We talked to Mathew Joseph of Kerala Naturals about premium quality natural herbs and spices, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mathew Joseph: Thanks for asking; fortunately, my family stayed safe and healthy till the moment. These are strange and challenging days. Family life, health, work, education, and wider support networks continue to be affected by life in lockdown.
We never imagined that we would have to be stuck inside for so long. However, this time has also given us the opportunity to rekindle the relationship we lost with our family. With the fast-paced lives we were living, we hardly sat together as a family. The lockdown has given us a chance to go back to the days when family time was the most important time of the day. It becomes impossible to stay in touch with everyone we know in our normal lives. However, with the lockdown and with everyone having lots of time on their hands, we have been able to talk to our school friends and people we forgot along the way.
We also took hold of our kitchen during the lockdown and prepared various savory cuisines and snacks; it was one of the best activities we often miss due to our busy work life. And all these are very rare experience for us.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Kerala Naturals.
Mathew Joseph: I’m a post-graduate having certifications in E-Commerce from a well-reputed institute in Mumbai. I am a former Business Development Manager at International Ayurvedic and Tourist related magazine in Kochi, Kerala, through which I got the golden opportunity to visit many places and attend most exhibitions which were held there. I am also a former Company Secretary at Kuwait National Petroleum Company. Later I returned to my native country and started the race behind my dream, “Kerala Naturals”. “Kerala Naturals” is a Sole Proprietorship based entity of mine headquartered at Kadanad, a small village of Kerala, India with well-equipped facilities of manpower and machinery since 2012 and entrenched with the aim of retail exporting of premium quality natural herbs and spices, ayurvedic products worldwide in a moderate price and we never compromise on quality.
How does Kerala Naturals innovate?
Mathew Joseph: I get this question all the time. There are many things to consider, and lots of “it depends.” Startups can offer a chance to do all the things that can be either a blessing or a curse depending on your interests. As I said about my innovations from the beginning, I pursue different methodologies, or my perspective differs on each stage of our growth chart.
Initially, our business engaged with only three Nutraceutical products through our own website, “www.keralanaturals.com.” We had received sufficient and genuine encouragement from customers, which led us to expand to the next level. It was a huge expansion for our business with products of different sorts, such as Organic Herbs, ayurvedic, spices, and cosmetic products of premium quality, which are exclusively through Indian E-Commerce Websites our brand “Kerala Naturals”. It was a hit in our Growth chart, which led us to expand our roots to foreign Countries. Through eBay USA, Germany, and Canada websites, we took our first step abroad and continued retail exports of these products through eBay with well-defined policies that prioritize customers and never compromise product quality. Along with Foreign exports, we hold a place in almost all Indian E-commerce Websites also. It was a steep rise that can be described as a milestone in our growth. We provided a sincere service of quality products, which was the reason why our customers were turned into our loyal customers.
The tremendous growth in our business prompted office expansion with a new building and more manpower in 2019, and we owned new brands – Kanan Naturale and Preethy’s Boutique and innovated our foreign relations and services through E-commerce websites of Amazon, eBay, tophatter & lazda in more than in 100 counties. Our business is now affianced with almost 75 products of different categories such as spices, herbs, organic products, Cosmetics, Ayurvedic Products, Ayurvedic clothes, Honey, Indian Snacks Handicrafts, under our brands as well as we have retail exports of different sorts of ayurvedic products and Indian cosmetics of various famous Indian brands such as Nagarjuna, Kottakkal Arya Vaidysala, Vaidyaratnam, VLCC, Biotique, Naturals, etc.
I think all these regarding our innovations are much enough to describe what we are now and how we got here.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Mathew Joseph: By first understanding the severity of coronavirus infection, I wish everyone can work and live with necessary precautions and be able to eradicate this scourge. We have always acted only in accordance with the rules and instructions from the government and will continue the same throughout our business. So during the severely infectious period, we were temporarily closed for a while, considered safety is primary.
We later resumed business only in the Indian market because of foreign exporting restrictions due to the panic atmosphere. But as we effectively utilized the time on Indian Markets, the pandemic did not affect us adversely, and we got much support from our loyal and new customers as well. But now all our market places are reopened, and we got back strongly.
We cope with this situation by understanding work areas, assessing the possibility of suspending the activity, enhancing regular hand hygiene, providing medical masks, disposable gowns, gloves, and eye protection for workers. Now we fought together with the pandemic by the side and concentrated on our business. In general, it’s not a threatening period for our business.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Mathew Joseph: It’s understandable for an entrepreneur who makes business decisions that this can be stressful and difficult. I think decisions resonate with your goals in life. It is easy to make decisions but making them practical may not be an easy task for everyone. That is why choices have become difficult. Taking a risk to achieve a goal requires the courage to face the fear of uncertainty. No matter the outcome, either way, we grow through the process and become more resilient and confident. Better yet, building those skills helps in taking more risks and improves the chances of achieving future goals. Taking risks doesn’t mean succeeding every time. Failure makes us stronger and more resilient. I came up with some discoveries and thoughts about how everything was meticulously put together to bring me to this exact moment, where I feel happy about each big decision I make.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Mathew Joseph: Stress and anxiety are common experiences for most people. Whenever I feel stressed and anxious, I like to free myself from my tied problems; by self-realization, I consider it only as a part of work. There are strategies you can use to make them more manageable. During those situations, I like to engage with my family. Actually, this situation appears only occasionally in view of our office vibe. Because our company encouraged open communication, take the team out on company offsites, consider flexible work schedules, celebrations, and so on.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mathew Joseph: I strongly believe that a company’s biggest obstacle to growth is its competitors, but it is better to meet customers’ requirements than to beat competitors. I have my own perspectives regarding our company’s methodology, and I’m concentrating on it, not on competitors. You have to know what your customers expect from you and their needs – as their values and budgets change. It’s important that you find out what is most important to them when it comes to customer service. As you get to know your customers, you will learn new things about their businesses. If you are paying attention, you should identify new ways that you can increase your business with them, including offering new products and services. The more your customers can depend on you to solve their business challenges, the more loyal they become. If they are loyal, there is no need to panic about competitors. Beat yourself first.
Your final thoughts?
Mathew Joseph: It has been observed that people move from small villages to big cities with a strong belief of achieving their dreams. Why should I migrate? Is the village not a suitable habitat for a startup? Are there any barriers to our dreams and desires? If there are people who suspect that the village is not a favorable place for it, I would like to share with them our story and like to mention that with pride, because we came up from a small village named “Kadanad”,(Kerala, India) and still want to fly higher by staying here.
We have not found any obstacles here till now. Actually, I came up with limited manpower and machinery with only the thought of providing quality Indian Herbs, Spices, Ayurvedic Products worldwide at a moderate price. Even though our entire team’s continuous and tireless hard work led to a steep rise in our Business worldwide. Now we have strong roots and loyal customers worldwide. So my all-time thought is to provide quality products and services and inspire others who refused to start from the village. And through village enterprises, we can bring about changes like giving job opportunities and molding their skills. Also helpful for rural farmers who were denied deserved values for their goods. The more women employees recruited in our company in light of Women’s empowerment as well. ‘Think big, dream big’ is the mantra that I believe in. Ever since my journey started, I always wanted to make it big.
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