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“We constantly innovate to find new solutions to support health & and wellness”: Ajay Khanna 

A self-proclaimed “people’s man”, Ajay Khanna says he was drawn to the world of direct selling by the fact that the industry is all about connections. Today, as the Senior VP and Managing Director of Herbalife India, he is tasked with the brand’s growth mandate. We converse with him about the company’s growth pathways, the opportunities and challenges on the horizon, and his strategic priorities. 

Could you shed some light on Herbalife’s long-term vision? 

Herbalife has been operating in India for over two decades and has entered into its 25th year of operations in the country. The company’s vision is to change people’s lives by offering them the best business opportunity in direct selling and the best wellness and nutrition products globally. We are committed to improving people’s well-being and empowering them with our wide range of products and business opportunities. It encapsulates the ultimate impact and purpose of our organization’s existence, emphasizing the transformative effect we aim to have on individuals.  

For more than 40 years, we have never stopped innovating our products and enhancing our distribution channel to provide our distributors and their customers with the highest quality service and products. Two key elements of our growth strategy include Product Expansion and Distributor-Enabling technology. While our brand, when founded, focused on weight management, our product portfolio crosses different categories to address the needs of our consumers. At Herbalife, we constantly innovate to find new solutions to support health & and wellness. 

What would you say are strategic priorities for your area of business. 

Our nutrition philosophy has always been underpinned by a belief in the importance of a healthy lifestyle through exercise. With more than 40 years of global presence and expertise, our product category ranges from Weight Management, Energy & Fitness, Targeted Nutrition, Kids range and Ayurveda. Herbalife is a customer-centric organization driven by our distributors’ needs and inspired by their success stories. This underlines the importance of relationships and mutual growth.  

We prioritize development and growth to benefit all stakeholders, including distributors, customers, shareholders, and employees. This demonstrates our commitment to creating value for everyone involved. 

What have been the key elements and differentiators for your brand? 

Our commitment to the highest scientific and safety standards in product development and manufacturing is an integral part of our mission for nutrition. With a wide range of specialized nutritional products, Herbalife is committed to providing wellness through its high-quality, science-backed food products for everyone. Herbalife leads the industry with its Gold Standard distributor protections, which include a 12-month 100% refund guarantee on both the cost of becoming a distributor and all unused products.  

Through the organization’s “distributor difference”, consumers get tailored support to help motivate and coach their customers to achieve their fitness goals. This ‘Distributor Difference’ is what sets us apart from many other players. All our products are sold exclusively through our independent distributors. Through this network and their contribution, we have reached the last mile where our products are accessible even in tier 2-3 cities. 

In your opinion, what are the current market trends that have made waves in healthcare, and what kind of opportunities does it offer for your brand? 

Herbalife recognizes the growing demand for weight management solutions and wellness products. We acknowledge obesity as a significant issue in certain parts of the world and Southeast Asia. We also see an increasing trend in Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets adapting to wellness post the pandemic, where there is a spike in demand for these products. 

Protein intake deficiency and the lack of micronutrients in the Indian diet are also highlighted as concerns. Herbalife addresses these nutritional gaps through targeted nutrition, supplements, and proper dietetics. We offer a wide range of nutrition products that cater to different needs and goals, providing essential nutrients such as protein, amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and hydration. 

Please tell us about the potential challenges that the healthcare sector must prepare for.  

The prevailing health landscape is characterized by a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy dietary habits, obesity, insufficient physical activity, elevated stress levels, and hypertension—all substantially elevating susceptibility to sedentary lifestyle-related disorders. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in India account for 62% of all deaths and 48% of preventable premature deaths. The burden of NCDs on India is long-lasting given that more than 65% of the population suffering are in their most productive age groups in life as increased prevalence of NCDs leads to increased pressures on our health systems. Through Public-Private Partnerships, we must focus on managing NCDs as it presents a grim reality about the disease burden. 

In your view, what are the key shifts required to ensure the healthcare sector’s success?  

To tackle the growing nutrition crisis, Herbalife has joined forces with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to implement and scale their national nutrition campaign, “Eat Right India.” So far, through this campaign we have reached over 200 million people through food summits, melas, walkathons, and social media engagement across 12 states. This partnership is centered around two pivotal goals: promoting nutritional knowledge and ensuring the availability of safe and wholesome food.  

As part of the campaign, Herbalife has turned high-profile establishments like the Indo-Tibetan Border Police headquarters, the Indian Space Research Organizations (ISRO), and State Secretariats offices into “Eat Right campuses” where people can make safe, healthy, and balanced diet food choices. Currently, 500 meals are being served across 40 such campuses, which is a testament to the power of public-private partnerships in improving public health. 

Tell us a bit about the notable milestones that your brand has scaled in the last five years.  

We have many accolades in the last five years; Herbalife recently made significant investments in research and development by establishing a high-end research facility called the “Centre of Excellence” in Bengaluru. The lab recently received accreditation from the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) for chemical and biological disciplines. This facility also serves as a hub where experts collaborate with the quality and production teams to develop new flavours and introduce new categories of products.  

In 2020, we introduced a range of Ayurveda products and in 2018 H24 was launched. With extensive research, we have entered the eye health segment in 2023, a new product segment – ‘Ocular Defense’ which is scientifically developed to support and nourish the eye’s macular health. The product contains nutrients that help in the maintenance of normal vision and helps in supporting macular health. We have also enhanced our existing portfolio, successfully launching India palate-friendly flavours like Rose Kheer, Kulfi, and most recently Paan flavours in our flagship product, Formula1 nutrition shake mix. 

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