What ails the Indian wellness industry?

Image credit: Shutterstock

Startups are tapping the opportunities in wellness sector due to easy market access, low-cost innovation, and efficient marketing strategies

In light of a positive political and economic scenario, India is expected to emerge as one of the leading economies in the world over the next decade. The Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) industry is already playing an important role in shaping the Indian economy. Before the pandemic, the development of MSMEs & startups was meant to be critical for various factors such as employment opportunities in urban and rural areas and financial inclusion to support the development of new-age entrepreneurs. Some of these businesses, during the pandemic, evolved as potential contenders for globally competitive businesses that represent India. MSME’s have made a critical impact in both domestic and foreign markets through the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

With the ongoing pandemic which has claimed several lives in India, several healthcare and wellness startups have landed investments from venture capitals, angel, and early age investors. Various startups have applied modern technology to help consumers to meet nutritional requirements, personalised products, virtual wellness therapies, lifestyle-changing tools, and online platforms that serve the ever-changing consumer demands. Preventive healthcare in India is also expected to boom over the next decade. Due to the pandemic, people in bigger cities have started spending more on nutrition-rich food, supplements, and beverages that build one’s immunity.


Economic contributions

According to the Indian Beauty & Hygiene Association (IBHA), in 2018 the wellness and personal beauty market in India were valued at Rs 901.07 billion. These figures are expected to scale up by 2021 to an estimate of R 2,463.49 Billion. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) has multiplied by 18.40 per cent during the 2019 – 2024 period. The reason for the sharp rise can be attributed to factors such as consumer awareness, rising income, fast-paced lifestyles, and the need to adapt to something easy to access for everyone.

Wellness, as a business industry has witnessed a great scope in India. The government has laid emphasis and encouraged alternative medicine and a holistic approach to meet health-related challenges.

Back in 2014, the Government introduced the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy) to promote the country’s ancient, traditional healing and wellness methods that have been thoroughly researched by experts. Techniques like Panchakarma in Ayurveda are globally renowned for their benefits not just in preventive healthcare but also for the treatment of numerous chronic lifestyle disorders. Due to these initiatives, India stands out as the second-largest exporter of AYUSH and herbal products globally.



Research, product development, and innovation are the backbone of the wellness sector. Although large multinational companies dominate the space MSME’s and startups comprise more than 70 per cent of the current market share. Startups are tapping the opportunities in this sector due to easy market access, low-cost innovation, and efficient marketing strategies. Innovation in the wellness sector originates from consumer demand. There are immense opportunities in this segment, with sustainability and quality products forming a wellness range or service base. Adapting to the changing market requirements and staying relevant is also extremely important.


Wellness Tourism

A commonly misunderstood concept is the term medical and wellness tourism. Both types differ in their significance, destinations, and objectives. Medical travel focuses on people travelling to other countries for affordable medical treatments and surgeries or higher quality treatment or better access to medical care in comparison to their home country. Wellness on the other hand leads to seeking activities that enhance health and wellbeing. The main factors are location-based, therapies, or experiences that are not easily available in their home country. The decision to opt for a wellness retreat is a less serious one.


Tech-enabled wellness

Technology has been a boon in our ‘lockdown’ life. However, it isn’t a surprise that it has taken over so many aspects of our day-to-day routine. Tech-enabled wellness has given rise to various new and interesting dimensions. Wellness brands are seeking creative ways to engage clients by offering remote nutrition tips, handling anxiety, fitness classes, immunity-boosting guidance, and much more. Various upcoming trends have helped the industry to continuously innovate. Some emerging trends like wearable devices, thermal wellness, virtual fitness, smart mattresses, etc, have led the transformation of wellness trends to a whole new level.



Among the several challenges faced by the industry, India takes up only a minuscule fraction in the global wellness industry, the value of which is estimated to be close to $4.2 trillion wherein India has a long to go. Lack of adequate infrastructure and shortage of skilled workforce is one of the biggest impediments of this sector. Wellness centres often provide a comprehensive and holistic wellness model. In the last few years, although the government has made notable changes to support the wellness sector, the transformation of the industry into a more robust one will be time-consuming     .

Awareness: India should focus on creating awareness on health and wellness especially during the current phase of a global pandemic. Very few people in India give importance to mental well-being. People need to promote emotional wellness also as a part of the immunity-building exercise.

Scaling up: Investments in AI and machine learning for this sector can be a possible solution to overcome technology-related challenges. However, some of these interfaces are expensive and can pose a bigger challenge for startups.

Willingness to pay: Most wellness platforms often offer free trial sessions or services. However, sometimes the clients are not keen to subscribe or enroll for a longer tenure of membership which makes it difficult for startups to financially sustain themselves.

Skill gap: The wellness industry demands a skilled workforce to sustain growth. The availability of specialized wellness experts has been a concern. Quality accreditation becomes void if in hindsight monitoring is absent. Although the government has been actively supporting in contributing various initiatives, the social economic challenges prevailing in India hinder the option to train or rebuild skill sets that are required for this industry.


PostCovid advantage

A good deal of wellness service providers has devised a new range of activities and options that cater to post-covid recovery of individuals. Through online profiling, a well-established health and well-being plan is administered that provides a unique program for clients.

Some essential elements include:

– Diet detox based on specialist advice, stress management through emotional well being

– Stress management techniques that are scientifically proven

– Personalised fitness using integrated approaches that supervise dietary requirements, strict timetables, and availability of fitness experts.

– Sleep healing that helps in following a circadian rhythm to a person’s lifestyle. An often-neglected aspect of well-being, sleep is the key to good health and recovery

– Covid related anxiety recovery is based on stimulating the immune system, improving oxygenation, reducing stress, resistance and capacity to endure.

A combination of such programs is a smartly built health and wellness proposal for individuals that will boost the sectors’ growth during the pandemic phase. The framework for a new wave of opportunity will have to be considered, including different stages of growth, enterprise support, and avenues for expansion. It should be designed taking into consideration the maturity stage and the scale of the enterprise. Some growth enabling pillars include infrastructure, regulation, funding, incentives, and skillset.

Currently, we are witnessing tremendous growth with a lot of wellness brands hopping onto the bandwagon to help the day-to-day needs of the consumers. With several players competing with each other for the same set of the target audience, local businesses are also establishing themselves by giving on-demand doorstep services. Each of these enterprises aims to constantly go one step ahead to make consumers’ lives more comfortably.


Sanjeev Singhai, Founder, Wellnessta, Mumbai

Read Previous

Supplier engagement key for sustainable food supply chains

Read Next

Valorizing pigmented rice bran for food processing

Leave a Reply