HEALING THROUGH NATURE
Featured as one of the top nine business leaders of 2022 in India, Gagan Bhatia, Founder of Uniqaya Lifestyle, and Director of Unimarck Pharma Ltd., personifies entrepreneurship. A naturopath, she believes in blending the synergies of nature as an effective means to healing, which has been incorporated in her skincare brand Uniqaya. With almost 20+ years in the pharmaceutical sector, she handles the R&D unit at Unimarck and is well-versed in the beauty and wellness market. Her life’s journey coaxed her into playing multiple roles, as she transitioned from being a teacher to a field expert, counsellor, doctor, and entrepreneur. Early marriage and motherhood, and subsequently a proud ‘single mother’ in the 1990s, which according to Gagan was not a commendable tag of honour then. Her spiritual journey awakened her faith as she groomed herself through the challenges. She shares her journey and insights into the beauty and wellness sector
“The decision to take up science as a primary subject has helped me understand that skincare isn’t one-dimensional. It has multiple facets, and while we incorporate naturally sourced ingredients, it is based on the importance of science in skincare”, said Gagan Bhatia, Founder, Uniqaya Lifestyle and Director of Unimarck Pharma Ltd. Unimarck Pharma (I) Ltd. was established in 1984 by Bhupinder Pal Singh Bhatia, Chief Managing Director.
Gagan’s affinity for science encouraged her to complete her post-graduation (science) at Panjab University, Chandigarh. “My inclination towards science as a subject is largely responsible for enabling me to traverse and carve my niche in the skincare realm”, she said. Gagan has never had a conventional job and overcame her life’s challenges thanks to her family’s support. “My father has had a major influence on my life and on the way, I approach things in my career. My father’s principles and ethics in every sphere of his life have influenced my deeds and contributions. My mother has also contributed a lot in terms of shaping my outlook towards life in general”, said Gagan.
Corporate Citizen: How have you been keeping pace with the changing trends in the health and wellness sector?
Gagan Bhatia: I have always been inclined to assimilate knowledge in keeping up with the changes in the pharmaceutical and health and wellness sectors. For the skincare sector, I have been updating my knowledge on the shifts in skincare preferences across multiple generations.
CC: How about changing technology in the healthcare segment, with special emphasis on your domain?
My key responsibility in our pharma production unit has been to understand and apply sophisticated technology. With the demand for technology and its impact on every sphere of our lives, we have been understanding the process of bringing digital changes into existence. It has enabled me to contribute by improving operating methods in our production unit, aimed at producing a higher output and reaching out to a greater populace.
CC: What is your role in the R&D unit at Unimarck?
As one of the company directors, I have influenced the decision-making process related to the new research and technology department. I steer and promote innovations by bringing new, upgraded products to market and by assisting them with the right strategic and operational decisions. My understanding of the high expectations and requirements within the pharmaceutical sector helps to identify problem areas, resolve them and aid our growth.
CC: What is the current state of R&D in India, especially with generic drugs well entrenched in the market?
India has a strong presence in generic formulations, resulting in its becoming one of the major players in the research and development of generic pharmaceuticals. There has been constant engagement in the study and development of generic compounds all along. Pharmaceutical companies anticipate evolving through new pharma updates to create innovative generic drugs and other medical supplies at affordable prices.
"With the intention of quality and affordability, we are working on new solutions for third-party production that help contribute to other or allied pharmaceutical businesses in India."
CC: What has been your company’s role in the generic medicine business?
With the intention of quality and affordability, we are working on new solutions for third party production that help contribute to other or allied pharmaceutical businesses in India. We have also been fostering partnerships between companies to outsource to each other.
CC: What is the percentage split in generic drug vs. patented product manufacturing in India?
It is difficult to determine the exact ratio. However, we can estimate the growth of each sector based on the exports of generic medicine. With India’s generic medication exports on the rise, delivering USD 24.53 billion worth of drugs, we are becoming a leading international provider of generic drugs. Despite the United States having the most FDA-approved production or manufacturing facilities (332 sites) in India, the number of patent filings is still not particularly high, accounting for a 5% to 6% increase in the compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
CC: What is the future of patenting and R&D in the Indian drug manufacturing landscape?
In recent times, Indian pharmaceutical businesses have been targeting substantial research and development advancements in understanding several emerging illnesses. The Indian pharmaceutical industry accounts for approximately 8.3% of all patented medications. The current Union budget promises to aid the expansion of the medical sector, which has encouraged the development of novel pharmaceuticals. With the pharma sector being well promoted and evaluated, it has witnessed enhancements in R&D expenditures by major players, and the sector is expected to bring forth more patents, processes, and products in the near future.
Beauty and Lifestyle
CC: What is your skincare brand pitch?
Everyone is born beautiful. Sometimes we just need a little nudge. I truly believe everyone can benefit from a little self-care, self-love, and the right mindset, enhancing the ‘real’ you.
CC: What is the USP of your skincare brand?
I take pride in the quality and formulation of our products. After months of development and research, when we create a line of products to international standards, it is empowering.
Eco-friendliness, as a known concept, has helped align consumers of eco-friendly products with the respective manufacturers. It has provided an added brand incentive by incorporating sustainable ingredients in the manufacturing process
CC: What is your stand on the current Indian beauty products market?
The Indian wellness and beauty products market is quite saturated unless you have a rewarding and well-entrenched product. Many have been brainwashed by the narrative of organic products, whether or not they help their skin get better. However, it’s also a very promising industry as it relies on the might of the youth power in India, one of the most potential target segments for beauty products.
CC: Who are the current market players?
While several brands and beauty concepts have bombarded the market, most are selling brands that cater to pure organic beauty segments. There are other imported concepts, such as the Korean beauty ideologies, that have been introduced in India. We can categorise these companies into diverse niches, but all of them serve a similar target audience.
CC: Are you a 100% direct-to-consumer (D2C) channel, and how stiff is the e-beauty sector?
We are a D2C brand and are available on all major domestic e-channels, including Ajio Luxe, Amazon, Flipkart, and Myntra, including our website. Most of our competitors are doing a pretty good job, and the competition is stiff. I believe that the success of any brand is the result of the love and support of a loyal customer base, which helps carve a seamless market niche.
CC: How does your product differentiate from the skincare product clusters in the market?
We have never claimed to be 100% organic to win the hearts of the people. Our products are backed by scientific principles and effective natural ingredients that are extremely effective, which differentiates us. The idea has been to empower every individual and impart knowledge via a holistic skincare regimen by using our products, which are mostly indigenously developed.
CC: Does the wellness sector receive any special sops from the government?
Not specific to the wellness sector. However, the increase in capital allocation to promote healthcare by introducing medical knowledge has led to the establishment of many medical colleges. It has emphasised the need for research and development under various programmes.
CC: Do you cater to a niche segment, as most products are on the higher end?
The niche has been inclusive, as we believe our products cater to modern-day skincare problems. Our customers trust the effectiveness of scientifically backed skincare products that do not promise any whitewashing but are proven through actual results.
Building Scientific Temperament
CC: Can a collective scientific temperament enhance product innovations?
Our company requires employees to actively participate, learn, and foster an analytical spirit to innovate, bringing out their inner scientific temperaments individually. We are open to the possibility of bringing fresh perspectives to any available subject matter. Our approach adheres to a hierarchical management structure that emphasises top-down directives to match the vision of our intended goals.
CC: Is it always competition that triggers innovation?
No, competition does not always spur creative thinking; rather, we believe that innovation results from cultivating the mental space and silence to absorb new information. It can lead to tremendous growth in our thinking skills. Competition is, however, useful for propelling the creative potential of our peers, which in turn gives us the confidence to try new things and keep pushing forward.
CC: How important are innovations in sustaining growth?
To communicate new concepts, it is essential to implement them in novel ways. New ideas and the ability to put them into practise are equally crucial. There are several components and aspects that contribute to sustainability. It could include an important management reorganisation or the use of a newly developed sink technology to gain mileage across the highly saturated healthcare and beauty markets.
Pandemic and e-beauty
CC: Did any of your products find new appeal after the pandemic?
While the pandemic was one of the most challenging periods for us, as it was for other sectors globally, the business impact was equally devastating. However, adapting to digitalisation aided our growth during the pandemic. We had the fortitude to pursue this and noticed that our foot cream and sunscreen product lines gained more appeal. We realised that post-pandemic, people have become more careful about taking care of themselves.
CC: Did the pandemic usher in innovative strategies?
The pandemic pushed us to seek answers to problems that did not exist before the outbreak. The speed of the digital revolution also mobilised us to adopt digitalisation. It inspired us to enable several new business transitions while providing the same calibre of service to our customers.
Many have been brainwashed by the narrative of organic products, whether or not they help their skin get better. However, it’s also a very promising industry as it relies on the might of the youth power in India, one of the most potential target segments for beauty products
Brand and Environment Sustainability
CC: How important is it to be environmentally friendly?
Beauty brands in the current market are required to be extremely environmentally conscious. Eco-friendliness, as a known concept, has helped align consumers of eco-friendly products with the respective manufacturers. It has provided an added brand incentive by incorporating sustainable ingredients in the manufacturing process. The industry has accepted the norm and hence, it would be wise to undergo the necessary checks in manufacturing sustainable, eco-friendly products.
CC: What transformations do you foresee in the beauty and wellness?
In the next five to ten years, the beauty sector is going to be shaped up as per the likes of Gen Z. It is based on the projected sales and buying affinity of the new generation within different skincare segments and brands. I anticipate an influx of collagen, retinol, and beta-hydroxy acid (BHA)-based products flooding the skincare market in the near future.
CC: What are your plans for the next 3–5 years?
We are striving for growth through innovative and optimal quality products and hope to introduce new skincare formulations and creative solutions, in the next five years. The future is all about building out-of-the-box solutions for our customers.
CC: Do you engage in CSR activity?
I have adopted ten children and ensure that I take care of them. The brand continues to engage with people by giving back to the community through its own set of charities.
CC: How do you manage stress and work-life balance?
It is not too tedious if one can organise and delegate chores and activities. I have multiple hobbies outside of work, including travelling and reading.
CC: How do you separate your personal goals from those of the business?
I have always been attentive to what is needed of me in the sphere of work as well as my personal life. I don’t let the two overlap. It is possible to maintain a good work-life balance if you are well organised and have clarity in your expectations.
CC: Do you share tips for women aspiring to be entrepreneurs?
Considering walking the path of an entrepreneur is indeed heroic, as it is difficult to juggle the immense responsibilities of home and a career. However, with grit, determination and a sound support system from the family, a lot can happen.
CC: How can women enhance themselves if they have to build an enterprise?
The lack of everything else can be worked upon if one can work on their lack of confidence. Lack of confidence is extremely problematic across all spheres of life, and once that is fixed, everything falls into place.