The Indian startup makes “natural relief” products from cannabis for chronic pain and uses blockchain to prevent drug misuse
As COVID-19 serves as a wake-up call, many people are turning their focus towards health. It is not just modern medicines like allopathy that are getting attention but also traditional ones like Ayurveda and Homeopathy.
Among the traditional ones, Ayurveda has a prominent place and is one of the most popular forms of wellness, especially in India. What makes Ayurveda popular is that it utilises only natural products like herbs to make medicines.
Of late, this treatment system has seen an increasing interest from people due to its less addictive and less synthetic nature, especially during the pandemic.
In India alone, over 70 per cent of people use it as it is comparatively less costly and has relatively fewer side effects.
Hempstreet is a startup that is looking to leverage the popularity of Ayurveda but with a spin — it makes “natural relief” products from cannabis for chronic pain and will use blockchain to prevent drug misuse. Studies have suggested that painkillers should not be used to relieve chronic pain and can be dangerous because of its addictive nature, which is why this startup is using Ayurvedic form of medicine to help people.
Founded in 2019 by Abhishek Mohan and Aradhna Rai, Hempstreet is emerging as one of the frontrunners in India’s Ayurvedic cannabis medicinal market.
“Cannabis has always been part of Indian medicine for a long time and we figured that there was a massive pain relief crisis in India. But, the use of opioids has also been a huge problem in Punjab (a state in India) and the US, so we didn’t want that to happen here. Therefore, we figured out a way to bring cannabis back into the Ayurvedic sector where it’s legal, but with the scientific backing,” Mohan said in an interview with e27.
The Delhi-based startup currently has 16 approved products with a network of 60,000 plus doctors and 300-plus clinics, according to Mohan. The firm will be deploying its first batch of medicine to 1,000 doctors by August end and more doses subsequently in 4,000 doctors by year-end, and more every month thereon.
Recently, Hempstreet raised US$1 million in a pre-series A funding round from US-based Pharmacon Holdings and Romain Barberis, a private investor in the cannabis space in the US and Canada.
“Being a controlled substance, it is essential that it is dispensed responsibly and the “pill mill” scenario must be avoided at all costs,”,” Mohan said.
Many times, there has been scepticism around cannabis-focused startups as it is widely associated with illegal drug trafficking and addiction. This is a reason why Hempstreet is adopting blockchain technology for end-to-end tracking. What this means is that the startup can track medicines from doctors to patients to prevent misuse.
Hempstreet emphasises on research and has been working with institutions like the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for safe cannabis medication use.
“We focus more on the scientific community and research and are currently undertaking research in various fields like epilepsy and cancer, which does not always have to be Ayurveda focused but also other Ayurveda proprietary formulations largely around pain relief, digestion and many other kinds of wellness-related issues,” he added.
In India, top politicians are also promoting natural forms of medical practices such as Ayurveda and Homeopathy for the prevention of COVID-19. Recently, a Minister with a federal government appealed to the central government to earmark a higher budget for research into this.
Although there are some other startups in the industry, what sets Hempstreet apart from them is that it has received support for distribution for their products from “day one”, claimed Mohan.
“Most of these companies come up with a product and then look for distribution. Plus, there are many shady companies in the market operating over the last couple of months. E-commerce majors like Amazon and Flipkart have banned the sale of hemp-related products as it was found out that many people are manufacturing and selling it online illegally,” he said.
According to Grand View Research Inc., globally the legal cannabis market is said to be maturing and is predicted to reach US$146.4 billion by 2025. For India, the potential is substantial and Mohan believes that there is an opportunity to create an entire ecosystem from scratch.
Cashing out on cannabis for farmers
Providing natural pain relief to people is not all for Hempstreet. It is also committed to driving a revolution of India’s farming of cannabis.
“We do not aspire to become major growers,” he added, explaining that in India growing cannabis privately is banned by law. To make it legal, cannabis needs to be purchased in the form of raw materials from the government. The idea is to work
with the government to bring farmers into the fold with best practices and technology,”.
“Farmers need to make enough and it can’t be like every other revolution where they get killed. We want them to be able to trust us and for us, ultimately at the end of the day its a much much bigger purpose of where we want to go after,” he concluded.