Hair loss is a problem that affects most of us and it has a direct impact on our confidence and self-image. The market is filled with false claims that confuse people and many end up thinking that nothing can be done to save their hair.
Cutting through the clutter is Mumbai-based startup Tatva Health, founded in May 2019, which has developed a range of haircare products drawing on the three sciences of Ayurveda, Allopathy, and food science. According to the startup, its products help people manage hair loss with little to no side-effects.
According to Saloni Anand (29), Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Tatva Health,
“Our treatment is prescribed by the best doctors and validated by analytics of thousands of data sets collected over time. We use data of age, stage, response to treatment, type of hair loss, image processing, etc., to predict a new patient's hair type and time taken to get results. We have a database of 5,000 diagnosis with scalp photos. We follow up with customers to make sure they are regularly taking the medicine. We hand hold until we get the best possible stage of hair regrowth for them.”
Founded by husband-wife duo Saloni and Altaf Saiyed (33), the startup claims to have diagnosed and treated hair loss through its website for over 5,000 men and women to date.
The starting point
Altaf, Co-founder of Tatva Health, himself went through a hair loss phase a few years ago. The multiple solutions that he tried failed to show any results. With some research, he realised that there were clinically proven solutions that were only prescribed by dermatologists. He then visited a number of them to see what was being prescribed. With a little more research, Altaf understood that hair loss, like any other lifestyle problem, was linked to the overall physical health of a person.
“Based on this understanding, he introduced specific diet restrictions for himself, and along with the Allopathy medicines added more exercise and started on specific Ayurveda herbs that could balance his excess pitta dosha (dosha causing his hair loss). Being a biochemist himself, he found ways to make Ayurveda compatible with Allopathy treatment at a molecular level. Three months later he was five kg lighter and with a full set of hair,” says Saloni.
Excited with the results and the overall improvement in his health, Altaf and Saloni spent the next few months researching the hair market.
“We spoke to 3,000 people suffering from hair loss and found that only about two percent actually visit a doctor, either of Homeopathy or Ayurveda, or a dermatologist. Others are lost, trying OTC products that have no clinical research behind them. Even the ones who go to a doctor don't take the medicine as per the schedule and leave the course mid-way.”
The entrepreneur points out that an added roadblock to good hair health is that no one in reality has the time to visit multiple doctors, such as dermatologists, nutritionists, and Ayurveda practitioners, to get the best mix of treatment. “There was a clear problem that had to be solved,” she adds.
The founding team
Started with funds of Rs 15 lakh from the duo’s savings, the startup currently has a team of four apart from a panel of doctors. There is an Ayurveda doctor, a dermatologist, and a nutritionist who are contracted by the startup.
Saloni, who received a distinction in her Computer Science degree from Cummins College, Pune, worked for healthcare data analytics Castlight for three years, post which she got an MBA in marketing. She also headed a SaaS product startup, Upshot.ai, for three years. At Tatva Health, she handles lead generation, content marketing, sales, and customer communication.
Altaf graduated in Biochemistry from Glasgow University, UK, and also has an MBA from Stanford Business School. In 2015, he started his first company, Hav-Gourmet, a food production enterprise catering to corporate cafeterias. After appointing a CEO for Hav-Gourmet, he is now engaged in the running of Tatva Health, handling products, operations, and customer communication.
How Tatva Health works
As a first step in receiving Tatva Health’s offerings, a person suffering from hair loss is directed to fill an online diagnosis form on the startup’s website. The form is designed by the startup’s team of dermatologists and Ayurveda doctors. The form also captures images of the scalp to accurately diagnose the type of hair loss.
Once the user confirms the order for the haircare solution, the startup’s team of doctors goes through the case and builds a customised prescription.
Within a period of four days, a box with Allopathy and Ayurveda medicines along with a diet plan is delivered to the patient. This box of solutions is completely customised by Tatva Health for each of its customers, based on the stage and type of hair loss.
As part of a rigorous follow-up system, the startup calls its customers on a weekly basis to track their progress and make sure they are adhering to the prescribed treatment.
“We handle any problems that our customers may face during the treatment like drop in energy levels, constipation, etc, and advise and provide them with prescribed solutions,” says Saloni.
Why the three sciences?
Hair loss is a complex problem that is most commonly caused by genetics and escalated by stress, pollution, lifestyle habits including diet, smoking, drinking, and working hours, nutritional intake, sleep pattern, and gut health.
“Allopathy helps us directly address hair loss by increasing hair follicle size, whereas Ayurveda helps with making sure that overall health is improved. We also use Ayurveda to improve gut and nutritional deficiencies. Plus, the diet is important in supplying the right nutrients to the body and ensuring the body is not too acidic. DHT, a substance that reduces the size of hair follicle, is shown to be most active at Ph7 level and below. Through diet, we try to increase the alkalinity of the body.”
Pointing out that hair loss needs a holistic solution, she adds, “We provide just that. This has helped us achieve higher efficacy in stopping hair loss.”
Tatva Health claims to be the only healthcare solution that mixes the benefits of Ayurveda, Allopathy, and food science. Saloni points out,
“We make sure that the three are compatible with each other. We don’t sell random OTC products, but prescribe clinically-proven medicines for hair loss with a proven efficacy rate.”
Tatva Health guarantees a stop to hair loss within the first 45 days of the treatment and the best possible hair regrowth results within three to six months of complete adherence to the treatment course.
Explaining their focus on taking the online route to address hair health, Saloni points out that the first place today's India looks for solutions is Google. According to a recent Google report, there are two lakh searches per month for hair loss treatments.
“The most important aspect about hair loss is to start the treatment as soon as possible. We hope to get people to start the right treatment in time and save their hair for life. Over and above, hair loss doesn't need any physical interaction or touch from the doctor. With our online hair diagnosis system, we are able to guarantee an accurate diagnosis.”
The startup offers its customised solutions for both men and women. “Hair loss is no more a problem affecting only the elderly. All our customers are in the age group of 25 to 35 years. With increasing stress, bad eating habits, and pollution, hair loss is on the rise,” says Saloni.
Funding and monetisation
The six-month-old startup has been bootstrapped so far. It earns through every kit sold, which is priced at Rs 2,500. Its current rate of orders is around 100 per month.
“On an average, a customer takes three to six months to see the desired results. Post that, we send a monthly maintenance pack to make sure the hair growth is maintained. Tatva Health is currently generating around Rs 2.5 lakh in revenue per month. We have a high repeat-purchase rate,” says Saloni.
Current outlook and the future
According to the founders, the startup has a customer base spread across India.
“With a customer base of ,5000, we have enough data to prove the efficacy of our treatment. We plan to venture into other digital channels to scale up in the next few months. In the next six to eight months, we want to scale to 2000 orders per month, and, more importantly, we want to maintain and enhance our customer satisfaction index of 80+ percent,” shares Saloni.
Tatva Health is also planning to develop image recognition software to track regrowth progress and to incorporate data analytics to strengthen its doctors’ diagnoses and prescriptions.
Speaking about the competition, Saloni says,
“Anyone who claims to solve hair loss is a competitor. The likes of RichFeel, Kaya, and Dr Batra’s are mostly selling hair transplant, platelet-rich plasma treatment applicable to last-stage patients, expensive laser therapies, and some other difficult and time-consuming therapies. Other FMCG companies such as Indulekha and Kesh King are the first-stop oils for hair loss for the masses. And then, there are startups such as Vedix, which focus primarily on women and sell Ayurveda-only solutions.”
Pointing out that hair-loss solutions is a $4 billion market in India, the entrepreneur signs off stating, “People in their 20s are now suffering visible hair loss. In this light, we're building a company for the youth.”
(Edited by Athirupa Geetha Manichandar)