Chennai, Tamil nadu [India] : You might not know about OMG Labs and their founder, Kasi S. Chettiar. They quietly grow their in-house brand and their expertise developing health, food and wellness products. Kasi moved from the UK to India on a whim to manufacture whey from dairy since India is the world’s largest dairy producer. After realising that this was not possible due to logistical constraints but realising there was still a huge market for high quality premium protein he started going about getting the certifications and compliance to create a high quality premium organic whey and plant protein brand.
Kasi has built a strong farm-to-table plant based protein with his brand, Vegan Protein Company, a sustainable, plant-based protein using unique Moringa protein. Over the last 5 years, through renewed interest in health and wellness and their high growth subscription transformation model, OMG LABS has grown from a niche Indian healthy food brand to a B2C health and wellness giant.
Not coming from a business family and having access to capital, Kasi credits his success to his lean methodology and customer retention. He runs a very tight ship and believes in upskilling resources as opposed to hiring excessively. OMG Labs exports to 8 countries and as a brand has national presence offline and online delivering 2000 orders monthly with an average order value of 1800 rupees with just a team of 15.
India’s emerging venture capital community doesn’t understand his sector and there are not many investments of note in the fitness space in India so he has no choice except to learn quickly, adapt and grow. Additionally, not growing up in India has affected his ability to grow since he doesn’t have the traditional networks to help hiring or raising money. However, these have helped him flesh out new innovative products and slow burn growth strategies focusing on low cost of customer acquisition and high lifetime value. Necessity is the mother of innovation. His economics and finance background long forgotten, he identifies mostly as an entrepreneur trying to make retail shelves healthier.
When asked why he is here when everybody is doing the other leap of leaving India, he replies ‘that the Indian Market is growing, people are generally unhealthy and protein deficient so why not? Also, it is strange since I don’t know the industry and I don’t have a food technology degree so I approach problems differently. Also, if everybody just stuck to their degree the world would be a boring place and India would just have engineering firms’.
If you ask why now? Why protein? He replies ‘well, we don’t just do proteins but also create meal replacements. We realise protein deficiency and meal balance is the problem. We care about balance. A healthy life is just balance, whether it’s a balanced meal or a balanced work life. So we create products which help you balance out your diet. Starting from powders to now beverages and snacks. “Abs are made in the kitchen”. We want to remove the idea that processed food can’t be healthy’.
So why do more people not know about OMG? ‘Awareness is a function of retail presence, pr and marketing. We focus on creating subscriptions and transformations. Then these people automatically become product evangelists and the referrals take over from there. We rely mainly on word of mouth referrals and we don’t promise any transformation we can’t achieve. This has helped us stay alive and not be over leveraged or chase high cost growth. This has made sure we are profitable and are able to grow even during Covid-19.
Essentially, if your friend lost 30 kgs over a year by not doing anything drastic, you would notice and then become a customer as our subscription programmes create gradual change over a period. We aim to create an integrated remote platform for you to get all the goods and services you need to be healthy in one nifty subscription. It’s not just fat loss, but muscle gain, blood sugar control, growth and immunity gain are among the main reasons people use our products currently’.
If given a choice between biryani and protein shake, biryani is always going to win. However, protein shakes are supposed to help you achieve a goal, not just be tasty. So we help them achieve this goal by providing a subscription which includes a fitness trainer, doctor and dietician constantly providing you tools to help you achieve the goal along with our nutrition products and a basket of tasty, healthy high-protein foods fresh from our kitchen. All of this for a price lower per month than a mid-level gym membership.
We provide the entire transformation rather than have them buy a protein and let it languish in their kitchen. So we made proteins fun and accessible by making them heat stable, organic and made them available in 20 natural flavours.
I end it by asking if he thinks he is a fitness disruptor? “Not at all”. He says “We have a long way to go before we can call ourselves anything. We are just a tiny drop in the wellness ocean. I just think the industry was not focusing on the ‘why’. This happens when you and your distributors have timely sales targets and you are constantly looking for new leads and you don’t know your customers. Without knowing your customers you can’t help them transform, the crux of our business is our transformation manager who is a relationship manager who guides you through your entire health journey. Traditional brands can care less as the whole industry runs on referrals and commissions.
We have taken a more telemedical approach. The customer essentially is a stakeholder and he builds his own journey. We don’t sell protein or fitness. We sell health as a subscription. We offer you dieticians, fitness trainers, doctors, workout charts, diet plans, medical reports, workout gear, protein enriched foods and our award winning protein itself all for a fixed fee lower than a gym subscription. It’s taken us 5 years to learn, pivot and grow but hopefully the tortoise wins the race”. For more information https://omglabs.co/