To better understand the culture and values behind the company’s mission to promote healthy and sustainable living, Dr Kevin Robinson recently sat down with Anurag Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer at Natural Remedies, to find out more
Natural Remedies is a leading manufacturer and supplier of phytochemical reference standards from Indian medicinal plants, which are being used globally for quality and research purposes.
“As an organisation,” says Anurag, “we realise that we live in an imperfect world. But, while living in this flawed environment, we have to think about what we can contribute — and how we can improve it — in a manner that adds value to society. So, as you’ll see, all our products are derived from original research. Very often, the studies we do have not been done by anyone else."
"So, for example, we were the first company to investigate Bacopa monnieri (Brahmi). Bacopa is a plant that’s revered in Ayurvedic medicine and has an age-old reputation for being effective in memory and cognition applications. Now, it’s almost 18–19 years since we developed BacoMind and we’ve continued to support that product with real science.”
“Of course, many other companies have now also looked into using Bacopa, but we were the originators who initiated the research into this particular plant. We’ve done a lot of scientific work and subsequently contributed to many publications. As such, we work closely with the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and other agencies to help them to establish references and guidelines for this fast-growing market,” he adds.
Natural Remedies has contributed to improving the quality of Indian botanicals by actively participating in the preparation of analytical monographs for various international pharmacopoeias.
The combination of quality and consistency is an ever-pressing requirement, I suggest, and I ask Anurag whether Natural Remedies has taken proactive steps to incorporate a standards-focused approach to manufacturing or whether it has always been embedded within the company’s culture. He smiles and tells me that “quality, standards and benchmarks are all part of our DNA.” He adds: “We believe that it’s our responsibility in this universe to do something that adds value to both people and animals.”
Commenting on the company’s social commitment, I note that Natural Remedies has joined an elite list of corporations that have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to sustainable business practices.
“So, what we do is understand that while we are harnessing nature, we also have a responsibility to preserve the planet’s biodiversity,” says Anurag, adding: “As such, we try to work with as few plants as possible and, starting from the cultivation of these valuable medicinal resources, we follow good agricultural practices, protect the interests of the people — the farmers — who are providing these raw materials, educate and help them to understand the advantages of following and adhering to good operating procedures."
Anurag Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, Natural Remedies
It’s imperative that we support these workers to ensure a long-term and sustainable relationship with them and guarantee a reliable supply of the ingredients we need. Science, research and marketing, etc., are all important, but it’s equally essential to give back to the environment we’re taking from.”
As part of its sustainability programme, Natural Remedies has conducted pesticide residue and heavy metal analyses that go beyond the specified limits of soil and water, and trained local farmers how best to avoid these issues. The company has also worked with an NGO to train herb collectors to use sustainable collection practices.
What’s more, the organisation’s biodiversity impact assessment has also addressed ecosystem services, diversion, harvest effects, ground water percolation and run-off. And, as well as recharging the borehole wells in the 90-acre vicinity of the factory site, the company has also assessed the impact of its activities on birds, reptiles and the small mammal population in the surrounding region.
Anurag comments: “Our company policy is to harness nature and apply science for the benefit of better health and happiness. At the same time, we want to make sure that, whoever we work with, they feel comfortable collaborating with us and that each participant and everyone involved is able to contribute.""Our primary values are inspired by nature, which has been a useful tool and guide to ensure that we present ourselves as a useful organisation that’s contributing something positive to the wider culture of civilisation.”
As we convene our interview during SupplySide West, I ask Anurag which is more difficult, communicating with the supplier market regarding quality, efficacious ingredients or educating the consumer about the benefits of the products? “Both have their hurdles,” he laughs, “and they’re difficult to compare.”
He continues: “There are so many products in the market and, as such, we’re aware of the challenges that manufacturers have to overcome and those that consumers have to address. For the latter, selecting a product, trusting it and understanding how it works can be a struggle, and we absolutely acknowledge and appreciate the complexity of that process."
"So, our role is to simplify the decision-making procedure as much as possible. But, we live in a complex world — and in an increasingly challenging one — which means that as consumers become progressively better educated about supplements and nutraceuticals, manufacturers will find themselves under a stronger spotlight.”
With that in mind, I ask Anurag about the growth potential for the company (incorporate a broader portfolio of ingredients or focus on line extensions, etc.). He tells me that the company has a few new products in the pipeline, but what they really want to do is add more science and more value to the products that they already have.
“I believe there’s still a lot to be achieved in terms of harnessing the benefits from the products we’ve already created to make people more aware of their health properties and add value in that way,” he says: “In terms of the pipeline, we want to be very selective and focused, so we create something that is actually worthwhile.”
I get the impression that the company’s decision-making process is quite carefully considered. “We’re not in a hurry to jump into multiple products,” says Anurag, adding: “We keep a keen eye on the market, but we’re not followers; we want to charter our own path. In the back of my mind is a single principle: what we do should add value to both our customers and society."
"Otherwise, you just have too many people doing the same thing, which is not cost-effective or sustainable and, more often than not, generates more problems than solutions.” Not many companies are taking such a holistic approach to doing business, I suggest, and Anurag comments: “We want to make sure that all the team members within the organisation are actually enjoying what they do … because it’s all about living a meaningful life … and not just existing.”
Guessing that the principles of Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine, play a key role in the business practices of many Indian companies, I ask Anurag whether there’s an East versus West clash in terms of ancient philosophies and the need-it-now, fast-paced consumer idealism of the more developed economies.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a clash,” he notes, “but I do think they’re different. It’s good to see diversity in the universe and I wouldn’t say that any particular aspect is better or worse. Holistically, I think we’re happy with the current state of things: what’s more important to us is how we work from inside the company to positively affect what’s outside. The reality of the world is what it is and we have to embrace that and try to enhance it.”
“Yes, there is certainly an element of educating the consumer … but, ultimately, it’s aspects such as integrity, trust and quality that enable any company in this industry to survive and flourish, so we are very mindful that, whatever we promise, our behaviour should align with our values and we should be able to consistently make a positive contribution to society,” he adds.
“Being an Indian company, we have a very rich history of using medicinal plants and we believe that, as the world evolves, a philosophy of holistic living is critical."
It’s not simply a matter of what supplements we take, it’s also about the quality of the food we eat, how much we consume and whether we’re able to live a healthy, happy and productive life.
"In today’s world, it’s not easy to achieve that balance. On the one hand, the focus on quality and higher standards is a good thing; on the other hand, we now — on the whole — have too much to eat and too much to manage in our lives. Having everything in abundance brings its own challenges.”
Summing up, Anurag feels that, as an organisation, Natural Remedies is dedicated to bringing something powerful, useful and valuable to society. “As such, we’ll continue to push ourselves to deliver better products and maintain our vision of living a more healthy, happy life,” he concludes.