Unlocking Nutraceutical Innovations with Rajat Shah

Women And The Future of Nutraceuticals, with Rajat Shah of Nutriventia

Episode Overview

Episode Topic: In this episode of NutraPreneur, we engage in a dynamic conversation with Rajat Shah, the Co-founder and Executive Director of Nutriventia. The discussion delves into the intricate balance between technology, science, and nature, showcasing how Nutriventia navigates this intersection to create groundbreaking health solutions. Rajat sheds light on the company’s commitment to customer-centric innovation, addressing the evolving needs of consumers in the health and wellness industry.

Lessons You’ll Learn: Rajat Shah shares valuable lessons from her journey, emphasizing resilience in the face of societal pressures and the importance of a meritocratic approach in the workplace. She highlights the power of collaboration as a driving force for innovation and success. The conversation offers insights into overcoming challenges, fostering diversity, and promoting women’s advancement in the nutraceutical industry.

About Our Guest: Rajat Shah emerges as a trailblazer in the nutraceutical industry, combining her expertise in technology with a deep commitment to advancing preventative healthcare. As the Co-founder of Nutriventia and the Global Liaison for Women in Nutraceuticals in India, Rajat champions women’s empowerment and breaks societal barriers with her relentless determination and creativity. She orchestrates a meaningful impact by integrating tech expertise and strategic vision.

Topics Covered: The discussion spans a range of topics, from Nutriventia’s innovative approach to time-release Ashwagandha to Rajat’s advocacy for gender parity and women’s career advancement. The conversation also delves into Nutriventia’s commitment to clean, natural products, the significance of customer feedback, and the company’s strategic initiatives to support women in the workforce. Rajat shares insights into the future of Nutriventia, emphasizing honesty, transparency, and the continuous pursuit of groundbreaking health solutions

Our Guest: Rajat Shah, a healthcare visionary in the nutraceutical industry

Rajat Shah is a driving force in the nutraceutical industry, serving as the Co-founder of Nutriventia and the Global Liaison for Women in Nutraceuticals (WIN) in India. Her academic prowess, boasting an MSc in Computer Science and an MBA in Marketing and Strategy, uniquely positions her at the intersection of technology and healthcare. Rajat’s professional journey is a testament to her resilience and determination, having faced societal pressures and criticisms as a young woman from a modest middle-class family in India. Despite doubts about her ambitions, she found strength in a robust support system that propelled her to succeed.

In her role as the Global Liaison for WIN in India, Rajat envisions fostering a supportive and enriching environment for women at every stage of their careers. Her mission involves empowering women to break through the glass ceiling in senior positions and facilitating smooth transitions back into the workforce after childbirth. Through mentorship and empowerment, she aims to harness the immense potential of the female workforce to elevate India’s nutraceutical industry to new heights.

Rajat’s career highlights include co-founding Nutriventia and serving as a Director at Nutriventia Healthcare Limited. Her entrepreneurial spirit is evident in her role as the Co-founder and Director at Inknowledge Inc., where she co-invented a pioneering university networking system. Recognized as a Distinguished Alumni by her alma mater in India, Rajat champions women’s empowerment, breaking societal barriers with relentless determination and creativity.

Rajat encourages women to avoid the pursuit of perfection, focusing instead on learning from every experience. With a strong foundation in technology and business and a passion for preventative healthcare, Rajat continues to shape the future of the nutraceutical industry in India and beyond.

Nutraceutical Innovations: A Conversation with Rajat Shah
Nutraceutical Innovations: Nutriventia

Episode Transcript:

Rajat Shah: We really believe in meritocracy, because with meritocracy, I don’t need any sustainable policies, because when we give jobs purely based on merit, we automatically get the gender parity we require. If you look at it actually at Nutriventia, without any policy, we actually have more than 60% females in all of our research and development and our corporate roles. So these are things that we have naturally done. And when you do that, the results are in front of you.

Bethany Jolley: Welcome to NutraPreneur, the Nutra industry podcast. I’m your host, food scientist and nutraceuticals consultant Bethany Jolley. Each episode will be exploring what it takes to thrive in the nutraceutical industry. From conversations with successful nutraceutical entrepreneurs to venture capitalists to tech executives whose innovations are reshaping the nutraceutical industry. We explore the innovation and trends that are shaping the next generation of nutraceutical businesses. Welcome back to NutraPreneur, your portal into the world of cutting-edge innovations in the nutraceutical industry. I’m your host, Bethany. Today, we have the privilege of hosting Rajat Shah, the accomplished co-founder and executive director of Neutropenia and the Global Liaison for Women in Nutraceuticals. With her extensive background in technology research and a deep commitment to advancing women in the health industry, Rajat has been instrumental in driving innovation and fostering customer-centric solutions at Nutriventia. Welcome! It’s so great to have you today.

Rajat Shah: It’s great to be on NutraPreneur with you, Bethany.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah, so let’s just dive right into it. Could you share with us your journey leading up to the founding of  Nutriventia, and highlight how your background in technology and research has shaped the company’s vision and innovative approach to health ingredients?

Rajat Shah: Our background in technology is really one of the founding principles for  Nutriventia. So we’re originally a pharmaceutical company. The name Nutriventia and we were pioneers, and we are still pioneers of novel drug delivery systems. So we’ve been doing this for over 37 years, and we’re 37 years. You know, you can imagine if Nutriventia was a tree,  Nutriventia now taken off a new branch. And the reason we decided to do this is when we looked in the market and we saw the solutions that were available in the nutraceutical space, we specifically saw a huge gap in what people were talking about, dose, the efficacy of that dose, and the fact that customer centricity was not necessarily being thought of. We felt like we were still living in the 20th century, and that’s where  Nutriventia decided to step in. And we really knew that we could make a difference in this industry. So with every product we developed, our goal has been to utilize our technology platforms where they make sense, make sure that our products remain natural. You start with a natural product, you want to retain its naturalness, and the science really adds up when you’re talking about a specific dose. All of your studies, every single thing in terms of your efficacy then is matching at that same dose.

Rajat Shah: So really creating that balance between science, technology and nature. And if you’d indulge me, I’d like to give you an example. Right. So if you take Ashwagandha, it’s gaining in popularity across the globe. And traditionally even in Ayurveda, which is its indigenous hair from India, and even in Ayurveda, they tell you to take the product multiple times a day. And the reason they tell you to do that is because it’s got a very short half-life, which means you take it an hour or so, it’s out of your body. So what we were able to do is we were able to create a time-release Ashwagandha, which gives you a long-acting sugar in your body. And we are able to do that in just like a 300-milligram dose. And then we pharmacokinetically proved it. We created the efficacy studies. And the main important thing is, again, where we are pharma legacy comes in is we make sure that the product that we design actually meets the US pharmacopoeia. So it’s really making sure that the science is clean, the product is clean, and there is a real consumer benefit at the end of it.

Bethany Jolley: That’s amazing. And what’s really neat is Nutriventia places a strong emphasis on the synergy of science and nature. And so how does the company integrate this cutting-edge technology while maintaining that customer-centric approach and ensuring that the product meets the unique needs of consumers?

Rajat Shah: It is creating and designing products and using the technology where it’s needed. So, for instance, if I take an ingredient like melatonin, another one that’s super popular today, because sleep health should have always been an emphasis for everyone, but it’s coming more to the limelight because people understand how much research is going behind it. To show us the fact that you do need to sleep more, you need to sleep better, and that has a lasting impact on your health. So when you look at melatonin, we started out with two problems. Number one, we wanted to make sure that it’s time to release something that comes very easily to us. And on the other hand, we also wanted to make sure that it’s coming ready. I mean, it’s very difficult to achieve that. And that’s how we were able to push the boundary expand on our technology platform. And we now have a melatonin product. We’ve had other time-release products. So now we’re able to scale that same technology and make sure that these other products are also gummy-ready. And we know that with each one of these things, it allows us to make sure that the product is definitely. Meeting its mandate, what it needs to do. It is easy for the consumer to take, but at the same time, when these doses don’t match, when a consumer doesn’t see the full benefit is when for our entire industry, the product gets a bad rep. I’ll be like, oh, that never worked for me. And then it never picks up. And these are natural products. These are things that we should be taking more of for to prevent the need to take other products. Right. So this is something that we feel really does make a difference in the consumer’s life. And that continues to be our mandate for creating new products.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah. And it’s really interesting that you said there are so many melatonin products out there. But this time release melatonin is something that’s newer and likely more effective, like you said. Yeah. Just figuring out how to put it in that gummy matrix just really hits all of those points and something that consumers are really going to want. So in light of your role as the global liaison for women in nutraceuticals, how does  Nutriventia actively support and empower women in the health industry and fostering their leadership roles and career advancement?

Rajat Shah: My answer to this is actually very simple, is that we do everything based on merit. And to just give you a little bit of a backstory, Nutriventia was also co-founded by Maya Shah and other lady, a very strong woman, and she is still a very integral part of our working. So when you have somebody at the top and this was, by the way, done in India in 35 years ago, right? This is not easy for a woman to have founded a company, let alone be at the helm and lead it and run it. So I think that’s really where the foundation for gender parity in our company starts. And we really believe in meritocracy, because with meritocracy, I don’t need any sustainable policies, because when we give jobs purely based on merit, we automatically get the gender parity we require. If you look at it as a  Nutriventia or without any policy, we actually have more than 60% females in all of our research and development and our corporate roles. So these are things that we have naturally done. And when you do that, the results are in front of you. The other things that we do are, of course, flex our policies as required. For me, one of the most important things is to make sure that a woman does not have a gap, or rather, is not disadvantaged because of a gap due to childbirth and not taking time off for their family. So how can we make sure that we are flexing our policies enough to make sure that we give them that flexibility that makes them continue to work, stay with us, and have long, successful careers?

Bethany Jolley: Absolutely. There definitely is an increase of just women in the workplace, women starting their own businesses. And like you mentioned, sometimes women in childbearing age, they feel a bit stressed out about going to work and hoping that they’re still going to be receiving the benefits and the things that they need and the support that they need. So I think it’s great that you’re able to help with that. So the philosophy of Nutriventia revolves around balancing nature, science and technology. Can you elaborate more on how this philosophy translates into the creation of these exceptional products that cater to the diverse and evolving needs of your customers?

Rajat Shah: So when we look at our new product development process or pipeline, we start with the first thought is, can you venture make a difference in context? And we started off we looked at turmeric. It’s the most popular herb in India. It’s significantly pleiotropic. It has multiple benefits. It’s actually a very interesting product. I mean we’ve been brought up on it almost. So when we looked at the product and we looked at again the landscape, we said, okay, we did start out like many others and we said we’ll create a similar 20% product was a very first product. And they’re like, but we don’t want to do that. We don’t want to create a high-dose product. We don’t want to create a product that is bioavailable but at the expense of making it completely synthetic by using synthetic excipients in it. So these were the two things that we said, hey, can we solve this? And then we did we and but it wasn’t easy. Like we went from 20% to a 40% and we finally were able to achieve a 60% active product. And we did that with food-grade excipients.

Rajat Shah: So number one, number two, mandate solved. And then we said, okay, now we have a low-dose product. Can we make sure that all of our studies are actually conducted at that same dose? So that’s when we did multiple pharmacokinetic studies, multiple efficacy studies to make sure that the lens with which we want to consume or to look at it on the label kind of remains the same. And science speaks the same language. So pretty much any product, when we start out, we do look at the  Nutriventia difference. So others are not able to achieve that today. And that does give us a little bit of a leg up. Any product that we go forward with has to make a real difference in a person’s life, and it needs to do that. And we need to be the best people to be able to do that. Right? Because otherwise, others can do the same thing. So I think it’s a combination of two, which yes, the customers interest definitely in mind, but also keeps our advantage. Available and leveraged for us to then explore.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah. And as you mentioned, customer focus is a fundamental aspect of Nutriventia’s approach. So how does the company gather and utilize customer feedback to drive its product and development and innovation for new products, and ensure that the customer remains at the heart of every solution?

Rajat Shah: So there couple of ways we’re doing that. We look at market research data that gives us a good insight on what are the customers purchasing today, what are the health trends that’s keeping them up at night. What are their concerns? So that becomes our secondary source of data. And then our primary source becomes the brands that we work with so closely collaborating with them, because they do have a better pulse and a direct conversation line with the customer. So making sure that we are collaborating with them, understanding what the needs of the customer are, and using these two things together, we continue to make sure that our products serve the customer’s health goals. Make sure that we’re giving them products that are clean. Something that I am comfortable giving my own child is what we would make sure that we pass it on to a customer.

Bethany Jolley: Absolutely. Consumers are becoming more educated, and they do want those products that have the clean ingredients, and they’re doing their research to understand the active components of all of these herbs and botanicals. So I think it’s really important to stay in tune with what those consumers are learning and what they’re wanting in their supplements.

Rajat Shah: Yeah, absolutely.

Bethany Jolley: And so you are an advocate for women’s advancement in the nutraceutical industry. So what strategies or initiatives has  Nutriventia implemented to promote inclusivity and diversity within the company and the industry at large?

Rajat Shah: See, like I gave you a little bit of a sneak peek about this a little bit earlier. But to set some context, right? So in India, we do suffer from a significant number of women. The numbers are in the north of 73% who leave the workforce upon childbirth. Amongst the few that do return, only a small percentage actually continue to stay back because they don’t feel like, well, they do want to come back. They feel like that’s not something they can sustain. And I think for me, those are your primary years. I mean, when you’re talking about childbirth, this is in their late 20s, 30s to early 40s. Now that those are the years a person or a woman’s going to climb up the corporate ladder, reach those leadership positions and set themselves up for future success. So that’s really where we’re trying to make a difference because like I said, we do provide flexibility in our policies. And I am another example of this myself. A few of the other members who are part of a senior leadership team, a lot of them did do this. And now it’s been 30-plus years of them being with us, and they’re all in senior positions. So there is living proof of our strategies, working out and even moving forward. Like last this year, 2023, I had three women in my team in different departments, but all three were pregnant at the same time, right? All of them have given birth now to beautiful babies.

But while they were going through this process, all their pregnant. So we had to make sure that we offer them as much flexibility as long as for us, they were able to feel like they were contributing members of the team, right? And they were able to work. They managed to do this, and now that they have delivered, they’ll be on maternity leave. But how do we make sure that we ease their coming back to the workforce? So while yes, there are lots of other things that a person can do, I think these are fundamental to making sure women continue to be part of the workforce and feel like productive members. And on the other end, like I said, when we give jobs is purely based on merit. I don’t have to worry about pay gaps. None of that like this is just I mean, that’s not part of the equation, right? And when it’s not part of the equation, there’s no hiring manager that is looking at it from that lens. So we make the right hires, and we automatically have a significant portion of our workforce that are women nurturing, contributing members of our team, making amazing decisions. And we do like to then see them move up to leadership positions. So yeah, that’s what we’re doing in our own little way at intervention.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah. And I think the merit aspect, that’s a great way to hire people because you’re going to have hard workers that are honest and doing the best they can. And then you’re also providing opportunities for growth. Yeah, so switching gears to the future, what do you envision for the future of  Nutriventia? Considering how rapidly evolving the health and wellness industry is, how do you plan to maintain the company’s commitment to innovation and customer-centric solutions?

Rajat Shah: So if I was to think of us as a ship that is going to set sail and make sure that we ride every single wave that comes when it when you’re talking about like the different health and wellness trends, changes in the industry that are coming. Well, we do that. Our compass should remain the same. And it should point towards that honesty and transparency that we’ve founded ourselves on. So that’s really for us, a guiding principle that will help us evolve. But when we evolve still based on the principles that we set out to make sure that we are accountable towards. And at the same time, I believe that we truly believe in the power of collaboration. So working with the right individuals, with the right mindsets, it makes for a stronger teamwork, because sometimes the things that one person or one team or one company can’t go out and do so you need strong partnerships, and forging these strong partnerships is going to be another part of our strategic approach for growth in the future.

Bethany Jolley: What advice do you have for women or really any entrepreneurs that are aspiring to make a significant impact in the health industry, and how can they navigate and overcome the challenges that might pop up to achieve their professional goals?

Rajat Shah: So, woman to woman, I’d like to say that I believe women could do one thing better, which is not undermine their worth, right? We need to know to ask for what we deserve. And I think that, for me has been a game changer myself personally. And I feel that more women who do that, they would automatically see themselves moving up in the right way. And at the same time, I think it’s also about finding great mentors. I think everybody can use a good mentor. So finding the right people within the industry, maybe sometimes even outside the industry, who can guide you or point you in the right direction to help solve and maybe even teach you how to ask for things I think becomes important. And last but not the least, as a global liaison for women in nutraceuticals in India, I would like to encourage everybody who is part of our beautiful industry to join the movement, be a part man or women. It is not about just enrolling them in because we need both individuals to make this a priority in our industry. So join women and nutraceuticals, be a part of the conversation and be the change that you want to see in others.

Bethany Jolley: Absolutely. I think that’s key. Just having the confidence in yourself to really step up and also get involved to make a difference. So are there any upcoming projects or collaborate actions that  Nutriventia is working on that reflect the company’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of innovation and promoting the holistic well-being of its customers?

Rajat Shah: One partnership that’s been instrumental for us has been with Leela Nutraceuticals. They bring with them their significant powers of extraction expertise. And if you combine that with our finesse in formulation, it’s a pretty powerful combination and we use it for our ashwagandha product. And that’s how we know that when we give the consumer the product or a customer the product, it does have the right. Those are not lost on the extraction process. The extraction is done in a gentle way so that it doesn’t dilute the naturalness of the product. So those are some things that we’ve already been doing. And without giving too much away, we do have one of the largest a-pac supplement companies that has launched one of our turmeric products in across three different SKUs, which is just really a testament to the quality of the product itself and working with them, understanding they spent a lot of time vetting the product, understanding the science. So making sure that we continue to work with them to make sure that we conduct additional clinical studies, that we are looking at good endpoints that can give the efficacy of the product, both in terms of real health benefits that are consumer can then look out for.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah. And I think that’s really important as well when you are supplying an ingredient because you can see all of the list of the benefits, but then you want to see that scientific data that backs up all of those benefits as well. So once again, thank you so much for joining us today. As we wrap up this insightful conversation, we extend our gratitude for you sharing your invaluable experiences and vision for new and women in nutraceuticals and their information on Nutriventia’s pioneering health solutions and initiatives. We will provide links in the show notes. Don’t forget to subscribe, share your thoughts, and join us in celebrating the ever-evolving world of nutraceutical innovations on social media until our next episode. Stay informed, well-nourished and inspired.

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