From Corner Office To Setting Foot Into Entrepreneurship, Sanjeev Shukla Shares His Story Of Entrepreneurship
Today we present to you the story of a Noida-based startup that was started in the midst of the Pandemic. The Co-Founder and Director of terrahealth says, ‘Like we say that every coin has two sides. The good part of the pandemic was that it kind of got me into this journey.’ And that’s how pandemic gave terrahealth drive towards being a health-oriented brand.
terrahealth stands for a healthy, happy life, living, with Earth-based Foods, Superfoods Herbs, and Spices. The brand basically brings the divine healing power of the Earth and the Nature, with traditional Kerala Ayurveda, Expert Treatment & Authentic Herbs & Superfoods to the consumer’s doorstep.
The Chief Marketing Officer turned Entrepreneur, Sanjeev Shukla is a writer by heart and a health freak. He believes in natural healing and running is his favorite venture of the day. He shared with us his story of entrepreneurial journey, views on a healthy lifestyle, and how better eating habits are better than a Dolo tablet in the morning. 🙂
Please tell us something about yourself.
I’ve been born in a small town and always have carried those values. The context is that I’m a sensitive human being. I was actually wanting to be a journalist, to write about people, about society, but eventually found marketing to be perhaps, if not journalism a better place so that I could relate to consumers.
I could understand their wants and desires. And so that is how I landed into marketing. First with advertising for about five, six years and then into marketing. I’ve now spent about 30 years in marketing and brand management and recently started my own small startup (terrahealth).
What inspired you to start up with this business?
When the first wave of COVID came, I was working in Trivandrum in Kerala. That’s when I understood the importance of Ayurveda, healthy food, fresh food, Indian spices, which are all grown in Kerala. I understood the importance of clean air.
Overall, the importance of Nature… I also understood that food is a medicine that can prevent us being infected from viruses, like Covid seems tough but being healthy from the inside will give us the strength to fight these diseases.
‘When I came back from there, when I left my job, I thought that’s the thing that I wanted to get into because after working for 30 years, I wanted to do something on my own. Because after you reached a certain leadership level, the entrepreneur is the next level, beyond the leadership level, beyond the management level. So after having been in the corner office for so long, I thought entrepreneurship is the next level. And being an entrepreneur, I wanted to be in the health space, in the natural health space. And which is how we started the terrahealth.’
What is terrahealth? and what was the idea behind this name?
terrahealth is actually an online platform. And what we know in common parlance is a health marketplace for authentic, pure, and natural organic foods, superfoods, herbs and spices, and ayurvedic foods. terrahealth is about Food is Medicine. ‘It’s about the nature healing us and not just healing, nature giving us real strength from inside. And terrahealth is actually just two words, Terra, which is Earth, which is nature, and Health, which is health.
How does covid impact the operations of the company?
Covid has admittedly inspired this business more than impacted business. Covid has helped to understand the significance of real inner health, of strength, of robust cells so that you could fight off infections and bacterial impacts, And at the same time, it also has made people health-conscious, a lot of people have realized that going to the doctor only when you are facing some problems is really not the right way to do it. It’s just patchwork. You have to be healthy from the inside on a sustainable basis so that you can fight not just for it. You can not keep going to the doctor’s and having dolos for breakfast.
What is important is instead of having Dolo for breakfast, you should have healthy food for breakfast in the morning so that you don’t have to have the Dolo and you don’t have to go to the doctor. That’s where COVID has inspired us, with. Like we say that every coin has two sides. The good part of the pandemic was that it kind of got me into this journey.
Tell us something about your entrepreneurial journey.
My entrepreneurial journey has just started. Before that, for 30 years I worked with various corporates. I have launched and founded Hyundai Motor India as part of Hero Motor Corp, part of Ford Motor Company. From large organizations I have learned a lot about marketing, I have learned a lot about people their wants and desires.
I think all that helped me and kind of pushed me to get into beyond. It’s a tough journey because you are your own boss, which is like the nice part of it, but your own peon as well. Your own clerk, your own assistant, and so many different things.
And particularly when you’re coming from large organizations, you always have all the resources. You have a large team to report to you. I think I should have started my entrepreneurial journey a bit earlier. And that’s what people are doing the right thing by getting into business much younger.
But when you have to start good things, there’s always a good time. I think it’s a good thing. It helps you learn. It helps you grow as an individual. It helps you grow as a human being. And it gives you independence and flexibility to do things the way you want.
What were the challenges you faced when you were starting this business?
There were lots of challenges. As it’s the health marketplace. One of the prominent challenge was to win customers, partners and vendors’ trust in you. As an individual, why should people trust me? Why should they have their products and brands on my platform? You can overcome this challenge, If you have been a decent and reasonable human being, it’s important to have your network not only for your own selfish needs but also because it comes back and helps you in your times of challenges.
So the network I’ve built over the last 30 years, I am grateful for them that they came back and helped me. They believed in me, they knew what kind of professional I am. And they came back and helped us in terms of taking my venture forward so I could overcome those challenges.’
The key challenge, of course, is the fact that you’ve moved from a large corporate, to one of the biggest corporates in the country, With 20, 30, 40 people reporting to you. So all those resources to where one lands all by oneself individually, the change of mindset which is required. So you have to stop flying and land on the ground and start walking which requires a fair bit of emotional adjustment. So that was the toughest part. I would say you must realize that you’re not a corporate leader anymore. You can’t really command people. You have to request. You have to really go and talk to people, plead with them, convince them, sell your part, and so on. So that was really challenging, for the most part, the fact that now you can’t take favors from people, but you have to actually plead with people, convince them, push them, somehow, make things move.
The other part is, of course, once having launched the business, once, having rolled out the entire platform, given the covid. Perseverance is important for not just months, but many years, some of them will consolidate, some of them will not be able to sustain only those who will be able to sustain both finance and emotionally will eventually see some light at the end of the tunnel. So that’s where perseverance is very important and that’s a key challenge. ‘Every day you feel you have doubts about whether I’ve done the right thing, but I’ve got into the right business, whether it’s the right model, so on and so forth. So those doubts come back and hit you almost on a daily basis. But you have to face all that and have the perseverance to keep moving, Sanjeev said.
What are your future plans?
It is important that we constantly keep looking at new products and constantly keep adding products. So for instance, when we started we had about 60 to 70 products, just about the end of November, which is just about three months back. And as we stand today, we have 150 plus products online. So constantly adding products that remain true to your basic business model is really important.
You can add production, you can have 1000- 2000 products. If they’re not really relevant to your vision, then it doesn’t work. It gets too confusing for the customer. ‘So what does Terra health stand for. Customers must know. In about two to three months journey, we have more than doubled our range of products, 150 plus products. But all these products are in the health and well-being space.’
It’s a 24/7 engagement, like I said, it also helps me understand a lot more about people. lot more about health, lot more about what is available in the market. And also Interestingly, since all my partners are working directly with farmers, with women, self-help groups on the ground and they’re doing lots of social work, making sure that they get the right price, they grow the right product without fertilizers, they produce organic stuff and all that, somehow there is some satisfaction as well that we are helping the people on the ground, we are helping the farmers, we are helping the women in the villages. And I’m able to understand a lot more about it as well. So it’s a great learning and I think there is a future there in that. So like there are new products coming or something like that.
Any message for future entrepreneurs?
You must, build your network, have your friends and family, don’t burn bridges, build your relationships, come in handy later on when you’ve started your journey, of course, the right-minded people and the third part is that and we all know about it. Believe in yourself. it’s not easy. If it was so easy, everybody would have been Ambani and Tata and Birla and so on. It’s not easy, really. It could take months, it could take years, it could take decades, but you’ve got to believe in yourself. There will be many more moments, many turning points where you want to give it up and you want to go back and join something, whatever it is, which is easy, I think, but you’ve got to believe in yourself and persevere.
So, here are the excerpts from our conversation with the Co-founder and director of terrahealth, Mr. Sanjeev Shukla.