Covid-19 effect: Startups remodel biz to jump on to hand sanitiser gravy train

From electronic firms to beauty brands, everyone is cashing in on the demand for hygiene and safety products.

The lockdown might end soon, but our need for masks, sanitisers, hand washes and other hygiene products is not waning anytime soon.
The lockdown might end soon, but our need for masks, sanitisers, hand washes and other hygiene products is not waning anytime soon.

By Reya Mehrotra

The lockdown might end soon, but our need for masks, sanitisers, hand washes and other hygiene products is not waning anytime soon. And since businesses have always bowed down to demand, several small and big companies have taken to manufacturing hygiene and safety products. From making ventilators to masks, some of the biggest names have done their bit.

Many changed tact when all that was being allowed to sell was essential items. Seizing the opportunity, a number of local startups and businesses took to their production and earned good profits. Several new enterprises dealing in healthcare essentials also emerged, which plan to sustain themselves even after the pandemic.

Ubon, a brand that dealt with gadget accessories and consumer electronics, turned to personal healthcare and hygiene recently. Lalit Arora, co-founder of Ubon says, “We started in 1999 when we were dealing with portable music players and earphones. Slowly, we started manufacturing other mobile accessories and at present we are dealing with smart bands, fitness bands, bluetooth earphones, etc.” The brand turned to production of PPE kits recently.

“Since there was a huge shortage of quality PPE equipment in the market, we started manufacturing PPE equipment to meet the demand. The sales pickup is quite positive and we are receiving several bulk orders pan-India. We plan to continue with this,” he says. Ubon is now also manufacturing face masks, sanitisers, infrared contact-less thermometers, face shields and will soon launch eyes-protective glasses for healthcare professionals too.

A kitchenware entrepreneur made headlines recently for inventing ‘hands free’ hand washing stations. Rahul Bajaj, director of Shree Shakti Enterprises, originally into kitchenware and steel utensils, built hand washing stations that can be operated through a foot pedal, has already received around a thousand orders for his stations. Delhi based MSME owners Babita Gupta and Shivani Agarwal, who were part of the Walmart Vriddhi promgramme, took to manufacturing of hygiene products, shifting from their home furnishing and paper rolls businesses, respectively. In fact, Babita has secured an order of 80,000 masks from Walmart itself, while Shivani is into sanitisers and disinfectant wipes for corporates and retailers.

Rohit Shah, co-founder & CEO, Hemp Horizons, a startup launched in 2018 which deals with hemp-related health and beauty products, says their products are selling well. “We saw a surge in sales in the past two-three months. We saw a 25% increase in our online sales from our website. They are in high demand as people are becoming more aware of what they put in their bodies. More individuals are searching for healthy foods, plant-based foods and hemp is a natural immune booster and great for the heart.”

Indian beauty brands too have shifted focus from beauty-only products to manufacturing other essentials like hand sanitisers, hand washes, hand cleansers to combat the COVID-19 crisis. Brands like Nykaa, Forest Essentials, Kaya, MamaEarth, Vilvah are some beauty brands to join the list.

Since hand sanitising became a new norm, brands and startups are now promising herbal sanitisers that are gentle on the skin. Khadi Natural Healthcare, a known herbal bodycare brand, launched herbal sanitisers infused with aloe vera, lemon, neem, tulsi, sandalwood and rose. “The sales are increasing gradually. Post-lockdown, we recently resumed our operations and have witnessed considerable demand for these products. This pandemic has taught everyone the importance of hygiene. We will continue selling these products post-pandemic too,” says Gaurav Singh, managing director of Khadi Naturals.

Bodycare startup BodyCafé found by Tanushree Ishani D and Pooja Karegoudar launched sanitisers in the market when there was a shortage. Pooja says, “We were among the first brands to introduce 80% alcohol hand sanitisers. We also kept in mind the geriatric population and expecting mothers. So, we infused the goodness of aloe vera, basil and oregano extracts that are known for their antiviral and antibacterial properties. We also brought down the prices on humanitarian grounds,” says Karegoudar. The duo employs victims of domestic and marital abuse to bottle and package their products, which are in great demand. that deals in vitamins, supplements, functional foods, beauty products, and cold-pressed oils launched Pure Nutrition hand sanitisers infused with neem, tulsi and aloe vera extracts for enhanced protection. CEO and director Sushil Khaitan says the sales picked up fast as it was the need of the hour. “Seeing a shortage of sanitisers in the market, we decided to get into their manufacturing and make them available at an affordable price. We don’t plan on terminating the production or sales of sanitisers even after the pandemic ends.”

Not only hand sanitisers but the air sanitiser businesses are picking up too. OxyGarden, a startup which produces indoor air sanitisers, launched its first product ‘Forest’ in January this year. Abhishek Gupta, director of the brand, says “there was a 48% increase in enquiries from our existing and potential customers but we couldn’t take orders due to the paused distribution. Now, as things have started becoming normal, we have started advance booking for our products and soon we will fulfil the orders.”

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