Legendary management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” With the trait of juggling here and now and creating a mission and goals for overall improvement of Healthcare Industry, Sameer Maheshwari, Founder and CEO of HealthKart takes the core responsibility to drive the mission of providing affordable preventive care solution to people in an economically viable fashion. Economic viability ensures value creation of all stakeholders – customers, employees and investors. He is a result oriented and passionate individual, who derives inspiration from the people who work with him, and the potential of the impact that company could have on society. There are several leaders who inspire Sameer, including Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Barack Obama, Narendra Modi and modern day Indian entrepreneurs such as Sachin / Binny / Mukesh Bansal, because they have all followed their inner calling, and taken unchartered paths to create massive impact to societies / economies / countries.
Main Motive was to Streamline the Healthcare Industry
HealthKart was started two years ago, the idea was to identify underneath the need of people wanting authentic products in healthcare industry across the country. So, even though there were quite a few pharmacies in the market, but the organized market is literally 2-3 percent and authenticity of fake products is a big problem in health sector. But, HealthKart basically leveraged the channel of e-commerce which is developing very fast, to shift the authentic branded products to pass over the country as they no proper access to it.
As the idea came from the fact that healthcare delivery, which is the backbone of wellness of any country, was highly unorganized (95%+) back in 2009, and there was an opportunity to bring about organization and quality to the sector via growth of internet penetration / eCommerce. Having lived in the US for 12 years and having seen the dynamics of a developed world, Sameer was clear on how the sector would evolve at a macro level, and thereby the opportunity was clear. Mission at the outset was to make available the largest range of quality medical products to consumers across the country, by setting up the largest online pharmacy platform. Along the way, realizing another large opportunity in fast growing preventive care segment, they spun out online pharmacy into 1MG and focused HealthKart on preventive care.
Embarked HealthKartSuccessfully Even with Migration Hardships
When HealthKart started in 2009, though Sameer had worked for 10-12 years in US, it was his first start in India. There were several hurdles initially – getting used to working culture in India and adapting managerial principles etc. – and doing this while identifying the economically viable business model and adjusting to a new personal life. Work ethics and managerial expectations were quite different as compared to the US. But most importantly, it was difficult then to convince people to join the startup wagon because there weren’t too many success stories to look upto. But constant perseverance and belief in the mission has got him going till date. Prashant Tandon, his co-founder and Shikha Maheshwari, his wife, have been the biggest influences of his life. They have lived the volatility of entrepreneurial journey with him.
Raising the Bar of Over-all Fitness in India
HealthKart is India’s largest online/offline nutrition store. HealthKart offers comprehensive range of high quality supplements such as proteins, vitamins, minerals etc., sourced from across the world. These supplements are used for athletic performance, fitness and wellness. HealthKart delivers these products through a combination of online portal and 30+ retail stores. The company also offers assistance to its customers in product selection and diet planning through trained nutritionists. HealthKart has served over 1.5mm customers, and delivers 80,000+ products to 500+ cities in any given month. HealthKart also own MuscleBlaze, one of India’s largest sports nutrition brands.
Success is the Integration of Constructive Perspective
Entrepreneurship has taught Sameer several leadership lessons, but the key ones have been; be long term perseverant and not lose focus along the way; be agile and open on maneuvering business model; be open minded, intellectually curious and always approach problem from the first principles; always invest in building the right team and ensure your teammates are successful. HealthKart has reached thus far because of no single principle, but combination of all the above.
Number of Buyers Matter
Numbers have been phenomenal. There was a huge skepticism that people will buy health products online. HealthKart was literally started as four people team two years ago and now they are close to 450 people. Clearly, the organization has grown, so has the market acceptance and demand for people buying health products online. So, there has been overall growth.
Fostering Culture of Thinking and Questioning reaping Creativity
Healthcare is going to fundamentally transform in years to come. Technology advancements are at the helm of such change. On one end, it is driving much better treatments through biotechnology and genetics, and on the other hand, it is making such solutions available at scale via communication technologies. The new found awareness via technology is also leading people to approach healthcare through preventive and fitness lens. These trends are permanent and will only exponentially manifest themselves in years to come. Within the organization, Sameer encourage creative thinking by fostering a culture of first principle thinking and always questioning about what and how status quo can get disrupted.
Entrepreneurship Traits can be Learned, but Largely Ingrained
Entrepreneur is someone who can visualize the future, both immediate and long term; correlate with changing market pulse, and be the driver of change with smart resource allocation. Entrepreneur derives his inspiration from self belief, and is ready to take big bets/ risks to drive the change. Sameer believes while entrepreneurship traits can be learned, but they are largely ingrained.
Work for Long-Term Values
Chasing unviable business models because of macro funding environment, and not pursuing long term value creation driven by your fundamental “self belief” is the biggest mistake occurs. This could not only derail the entrepreneur, but may also lead to significant loss of time, which is the most precious entity in the world we live in.
Difference Between a Niche E-commerce and Huge E-commerce
When asked about the difference between a niche e-commerce firm like theirs and huge e-commerce firm which sell all kind of products, Sameer shares his opinion, “India is a unique place where both the horizontal players who are selling everything and anything, going together with vertical players like ours. The difference is the vertical players are able to better cater to a niche segment. And in health, authencity plays a big role and assistance also plays a big role. So, we get a lot of calls in our call centre regarding what should be the B.P. point, they should look at. So, we kind of able to tell that value much better than the horizontal players. And just being focused allows us to sort of gear our organization to be able to do that. E-commerce is basically solving the problem of distribution in India.”
Challenges that E-commerce is Facing
HealthKart has just scratched the surface. Out of a billion people, Internet buyers in total have been just 10 million. Sameer says, I think the key challenge will be the increment of rate of Internet penetration in the country. There is a lot of hope on mobile, both 3g and 4g sort of powering the broadband in the country. Clarity in terms of regulation as it will help naturally in much better way with offering of more optimal delivery channel. But all these three-four segments need to mend together to grow faster.
Tips for Aspiring Startups in the E-commerce Segment
As India mirrored like China in 2005, from that time e-commerce has been going through a very volatile phase because lots of investment is happening in e-commerce. Leaders end up with taking a lot of disproportionate of market share. So, there was sort of mad rush to identify leaders and then people started looking for unit economics more closely and then a lot of consolidation happened. Huge money was spent to get the first time consumer to transact online, so cost of customer acquisition was very high. For starters, you need strong team but significant amount of financial backing to go through the growth phase.
Moving Forward Optimistically
HealthKart will be the largest omni-channel retailer and consumer brands’ company in the nutrition space, spanning performance, fitness and wellness segments. Fundamental belief in positive changes in the Indian economy and trust on their own ability to succeed thus far has been a ray of hope for Sameer and his team.