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‘We’re still at the very beginning’: Cannamplify and state of the cannabis industry

Cannabis Wealth spoke to Shaan Mahrotri of cannabis brand management firm Cannamplify to find out what goes on behind the scenes.

How did you get started in the industry?

I’ve worked in finance and investments for my whole career, after starting to do the books for my parents’ business while I was at school. I’ve been a CEO or COO for all manner of businesses – you name it, I’ve helped build it or destroy it.

In recent years, many of the businesses I’ve been involved in were early-stage investors in the cannabis industry in the US, landing all along the chain, from cultivation to extraction to consumer.

In 2017, I and one of my partners started to bring over interesting and mature CBD brands from the US, just when the industry was kicking off in the UK, and we ended up forming Cannamplify in 2019.

The business is a suite of different things. In the beginning, we functioned as the administrative and operative partner for companies coming to Europe, supporting them with everything from warehousing and logistics to setting up websites.

We then set up our B2C offering, Nabino, which is essentially a shop front for the brands we were bringing over.

We also act as a B2B wholesaler, supplying CBD brands to a number of outlets in mainland Europe, with some registrations in Japan, although the events of 2020 slowed that element down a lot.

We also have a The Bosky Agency, which is our marketing side, focusing on what and how we’re we’re allowed to advertise to consumers.

We always say we deal with everything from the end of the production line to when the product reaches the consumer’s hands.

The company was set up as a partnership between three different operations.

Where do you think the industry is at in 2021?

To be honest, at the moment the industry isn’t as big as anyone thought it would be.

We’re still at the very beginning, everyone is relying on the traditional, existing vertical supply chains – there’s nothing specially for cannabis, so it will take a while for the world and the industry to catch up with each other.

At Cannamplify, we focus on the end of the value chain as that’s where we see the value being, in the branding, movement, operations.

Outside of that, I sit on an advisory board of a high-risk payment company that focuses on cannabis and vape; banking in the sector is non-existent and it’s not long ago that everyone had to deal in cash.

I remember a farmer in Oregon once showing me his two barns; one was full of his crops and the other was full of his cash, as no bank would touch it.

The industry is starting to get legitimised now, but it’s still at the point where there’s a black market – CBD is very much grey.

The professionalism you see in other industries is still trickling down, but there are still too many bad actors, people jumping on the bandwagon – not just in the product, but also behind the scenes.

There are a lot of opportunistic things going on, so we need to inspire that trust – which will take time.

That’s why I believe that starting with a focus on the medicinal benefits of CBD is the right thing to do.

Much as I’d like to be able to walk down the street and buy some weed, it’s only right that we focus on the very real medical benefits of CBD for the time being. Look at Canada; they tried to do everything at once, and it’s just too much.

The cultural shift will take generations, which is why education is so important – for retailers, not just consumers.

What do you see as being the key developments over the past few years?

As there has been more acceptance of hemp, there has been more focus on using every element, with an awful lot of awful lot of R&D into ideas like using hemp for building materials and bioplastics.

However, like everything, it all comes down to scale – you need that outlay before you can develop a product, and it’s only then that you can begin to market it, which means it can be slow progress.

In terms of collaboration within the industry, everyone is still finding their tribes at the moment, although there should definitely be more of a sense of working together than there currently is.

While admittedly it’s a small industry and everyone knows everyone to some extent, there’s still a way to go.

Having said that, cannabis years are like dog years – you learn an awful lot in a short space of time.

Who is your business inspiration?

It might sound cliched, but definitely my parents, who are first generation immigrants, working as traders and businesspeople. I definitely get my drive for business from them; I started my working life doing their businesses books in the holidays, so it’s always been in me.

I never had any doubt that I’d go into business – I’ve always run my own things and never been a 9-5 person.

What are the key qualities you need to succeed?

I’d say that surviving on very little sleep is the main thing. The world has changed a lot; in the early days, you could switch off – there were no emails from LA or calls from India – so the stamina you need is very different today.

I also think it’s important to be reasonably good at everything and not excellent at one thing; for me, a business always needs someone looking at the big picture.

The best advice you’ve been given

Someone once said, you’re not a doctor, you’re not a fireman – nobody’s going to die because you made a mistake.

Whether an email went out with a typo, or the servers are down, it doesn’t matter – deal with it and move on.

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