh Afza in the market?
MA: Rooh Afza although is a market leader, there are few things that need to be addressed in it. It is a in-home-consumption drink, and there is a process to making it. Some consumers say that there is only one variant, while the younger generation finds it less aspirational than other ready to drink products in the market. As we move along our journey of transformation, it is important to understand the environment and the dynamics of our ecosystem. The juices category is pegged at 25000 crores, moving in double digit growths. The ready to drink segment is aspirational, considered cool by the millennials, and offers variety and the convenience of ‘anywhere’ consumption. The strategy now is to move into the RTD category, with our new product in this space… RoohAfza Fusion, which will be a blend of Roohafza and fruit juices. This will be the exciting, next generation product from the Hamdard portfolio.

5. Is there any innovation that Hamdard plans to launch?
MA: Yes, I told you, it is important for us to address the beverage market which is gaining global momentum, we plan to launch Fusion Rooh Afza in the near future. This new product would be a ready to use tetra pack product. It would be a sweet blend of fruit juices and off course Rooh Afza. The pilot product has been launched and we call it as “Rooh Afza Fusion” with various flavors ranging from lemon, orange and mango. As we plan to launch this product in the next season, this would place us in the ready to drink tetra pack product space globally.

Also, we plan to experiment with the dairy space. This would immediately extend the brand.

6. Any mergers or associations planned down the lines?
MA: For us, as an organization it is very important to remain relevant and engage newer generation of today and for that we recently associated with Barista and launched two cold and two hot beverages that mixes Rooh Afza with coffee. This was basically to let the consumers know that Rooh Afza can have varied uses and applications besides the conventional consumption of Rooh Afza. Now-a-days, Rooh Afza finds its usage in alternate and exotic recipes ranging from desserts, toppings, mixers in mocktails and coktails.

7. What are your plans for expansion?
MA: Hamdard India is now gearing up on a transformational mode and expanding its product portfolio by introducing new products and pack sizes, extending its popular brands into newer segments ranging from milkshakes to skincare and cosmetics, and increasing its presence in the ecommerce space to attract younger consumers. 

There are plans of introducing Safi in the skin care and cosmetic segment. The company plans to launch about 10 new products across categories. We also have big plans for our lifestyle diseases medicine brand \'Nature Wonder\', which has five to six products under its umbrella currently. The company is vying towards the upwardly mobile young segment that lives a stressful life and is looking for herbal and natural solutions to various health issues.

8. How intricate & extensive is the research carried out at Hamdard?
MA:  Hamdard’s vision has always been clear - to be a research driven organization guided by an unwavering commitment to the lives of its consumers through incorporating innovation, heritage knowledge and culture. We base our Innovation on bold leadership in science and medicine resulting in the discovery, development and delivery of high-quality, differentiated products focused on patient needs.

One such initiative, would be launching the Wellness centres across the country that has been a amalgamation of bringing together two key components – experience and disease management under one roof. These centres aim at creating a pristine combination of quality Unani medicines and Expert Unani physicians. Regimenal therapy is also available for consumers.

Further on, to maintain the highest standards of manufacturing Hamdard has also set up one of the world’s largest ISO 9001 certified laboratories that ensure that the intrinsic value of the medicine stays intact from the raw material stage to the time it is taken by the patients. We have always spent extensively on research and development, deploying modern research tools and latest scientific methods to further the frontiers of natural medicine constantly undertaking pharmacological studies on herbs to revive, test and make old formulations more effective. Our Manesar plant is a USFDA approved, world class facility.

9. Have you participated in IndusFood earlier? Please share your experience.  
MA: Today when they say the world is getting smaller, it’s true! I have seen IndusFood for last three four years now and I can see the vibrancy has gone up, all together. To me, one USP of the show is obviously the networking. It’s a huge forum where you meet people. But for a company like us, it is more of a platform where we can represent ourselves to a wide range of clients.

Second, IndusFood is a global phenomenon where we get to understand the trends and culture across the globe. I believe, in next five years, IndusFood would probably be like Gulf Food’s model. IndusFood is an event which gets noticed globally.

10. How do you see food and agro processing industry growth in the current economic scenario? 
MA:  Agro and food processing industry is of huge significance as it creates a direct linkage between industry / consumers and agriculture which provides livelihood to 50% of the country’s population. This industry has emerged as a fast growing sector making it one of the largest industries in India in a short span of time. It plays a key role in mitigating farmer distress, addressing food wastage concerns in India and also creating jobs in rural areas. Keeping the current economic scenario in mind the agro and food processing industry would see a number of new reforms that would project towards development.

11. How Hamdard eyes it’s exports business?
MA: Hamdard India is the manufacturer and exporter of the world’s largest range of Unani medicines. Hamdard’s area of expertise include lifestyle disease management, weight management, skin and hair care, gastro care, men’s health, women’s health, cough and cold wellness products and Unani medicines. We export our products to countries like US, Canada, Australia apart from countries in UAE, Africa and West Asia. UAE remains our biggest export market.

Currently, 10-15 percent of our top-line comprises of export revenue. But I see lot more potential in export sales and we are targeting to tap more markets in future. That will be good for the country as well, to increase exports and decrease imports.

12. What growth numbers are you looking at for herbal sales abroad?
MA:  Even if we concentrate only on North America, Europe and Russia and work on registration and exports, then in about five years, we can touch a top-line close to half of our domestic sales. These markets have double-digit growth numbers for herbal remedies. Another advantage is that herbal brands abroad are premium products, which means we can compete in price as well as quality.

13. What do you attribute as major challenges in exports? 
MA: One of the key factors which is preventing Indian processed food products from getting easy access to the global market is the stringent measures and parameters laid by various countries for their entry. The entire process of making your products, especially the ones with complex ingredients, export compliant is very tedious. Also, once it is approved and ready for export, it needs to be  compliant with the nutrition and content norms of the importer country.

Secondly, branding and labelling the product remains another challenge, depending on the nomenclature and on-pack claim regulations in various countries. Thus, the entire positioning of the product is susceptible to changes.