Innovating Collagen Supplements - Interview with Ronak Shah

Innovating Collagen Supplements - Interview with Ronak Shah
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After growing a successful digital agency for D2C brands, Obvi CEO Ronak Shah and partners Ankit Patel & Ashvin Melwani decided to put their money where their mouth is and start their own supplement brand. Here, Ronak shares his story of growing their innovative collagen company to date.

Q: Ronak, where did the idea for Obvi come from as a brand and how have you sought to differentiate it from other companies in the industry?

A: The idea of Obvi came from looking at the industry that overlaps between health, wellness, beauty and nutrition and finding the biggest opportunity. Collagen was screaming at us as there was a lack of brands positioned to attract certain markets along with a lot of gaps in what science tells us about collagen. 

Once we engaged in the science behind collagen, we studied the market. We looked at everything out there and everything that was leading the market was seemingly geared towards the older generations with little to cater to the younger generations. The products on the market revolved around dull branding, tasteless/odorless/flavorless product lineups and very little innovation around how to make collagen ingestion fun. 

Right away we saw an entry into the market by coming up with the idea of branding an entire collagen line of products for millennials, moms and really anyone looking to bring some fun to their collagen. 

We brought the flavor systems that worked in sports nutrition as you see the trend with almost every company coming out with some sort of cereal flavored protein. It took us 6 months of back and forth on nailing the flavor system, as collagen compounds are hard to mask with flavoring, but once we got it down, we knew we had something that met all of our values: unique, first to market, innovative and fun to kick off our brand. 

We fortified our formula with key nutrients and vitamins such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Biotin, Calcium, Magnesium, and Iron, all of which actually increase the absorption rate of the added collagen you are giving your body, a formula which is actually very expensive for us to make and hence why many of the mass market brands won't have such fortifications. 

Q: Looking at the products & branding, was it always the intention to market this primarily towards women? I have seen in your interview with where you claimed 75% of customers are women between 20-40.

A: This is a great question and one we get asked more often than not. From our time at Shredz, to the 30+ brands we ran marketing for with our agency, to what the market data suggests as well, catering certain products to women have a higher response rate and also tend to have higher brand affinity and loyalty when it comes to women buyers and brands. 

We have always been intrigued by the way women buy, what they buy and why they buy it. When coming up with Obvi, it was our 100% intention to market this primarily towards women. Of course, men can take the product and have the same results. However, we wanted to align ourselves to women because we felt we could cater beauty, nutrition and fun branding all towards women a lot better than going unisex or towards men, with our branding. 

Looking back, 8 months into it, I don't think we would change a single thing in our approach when it comes to picking the market play that we did. 

Lastly, one marketing concept we have worked hard to keep close to us when it comes to starting new brands is: define your market. Pick your ideal age, gender, behavior, lifestyle, basically draw up a mock customer you feel is ideal and then work backwards to cater the branding towards them; it helps shutter out the distractions. 

Q: You have a strong agency background. How much has that contributed towards the initial success of the brand in gaining traction in a saturated market?

A: Our agency background has been our largest contribution to the success of Obvi. It's where my partners, Ankit Patel and Ashvin Melwani and myself really came together to bring our respective talents and apply them over and over again across multiple clients, which in turn strengthened what we knew we did well but also taught us how to improve and get better at things we needed to work on. 

We specialized in Design and Branding, Web and Landing Page Development, Facebook and Google Ads Scaling and In-House Content Creation. We got the honor to work on some great brands like Sparta, Aloha, Olympus and many more. We also ventured into helping brands in the meal prep and coaching space expand their efforts in the D2C space.

As much as we learned about things we should do and apply at Obvi, we also learned time and time again, about things we should avoid. Simple steps like making sure you have a good structure for supply chain is almost as important as making sure you are optimizing for a strong ROAS on your Ads. Or something like learning to make sure you build a community with your early customers and bring them along for the journey is just as important as acquiring new customers daily. We have applied almost all the Do's and Don'ts we learned from working with countless brands in the space. 

Q: What marketing channels have been most effective online for Obvi to date?

A: MARK ZUCKERBERG! Haha, but in all seriousness there is nothing quite like the scale we have seen on Facebook and Instagram. Our brand screams attention on a platform like Instagram and on Facebook we really thrive through the community of customers that helps other potential customers answer questions, support purchasing decisions or even just guide each other in the right way. 

Within Instagram we see a great scale in the sharing or tagging other friends' journeys where people really at least stop and stare at our content. Both platforms have great potential to scale on the ad spending end as well as providing us communities to share our content, message and of course products on. 

Q: Obvi is sold online at retailers as well as being a D2C brand. What are some of the advantages & disadvantages of both these routes to market in your experience?

A: Great question. Advantages of D2C is having the control over the experience of a customer. From the point they get on your website to the point they get the product in their hands, you can customize every touch point to make sure they feel they are joining more than just a brand that sells a product. 

The disadvantage with online is mass scale comes at mass expense in advertising. You have to pay to play. There is no organic foot traffic, there are no prior customers coming to try something new, you have to pay to play. If you don't hit home runs in the early innings in this model, you could quickly find yourself in a hole, tricky to get out of. 

The advantages of retail is once you have placement, you get to rely on all the work the retailers have done over the years to keep foot traffic coming in through their doors. You get to rely on a front line sales representative in many places that serve as your spokesperson to get a customer to purchase. The disadvantages of retail is the control, and the lack thereof it. From the experience of once the product gets in the store to the follow up post purchase, to MAP pricing control, to making sure your brand is spoken about the right way, there are some things you just can't get around to controlling and sometimes, that can hurt your brand behind the scenes. 

Q: Finally, what does the short & long-term future look like for Obvi? What are your plans going forward with the brand?

A: Short term focus has been fully around our Obvi Kid's Complete Protein Launch. The kids products launch was March 15th. This project is close to our hearts because we truly don’t believe in the message some of these “pediatrician recommended” kids products on the market even stand for. We believe kids products should be built with a flavor-first approach and of course unless you are planning to go all natural and organic, you’re going to have your share of something like a Sucralose or an artificial flavor or two. However, some of the products on the market that do even get the nod from pediatricians, often are encompassing 30+ added chemicals, ingredients and fillers that are simply just not needed. We have stripped down our product to only 13 ingredients, mostly all of which are clean and non fillers. We have emphasized on taste. 

It simply is the best tasting kids protein on the market, no questions asked. We have amped up the amino profile and kept the sugars, calories and carbs low so it’s not going to cause any unhealthy weight gains or health effects while still keeping the protein intake high to help your child grow. The best part is we will be the only ones with a formula that is so efficaciously dosed with 18 vitamins and minerals that will not only help your kids grow but will help develop their cognitive skills.

Since launch, we have had days our Kid's Complete protein outpacing the sales of our Collagen!

We will also be having a lot of Mommy + Me bundle variations for the parent and kid that want to shop the Obvious Choice in Collagen and Kids! 

Long term focus is around staying innovative all while becoming the obvious choice in any product line we do come out with. We have Ready-to-Drink's in the works, Collagen Snacks, New Flavors, Immunity Products and much much more. But none of our releases is meant to be a standard product with our logo slapped on it. Each of our releases will be first to market in some sense or the other with enough components of it that will make it the obvious choice in the market. 

Find out more about Obvi here

Connect with Ronak Shah on LinkedIn here

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