“Believe In What You Are Doing”: John Thomas, Founder, Herbal Strategi

Serial entrepreneur John Thomas was in search of a new adventure. Around the same time, he developed a serious respiratory infection, which the doctors suspected was being caused by carcinogens in chemical-based mosquito repellents.

As is second nature to him, he saw this as an opportunity and jumped straight in. Market research revealed that there were no healthier alternatives to chemical-laced mosquito repellents. This, in 2011, led to the launch of Herbal Strategi, which offers natural, herbal products in the segments of repellents, cleaners, pet care and others.

John Thomas has an MSc (Hons) from Punjab Agricultural University in Aquaculture and an MBA from Cochin University. He also has rich experience of a decade in marketing across various companies. His entrepreneurship has been a journey with multifarious challenges. Mr Thomas has faced daunting tasks, failures, had self-doubts and occasionally, has been let down by his closest people. On the contrary, his journey portrays the successful small steps and strides he has taken towards giving his concept a structure.

The story of Herbal Strategi is the story of one man’s determination to overcome challenges and find a solution to a seemingly-insurmountable problem, not only for himself but also for the greater good. In an enlivening conversation with Sharmila Chand, Mr Thomas discloses his management principles and practices that have helped him build successful enterprises over the past many years.


What are your five management mantras?

*Believe in yourself.

*Never say you don’t have enough time – you always do.

*Develop learning agility.

*Be Proactive.

*Remember, everything has a greater potential.


What is the USP of your product range?

Before we came in, most herbal FMCG products were in the personal and healthcare space. There were no players in the home-care segment. That was our USP. We had herbal products in the home-care space with the AYUSH licence and PETA and ISO 9001 certification.

Our products are made with 100 per cent herbal actives. All our products are bio-degradable, eco-friendly, non-toxic and safe for use with kids and pets around. All products are vegan and made in house in an ISO 9002-compliant factory. Our cleaners have been awarded the GreenPro, an eco-friendly label, by the Confederation of Indian Industry. Our repellents are manufactured under the AYUSH licence.

Our products fall under six categories – herbal repellents, herbal cleaners, herbal fresheners, herbal hygiene, herbal fogging solutions and herbal pet care.


What inspired you to get into this business?

In 2009, I had suffered from an upper respiratory tract infection. The doctors told me to stop using vapourisers. Determined to switch to eco-friendly and safe repellents, I searched online for alternatives but found nothing. My master’s degree in Aquaculture at the Punjab Agricultural University came in handy. I asked my colleagues, and they referred me to the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) in Lucknow. We went there, and they gave us environment-friendly formulations that kept mosquitoes away for 10 to 12 hours to test. Since Kerala has 400 types of mosquitoes, we went there and tried different formulations for one-and-a-half years. We then went to Kochi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru to find out if people were interested in herbal repellents. Around 30 per cent said yes, and out of that 30 per cent, 65 per cent were new mothers with small kids who wanted safe repellents. Most of the herbal companies were present in the personal-care and healthcare segments. There were no herbal players in the home-care segment.


Do you play any game which helps you in your work?

I play Badminton, and it helps me in concentration.


What would you consider as the turning point in your life related to your career?

A severe respiratory infection in 2009 which led me to take on a new adventure and finally set up a brand of my own


What is the secret of your success?

The secret of my success is perseverance, passion and hard work.


What is your philosophy of work?

Determination and perseverance can surely help one overcome all obstacles in life.


Is there any particular person that you admire who has inspired you?

My Father is my biggest inspiration. He was a very hardworking and religious person.


What is the best advice that you have got? 

Stay on. Don’t give up!


What is your sounding board?

My wife


What are your favourite books and why?

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne offers techniques to be successful.


What are your five mantras for success in business?

*Believe in what you are doing: Any business idea that you have, and when you embark on the journey, you need to believe that it will work.

*Dream big: Always dream big in whatever you are doing.

*Be grateful: Always be grateful, and whisper a prayer of gratitude when magic and positive things happen to you.

*Be positive: Always be positive in the midst of a hurricane.

*Perseverance and passion: Have passion in what you do, and never give up.


What message on management would you like to convey to youngsters?

If you have to succeed in business, the only quality you should have is belief and perseverance. There was a time when I also felt that I lost, but I believed that I was the only one in the market with such products, and I stayed on. People start a journey, and lose hope midway. What is needed to tackle this is to have belief in yourself and the determination never to give up.

Report By