Big Idea

Keep it as it is

Bengaluru-based As-It-Is Nutrition offers an easy, no-frills solution to the ‘Where do you get your protein, bro?’ conundrum 

RA Chandroo

Remember AR Rahman’s Yayi Re, Yayi Re track from the film Rangeela? In it, then child-artist Aditya Narayan cries, “Tension! Tension! Tension!” for having to choose between Cadbury, Amul, Horlicks and Complan. A similar confusion brews in the minds of young fitness-enthusiasts who meander into the protein-supplement aisle at the nearby health store.

Which one should you pick? Optimum Nutrition, MuscleTech, IsoPure or the desi MuscleBlaze? Mind you, these big, shiny bottles don’t come cheap. They go for anywhere between Rs 1,500 for a kilogram (or 2.2 lbs) pack to upwards of Rs.10,000 for a 5-kg bottle. But, what if you can’t ask mum for that much? Also, what if you want protein without the flavours, additives and marketing gimmicks?

Out of a thrift shop?

Priced at around Rs 1,200 for a 1-kg pack, As-It-Is has turned into a runaway success with the gym enthusiasts on Amazon, Flipkart, HealthKart and the likes. Co-founder Himmath Jain proudly claims how the company became the top-selling protein supplement online within five months of its launch in March 2018.

Brothers Himmat and Arvind Jain started As-It-Is nutrition with a simple philosophy. They didn’t want to be another ‘Colgate with salt’, not another whey protein brand that woos its buyers with a new flavour or a marketing pitch. Besides, they wanted to bootstrap.

Their method? Import quality whey concentrate (the primary raw material) from the US, test it for quality as per FSSAI regulations, and check for pesticides and heavy metals. Every batch gets tested and the approved lot goes for packaging. Unlike the regular gamut of protein powders on sale, As-It-Is comes raw; no flavours, no additives.

Compared to the competition, even the packaging looks simple. None of the big, bulky buckets or bottles with flashy labels, thus keeping production costs low. You won’t see fancy ads from them either. They rely on YouTube fitness influencers such as Jeet Salal, Amit Panghal and Guru Mann. In fact, Panghal’s video review on the product even crossed four million views on YouTube. And the company claims it didn’t spend money on the influencers either.

As-It-Is has two more tricks up its sleeve: imported ingredients and zero adulteration. “Indians are addicted to whey imported from the US,” says Jain. Clearly, this coupled with pricing has had buyers lapping up Jain’s product. And you’ll notice how costlier brands such as MuscleBlaze have recently slashed their prices to keep up with As-It-Is.

Another issue the company is dealing with is adulteration —  a touchy topic in the  nutraceutical space. To ensure product authenticity, the folks at As-It-Is have developed a comprehensive verification system. Each pack has a unique QR code, which can be scanned via the company’s app. Plus, there’s a scratch code the app reads to ratify a genuine product. 

Riding on an affordable product and ever-increasing popularity, As-It-Is ships roughly 25,000 units of its 1 kg packs and generates Rs 30-40 million (GMV) every month. The brand clocked Rs.850 million in FY20 and is targeting the same figure this fiscal due to the prolonged lockdown. The start-up is now looking at Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and even the Middle-East markets for its products.

Besides whey protein, As-It-Is also retails rice and pea proteins, peanut butter without additives, and plans to expand its product line with cashews and almonds. The idea remains the same for these products: Reduce processing to a minimum. It’s here one may start to wonder, why not head to the grocery and get your milk, nuts, and all the good stuff, as it is?