How Altaf Saiyed and Saloni Anand built the Traya way of life

ALTAF SAIYED and SALONI ANAND, co-founders of Traya Health, say Traya’s USP is to provide solutions to the hair loss problem, rather than sell products, even as they target 7X growth this fiscal

Srabana LahiriUpdated: Monday, June 06, 2022, 10:39 AM IST
Altaf Saiyed and Saloni Anand | File

For Altaf Saiyed and Saloni Anand, Traya just happened when they had no plans whatsoever to set up such a company. It has now become their life’s mission. Traya Health combines the tenets of Ayurveda, dermatology and nutrition to manage hair loss, and this three-pronged approach has been a successful proposition.

The back story of the entrepreneur couple goes back to the time when they met in Hyderabad, where he was running his food delivery start-up built2cook (later rebranded to Hav Gourmet).

Saloni then worked for a health tech start-up, leading the product that helped people with medical compliance. They got married in 2017. In 2018, Altaf’s company was doing really well and he had even hired a CEO from Sodexo. His health, however, was cause for concern and the couple decided to set a six-month goal to fix his thyroid, uric acid, extra weight, hair loss and other problems.

“That journey of six months changed our lives. His thyroid came under control, weight was back to normal, he had strong mental health and great hair. We went into a holistic way of living and a few years later, it has become the Traya way of life. I am glad we are now sharing this with the world, though we never thought back then that this would become a company,” says Saloni Anand.

Here are excerpts from an interview with Altaf Saiyed and Saloni Anand.

How did the idea of launching Traya Health take shape? What are the highlights of the brand’s journey so far, as also the challenges you faced along the way?

Saloni Anand: Traya was built in May, 2019 as the result of our personal experience. Altaf was facing hair fall (male pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia) which was accelerated due to an uncontrollable thyroid, stress and a poor lifestyle.

During this journey, we realised that the current hair fall treatment market is broken - no commercial shampoo, oil or serum actually works because hair loss needs the right diagnosis and a doctor-prescribed treatment. We visited a dermatologist, but had no luck. We were pushed to take expensive treatments like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy for hair loss.

We soon realised hair loss and thyroid cannot be fought by allopathy alone. We also realised that hair fall is an internal issue with root causes – and saw it as the biggest addressable gap in the market. We mixed dermatologist-prescribed products with other sciences like Ayurveda and food science, and it became a game-changer.

The biggest take-away was that like any other chronic disease, hair loss does not have a single product solution, it needs holistic treatment that involves working on internal health. On realising that a combination of these three sciences can bring about a preventive approach, we set out to help friends and families facing similar issues. This led to starting the company with a single focus on honesty and efficiency.

The biggest challenge we faced was raising awareness - making people understand that shampoo or oil can never regrow hair. Years of marketing by hair product companies had led people to believe in certain products or home remedies. The next challenge was building trust, as people had tried to fight hair loss and failed so many times that they believed hair loss is inevitable. The third challenge was ensuring consistency.

Traya treatment takes time and unfortunately, people want instant gratification. We have done wonderfully well at managing this challenge. We set the right expectation and let every customer know beforehand the duration of treatment.

How did you go about building the brand and what are your current initiatives in that aspect? What kind of spends do you allocate to advertising and marketing?

Altaf Saiyed: When we started out, we were merely a team of three with a customer base of 100 people. The first big milestone we hit was getting 93% efficacy among customers who had completed five months of treatment. For the first year at Traya, our goal was to just work on adherence measured by repeat customer rate. In 2021 January, we hit a repeat rate of 80% on the second month order. We clocked 5X growth in the 2021 financial year, and our goal this year is 7X growth.

We did experiment with some global markets, and they look attractive, but we have pushed that to 2023. We want to first become the largest hair fall solution brand in India and then venture out. As for spending on advertising, 30% of our monthly revenue goes into marketing.

What is the USP of your brand vis a vis competition in the hair fall management category that also includes people’s belief in home remedies as well as DIY products like anti-hair fall shampoos, creams, etc, from MNC brands?

Saloni Anand: Hair fall has become a superficial topic today. Years of aggressive marketing has conditioned us to believe that hair fall is because of a poor hair care routine - using the wrong shampoo/conditioner, not eating enough biotin gummies. But the truth is that hair fall is internal, brought on by hormonal changes, nutritional deficiencies, a poor metabolism, poor digestion, stress and much more. Three out of five Indians face hair fall that’s accelerated by these causes.

Even for genetic hair loss, while the grandpas went bald in their 60s, our generation is getting there in their 20s. While there’s no ‘genie’ in a bottle to fix hair fall instantly, a holistic approach like Traya’s has helped over 1,00,000 customers fight their hair fall with a 93% success rate.

Traya’s USP is:

  1. We work on internal causes with most unique solutions. For example, we have a nasya ghee-based nasal drop loved by people with sleep problems.

  2. Traya is a mix of Ayurveda, allopathy and nutrition. We are the only hair company that gives a customised diet plan

  3. Each customer is analysed by three experts - a dermatologist, a nutritionist and an Ayurvedic doctor who have the final say on product, dosage, etc.

  4. We provide a coach - making people healthy inside is the first step to great hair and it needs motivation and support. Traya coaches are trained under our team of doctors and are extremely loved by our customers.

  5. We choose our customers, because maintaining our 93% efficacy claim is dear to us. So, if you come to our website, take the free consultation and are diagnosed at Stage 5 and above of hair loss, we will tell you upfront that hair growth is near impossible as it’s too late.

What kind of business results have you seen at Traya Health? How has your annual revenue grown?

Altaf Saiyed: At Traya, growth is important but our north star metric has always been the lifetime value (LTV) of the customer. We have achieved a repeat rate of 80% with our consumers. We are in the business of managing hair loss and the disease is such that it takes 4-5 months to see the desired results. Our primary focus is not to sell 1 million SKUs of a product but to get 1 million people to benefit from Traya’s treatment.

We’re building a brand that does not compromise on efficacy and is loved by customers. We’ve been fortunate to see our current offerings achieving product-market fit and hence the 5X increase in traction. With the recent fundraising, where we raised $2.2 million, we plan to scale up Traya in a big way. From March to May 2022, we have already doubled our revenue.

What next from Traya Health? What are your plans to grow the brand from here – do you plan to diversify into other aspects of healthcare or beyond?

Saloni Anand: We want to be synonymous with the term ‘hair health’ and be known for our efficacy and honesty. On the product side, we are into research for high efficacy solutions with no side effects for other hair concerns.

What have been your top three learnings so far in the Traya journey? What is one motto that drives you all along?

Altaf Saiyed and Saloni Anand:

  • Learning 1: Do it now. Nothing is more important than speed and execution

  • Learning 2: Hire fast, fire faster.

  • Learning 3: We exist for efficiency. Nothing else matters. This has led us to where we are today.

Hair is an intrinsic part of one’s identity and we are in the business of giving people back their identity and confidence. That is our motto. Once on Traya treatment, we have seen people get on to the track of healthy and holistic living. That drives us towards making India healthy and happy.

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