Vijayaraghavan Venugopal, CEO and CO-Founder, Fast&Up shares insights on the company’s transition from B2B to D2C, marketing strategy, product portfolio diversification, collaboration with actor Varun Dhawan, expansion plans and more COVID-19 has accelerated the demand for nutrition and immunity boosting products since people started taking health and immunity seriously. Along with the hygiene segment, the effervescent nutrition segment saw unprecedented growth and Fast&Up benefitted from this growth reached more than 1.5 million households and more than 100 million people a month. Fast&Up is currently present in Europe, the UK and the USA. In an interaction with Pitch, Vijayaraghavan Venugopal, CEO and CO-Founder, Fast&Up shared the company’s journey from a B2B to a D2C brand, marketing strategy, product innovation, collaboration with actor Varun Dhawan, plans for expansion and more. Edited Excerpts: Tell us the insight behind stirring a shift in consumer perception from being seen as a sports nutrition brand to a lifestyle brand. What has the journey been like? We started off as a sports nutrition company in Switzerland on a trial basis, under the parent company of Aeronutrix Sports, and launched Fast&Up as a B2B brand for effervescent nutrition. We decided to bring it to India and set up our headquarters in Mumbai. We had a strong foothold as we were the nutrition and energy partners at many sporting events. As our expansion began and we entered India’s fast-growing vegetarian and vegan market, we realized the shift in consumer behaviour, choices and preferences. We also realized that families focused on quality supplements along with a balanced diet and this helped our vision of becoming a lifestyle brand for the entire Indian family. We have a Kidz range of products that are clinically tested, Informed Choice Certified and extremely safe to take. We have also launched Plant Protein for women, along with products such as Fast&Up N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) for better lung and liver functioning. It took us time to get there but today I can proudly say we are a complete lifestyle brand, home-grown from India for India providing premium nutrition. How has the journey as a D2C brand panned out? In the digital age, everybody has access to the internet and mobile phones. Our team at Fast&Up largely comprises millennials so we understood how consumers think, behave and react. We always wanted transparency between them and our brand, so we made it easy for them to directly shop at the click of a button. Today, a consumer wants to read reviews so that it’s easy for them to authenticate and validate. We have a strong social media presence, and a lot of our consumers connect directly with us through these mediums. We are a new-age brand where we believe in reaching out to the customer directly. About?your collaboration with actor Varun Dhawan as the 'Good Vibes Officer'. What?are the synergies between Dhawan and Fast&Up and how are you leveraging it? Luckily for us, most of our associations have been very organic. Varun Dhawan is someone who represents what our brand stands for - quality and intelligent nutrition for the people of the country. Varun on his own discovered Fast&Up a year and a half ago and felt it was becoming part of his daily life. Through our interactions with him, he understood what we as a brand were trying to do and this brought about his interest. Everything just flowed from there. When the second wave of Covid-19 hit India in April 2021, we thought of what we could do to reach out to our frontline workers who were fighting every minute to save thousands of lives. We came up with the #HealPrayLove campaign. Through this initiative, we wanted to provide free electrolytes to our frontline workers and support the medical fraternity. Varun is a youth icon and millennials really connect with him. Our association with him may perhaps evolve further, and we believe there may be more instances to partner with him in the future. FastUp also associated with?Table Tennis player Sharath Kamal Achanta and boxer Pooja Rani for the?Tokyo Olympics. What was the key objective behind the association and how has that panned out in terms of results garnered? Sports has always been something we are extremely committed to as a brand. We have over 90 athletes in our roster and we take care of their nutritional supplements. We were keen to work with Sharath and Pooja and the association has been amazing. The objective was to support their nutritional requirements throughout the course of their training for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. How has your marketing strategy?evolved through the due course of the pandemic? With the onset of Covid-19, the focus of the world harped upon the word - “Immunity”. We provided Fast&Up Charge to the frontline and healthcare force of India across states. As a brand, we spoke about a different narrative of WFH – we made it a point to provide a platform to the nation for Workouts at Home. Furthermore, we were the official partners o HDOR (Hundred Days of Running) and also associated with over 25 activations by running groups across the country The Indian Premier League (IPL) coincided with the partial unlock and we got back to the grass-roots and introduced the brand to personnel across gyms in the country. As an expression of gratitude, the brand supported doctors, nurses and hospital staff across the country by providing instant hydration and electrolytes. The future campaigns are definitely planned to keep the predicted sentiments into consideration. How are you aligning your marketing and advertising communication to?fulfil Fast&Up's vision to be a Rs 500 crore + brand by?2024? We have a strong social media presence on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and constantly engage with sports athletes, Bollywood celebs, nutritionists in the healthcare ecosystem. Market and consumer sentiment is the driving force for any industry. Keeping honesty and consumer at the centre of every communication, we want to get the country used to feeling good every day. Going ahead, what additions can consumers expect in the product portfolio? We have witnessed a sharp surge in the nutraceutical market, especially since the onset of Covid-19 with dietary supplements, immunity boosters, and plant-based nutrition seeing soaring demand. This market is expected to grow from $4 billion in 2017 to $18 billion in 2025, where Fast&Up is the market leader in effervescent, clean, intelligent and plant-based nutrition, fulfilling and catering to the needs of the Indian family. Fast&Up plans to launch 50 new SKUs in 2021.