How the maker of a top-selling ‘TikTok-native’ brand became a full-time content creator

Dr. Puneet Nanda talks about GuruNanda’s journey to becoming a top-selling brand on TikTok Shop.
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· 4 min read

Puneet Nanda spent much of his career in the background, churning out new products in the admittedly stodgy oral hygiene category. Now he’s the CEO of GuruNanda, the top-selling brand on TikTok Shop and a social media star in his own right.

His California-based account has 263,000+ followers and 5.8 million likes, numbers that he obtained from a daily regimen of content creation that might exhaust an energetic Gen Z influencer, let alone a 56-year-old product designer.

“I post 10 videos a day, so that’s what I do 10 hours, 12 hours a day,” he told Retail Brew. “Seventy percent of my job at the company is producing videos.”

The videos are a mix of health advice and information about his oral wellness products, the most popular of which is Cocomint Pulling Oil, selling 428,000+ units and raking in $3.35 million in revenue in the last 30 days, according to Tabcut.com.

The product is part of a unique crop of “TikTok-native” brands that are selling well on the social media marketplace due to their success getting noticed on the platform’s somewhat mysterious algorithms.

GuruNanda’s first big boost in sales from TikTok came after a video featuring its product went viral, but now its CEO (or “Chief Essential Oil,” as Nanda’s title is listed on LinkedIn) is hoping to sustain that interest with his own herculean efforts to pump out content.

Nanda said he is essentially running a “Hollywood production company,” where he serves as director, producer, and leading man—that last role in particular being a game changer for Nanda’s personal life. “I’m telling you, I’m the talk of the town everywhere I go,” he said. “I go to a hotel, I get upgraded. I am sitting in a Starbucks, the girl gives me an extra cookie. I am in shock. Like, how do these people even know me?”

The sublime mysteries of TikTok: Nanda’s question/humble-brag is a good one, because in many ways there isn’t a clear answer to why a brand or product goes viral on TikTok. Compared to other social media marketplaces, TikTok Shop—which launched just last year—is relatively mysterious.

Juozas Kaziukėnas, founder of Marketplace Pulse, which tracks e-commerce trends, explained that while brands on other platforms such as Amazon or Etsy gradually build up recognition through ad buys, reviews, and search rankings, this approach is “completely flipped on its head” for TikTok, because users generally don’t search for products but rather discover them in algorithmically selected videos.

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This basic difference gave Kaziukėnas a hunch that the most popular products on TikTok Shop would be those peddled by established influencers such as Kim Kardashian or MrBeast. “But that’s not necessarily the case at all,” he said.

Instead, the best-sellers have so far been cheaper versions of popular products such as the Stanley Drinking Cup and low-price wellness products such as Cocomint Pulling Oil—which is just ahead of a gut and colon supplement and an air freshener in Tabcut.com’s sales tracker.

Kaziukėnas said he expects this situation to continue for the time being, with “native” brands continuing to thrive and established brands waiting in the wings.

No plan B: This narrative tracks with GuruNanda’s experience. Nanda said that TikTok Shop has become a “very substantial” part of its business (though still behind Amazon and Walmart) since he started pumping out videos.

However, his marketing strategy is currently based on experience rather than hard data: When asked why he produces 10 videos per day—rather than, say, five or 15—Nanda said it was simply the most that he could produce without further interrupting his personal life.

“It’s at the point where everybody in the family hates me,” he joked. “My kids tell me, ‘Dad, can you be in the house without a phone?’”

By the same token, Nanda admitted that his business is at the mercy of TikTok’s algorithms, and that any change to it could be potentially devastating.

“Do I have a game plan B that I started working on? Truthfully, no,” he said. “I just love TikTok. I just can’t imagine doing the same thing on any other platform, because I don’t feel like other platforms resonate with me.”

For the love of the game: Indeed, for Nanda, the attachment to TikTok has become personal: “I’m not a very good-looking guy. I don’t have any hair, literally,” he said. “Instagram, Facebook, they’re for fake people, fake influencers. Everything is made up to look very beautiful and fresh, versus TikTok, which is for the masses.”

Nanda acknowledged that he’s not necessarily a member of the “masses” himself.

“I really connect with that category,” he said. “I’ve really done really, really, really, really, really, really, really well, but I still think I’m the guy from the street.”

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.