This sponsored post, part of a series on Asia’s Young Social Entrepreneurs, is brought to you by DBS Bank. In partnership with the National University of Singapore, DBS is a proud supporter of the Social Venture Challenge, an Asia-wide competition for social enterprises.
Dhanvin Mehta describes his sister Rajvi Mehta as someone with perseverance. She’s the kind of person who will keep problems, big and small, at the back of her mind and not let them go until they get solved. Her biggest challenge yet is to create a world without anemia.
In 2010, when Rajvi was a sophomore at Brown University, she was diagnosed with anemia, a condition that occurs when the body has a less than normal number of red blood cells which can cause problems such as fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, and even heart failure. Around that time, she interned at an IVF centre and realized that many patients also suffered from anemia. Upon further digging, she realized that an estimated 80 percent of the population in India across all socio-economic groups is anemic.
“If you check their nails,” said Dhanvin, an engineering student who stumbled into his sister’s mission, “it’s pretty well known that people are anemic, but they just don’t know the severity of it.”
In India, widespread anemia can be attributed to three things: lack of awareness, lack of mainstream attention, and lack of an iron-rich diet.
“If you look at the way society is in India, it’s kind of different. A lot of dietary consumption is from home food. People make stuff from scratch. If you see our diets, a lot of us are vegetarian, and in our vegetarian diet we do not consume a lot of green leafy vegetables. We have them, we have spinach, but it’s consumed once a week. Even if they’re non-vegetarians, they mainly consume chicken and that doesn’t give enough iron.”
To fight anemia head on, Let’s Be Well Red was founded in 2011 to organize testing and treatment camps. They reached out to approximately 5,000 anemic individuals – mainly women – but quickly encountered a problem. A lot of these women did not come back for follow-up sessions.
The team asked the women who did come back what was going on, and realized that there was a problem with the treatment method. Many of the women were frustrated with all the iron supplements, spinach, almonds, and dates they were told to eat.
“That’s when we realized they needed one supplement or one thing that they can just pick up at a place where they bought and eat it, and they’re done for the day,” said Dhanvin.
Let’s Be Well Red spent close to a year creating their nutritional Gudness bars, which sell at 10 rupees, or 16 US cents. They had to be iron-rich, affordable, and tasty. “We want this to be a habit. We want people to have this on a daily basis. So it better taste good.”
The World Health Organization considers hemoglobin levels below 12 grams per deciliter in adults to be anemic. Most of the population in India is between 8 and 12 grams per deciliter. “We had this study conducted recently on a hundred students over three months,” said Dhanvin. “Within three months just consuming our bar five times a week, they noticed an increase of 1.5 to 2.5 units of hemoglobin.”
With a working product at hand, the team needed help with distributing their product at scale. A friend of Dhanvin had introduced him to the Social Venture Challenge, and he was intrigued by the training and networking opportunities they offered.
“Let’s Be Well Red is just starting off, and we need all the support we can get,” he said. “I got to see first-hand a lot of the business side of things. You get to see investors, how they talk, what they expect out of a pitch. You get to see different people and what they see in a business.”
He vividly remembers a piece of marketing advice given by Sourabh Sharma, co-founder and CEO of Milaap. “What he said was you don’t keep pitching your product out there. You don’t say ‘I have this Gudness bar’. You keep posting things relevant to it and you get your whole following to appreciate what you stand for. And that is much more important than just blindly pitching your idea. It completes the story. It gets people to engage with you in a more meaningful way than just about your company or product.”
“Before, I was within a maze trying to get out. Today, I can kind of see the bird’s-eye view of the maze,” said Dhanvin, who feels he has more clarity on how to move the business forward.
He’s also picked up some of his sister’s perseverance. “We envision the world free of anemia. We want to reach at least a million people in the next three years. That’s our goal, we want to get there.”
Watch this video to learn more about Let’s Be Well Red:
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