The cannabis (hemp) plant has a long history in India. Mentioned in the Vedas (which are dated as old as 3500 B.C), an integral part (as one of the many plants) of 200 odd Ayurveda formulations for both acute and chronic illnesses; the plant came under intense scrutiny in the 1960s-1980s United States. Owing to the United States’ superior control of institutions like the United Nations because of its economic and military power, many countries followed suit and went ahead to criminalize the use of cannabis (and other substances) for recreational purposes while leaving space for medicinal and industrial use.
Coming to India specifically, we ensured that the NDPS Act, crafted and passed in 1985 left the leaves and seeds of the cannabis plant out of its purview; thereby letting the use of Bhaang (probably the world’s first cannabis drink; going back 3000 years) continue unhindered. In December 2020, when media across the world quoted that the United Nations had finally in a ‘historic vote’ ‘recognised’ the medical value of cannabis, they were not looking at the finer point, namely the fact that their ‘recognition’ was only a formality. All we need to do now is let researchers, scientists and doctors use the plant to formulate medicines for diseases and illnesses for which there still does not exist any cure as per modern science; and other common ailments.
Therefore, it is heart-warming to see that Indian companies have started to make their presence felt in the very nascent medicinal cannabis market in India. There are hundreds of medicinal compounds (both the human body and the cannabis plant produce biochemically similar compounds) in the cannabis plant for companies to research on, test and then bring their medicines to market. India needs as many medicinal cannabis companies as possible. And we need as many people as possible to consider medicinal cannabis for their health and wellness issues.
Today, at Bangalore Insider we spoke to Deepika, co-founder at Hempstrol, one of India’s leading medicinal cannabis companies; to develop an understanding of their origins, their values and current operational status. Below are the excerpts from our interaction.
Give brief info about your startup?
We are a Socially Conscious Hemp Company in India that aims to bring a solution to both physical and mental human ailments. We are the first in India to manufacture and market our Signature Full Spectrum Hemp Extract also popularly known as CBD oil with less than 0.3% THC in our Colorado, USA facility. We make products that are chemical and toxin-free with the only ingredient to be top quality, 100% Organic Therapeutic Hemp Plant.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
With the changing consumer behaviour all around the world especially when it has to do with people’s health, we noticed a wave rising towards people being more conscious of what they eat, apply to their skin and body and hugely how they are switching to more organic medication in times of illness. But, it was a life turning moment for me when all the problems around came to be found in a single solution, that was this plant I have always been raised around, Hemp.
Like every girl, I have been a victim of Menstrual Cramps and the horror of throbbing pain, restlessness, bloating, skin problems and mood swings that come with it. I remember using homemade Hemp Seed Oil, massaging it on my lower abdomen, stomach and back and experiencing an instant relief from the cramping muscles. It then struck me that it could be something that changes the way we treat our bodies, completely neglecting and ignorant towards what bigger health risks we are putting our body into. Over 3 years of research on the hemp plant and learning about its numerous benefits to mankind, product testing and formulating, we came into the Indian Market with our much-appreciated product Natural Aromatherapy Menstrual Cramp Relief Oil. Today Hempstrol markets more than 20 products that are curated individually to provide a solution.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
I am a free-spirited, ambitious and strong-minded woman who has always followed her heart. I moved to Jaipur in 2016, to work as a Television Show Anchor, while I was still pursuing my Masters in Journalism and Communication from IP University, Delhi. I enjoy travelling with my two female dogs and exploring places, meeting people, learning about their journey of life. It gives me perspective and reason to do more for people around me.
Where is your startup based? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
We are based in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The beauty of the city always keeps you in a happy mood. It’s colourful, vibrant and the people here are passionate about entrepreneurship. Rajasthan is a Bhaang Legal state for recreational use. People here understand that Cannabis can also be used for therapeutic benefits and are much more open to it. When I tell them how Industrial Hemp the Non-Psychoactive Plant of the Cannabaceae Family has health benefits they all get excited and want to hear more.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
The fact that the CBD industry in India is still fresh and not many people have come across its infinite benefits on health yet. As pioneers in the CBD Industry in India, I feel the responsibility of imparting correct knowledge and quality products to the people will always be my priority.
The word CBD Oil became a sensation in India when it was associated with the illegal street trade of ‘Cold Pressed Marijuana Oil’ by peddlers, which is majorly a THC Oil (THC-Tetrahydrocannabinoid, a compound responsible for causing psychoactive or hallucinating experience in the human body). It became important for us to make people understand that CBD is a compound found both in a Marijuana Plant and Industrial Hemp Plant. However, the government of India allows legal trade of only CBD derived from an Industrial Hemp Plant with less than 0.3% THC. The government has been very supportive of the CBD Industry and they motivate startup founders like me to take on the health sector of India as per Global Standards.
People of India are open to new learnings, advancements in the health sector and more than ever conscious about their health now. Hemp has picked up with positive sentiments in India. We have a culture that backs our connection with the plant and also modern-day India is well adjusted to the feeling of using Hemp for its many benefits. We have a proud family of more than 10,000 customers in India who has benefited from our products and they always come back for more.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
The Hemp Industry is one big happy family that is currently only focused on providing the best information about Hemp. Hemp Seed Oil products have become very common now in the food and cosmetic category. Every company has a unique way of selling these products. We always look out for fellow marketing companies who want to step into the industry and make a place for themselves. Currently, the Full-spectrum CBD oil category is led by Hempstrol and we don’t see any competition in India at the moment. Our Product is a well-researched development where importance is given to the Cannabinoid structure, the biomass and the efficacy of the oil. We are a successful Full Spectrum CBD Company and we wish to grow this category by introducing more products.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
I live in the Pink City Jaipur, where people travel from across the world to enjoy its cultural ethnicity, magnificent forts, music & art, colourful attires and exquisite food, so basically both working and living here is a delightful experience. I practice yoga every day and my two female dogs keep me stress-free with the happiness they bring to my life.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
The Start-Up is funded by collective contributions by friends, families and the founder’s investments in assets that were liquidated at the right time.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
I don’t know what misconceptions people might have about me. My circle is small and my closed one showers me with love and inspiration. I think my employees think of me as a no-nonsense person but there are times that my humour brings a wave of laughter to our workspace.
What gets you excited about this company?
It’s an amazing feeling when someone reaches out to you especially to thank you for the happiness your products have provided them or a member of their family. It brings me the most joy when my customers share their experiences with the relief our medication has brought to them. I have had cases where a 6-year-old kid suffered 60-70 fits in a day and used to lose balance whenever she tried to take a step. The father calls up my Pharmacist in tears of joy only after a month of taking our medication telling him how his daughter has had no epileptic fits in days, how she’s playing and leading a normal life now. These are the things that keep me on foot every day striving to help more and more people out in distress.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
A typical day of my life starts with adoring my two female dogs, a cup of coffee & yoga or a brisk walk in my garden. I usually work from my office in Jaipur or wherever my laptop is, which becomes my workstation.
I am also a storyteller and try to give as much time I can to run my podcast. I have an immeasurable love for music, so I practice my vocal music whenever I get time. Other than that, lots of phone calls, emails, texts starting from the morning till midnight continues. You see running a business is a 24-hour job, so your life is pretty much about work only.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
My core team is my two Pharmacist, Sandeep and Sunil, with my panel of Doctors who play an important role in educating and prescribing the right dosage to our customers. Dr Sayed Tahir, Dr Chitra Sharma, Dr Jyoti and Dr Ayub are all highly experienced medical practitioners who understand how CBD works on the endocannabinoid system present in the human body. My Backend Team includes my Visualiser Ms Rushda Somaiya, who is responsible for the beautiful branding you see on my products, Ms Ria Kapoor who runs our PR Campaigns and keeps us in the news. Along with my highly efficient Jaipur based Tech Team led by Mr Amit connecting us to the endless possibilities of online growth.
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