Leading the nation away fromA�guzzling all things fizzy, PaperBoat is bent on revivingA�traditional thirst-quenchers
THE immense success of Paper Boata��sA�authentic Indian beverages can be attributedA�to the fact that taste and memory areA�inextricably bound. The startupa��whichA�boasts old-school drinks includingA�kokum, aam panna, jaljeera, neer moreA�and panakama��is banking on memoriesA�and achieving positive results. In fact, onA�a recent visit to its factory in Mysuru, IA�discover that the venture went from producingA�one million packs a month (circaA�2013) to churning out almost eight millionA�per month this year. a�?Taste summonsA�memory, but context imbues it. Wea��re notA�competing with yesteryeara��s aam panna.A�Wea��re competing with our customera��sA�memory of aam panna. Ita��s a much higherA�benchmark,a�? explains Neeraj Kakkar,A�co-founder and CEO of Hector Beverages,A�the makers of Paper Boat drinks.
At the heart
To live up to their promise of authenticity,A�the three-year-old beverage marque goesA�to great lengths to procure its regionalA�recipes that still appeal to the modern palate.A�For example, their kala ghatta wasA�perfected after thousands of taste trialsA�with an outlet (near Mumbaia��s VKA�Station) thata��s been making it for over 100A�years, the aam panna recipe was sourcedA�from co-founder Suhas Misraa��s family (inA�Lucknow), the kokum from a lady whoa��sA�been running a juice shop (in North Goa)A�for decades and so on. Until the 90s, theseA�drinks were everywhere. But in a post
globalisation era, with an onslaught ofA�western beverages and concerns overA�hygiene (directed at street vendors), suchA�refreshments have almost disappeared.A�a�?We consider ourselves to be a protectorA�of recipes that may vanish in a fewA�decades,a�? claims Kakkar, elaborating,A�a�?By introducing a South Indian drinkA�(like panakam) to someone in North IndiaA�and vice versa, we are also bridging theA�cultural gap among people. And, as ourA�airport sales reflect, our drinks are a greatA�identity connect for NRIs living in Europe,A�the UK and the US.a�?
The H factor
Paper Boat works closely with almostA�20,000 farmers from around Indiaa��whoA�send their produce to factories in DelhiA�and Mysurua��to adhere to their all-naturalA�policy. Theya��ve also tied up with anA�NGO in Madhya Pradesh who sourceA�their wild jamuns from tribal regions.A�But due to high demand, some productsA�like anar (pomegranate) are largelyA�sourced from California-based POMA�Wonderful, the worlda��s largest pomegranateA�farmers. a�?Ia��d say that our drinks areA�healthy due to our no colours/preservativesA�policy, but taste is our primary concern.A�Some thirst quenchers like neerA�more have no sugar while our aam rasa��made with naturally-ripened mangoesa��A�is sweet,a�? shares the 40-year-old, continuing,A�a�?But what sets us apart fromA�our competitors (think Real andA�Tropicana) is the fruit content in ourA�products. For instance, our anarA�drink contains 60 per cent fruit productA�and five per cent sugar, whileA�theirs comes close to 25 per cent fruitA�and 10 per cent sugar.a�?
Cutting throughthe clutter
Kakkar claims Paper BoatA�is currently driving theA�growth of the single-serveA�premium beverageA�category in India,A�as theya��ve doubled
their sales in lessA�than three years.A�Theya��ve done so byA�effectively communicatingA�a�?authenticityA�through memoriesa��A�instead of opting to goA�the a�?food porn strewnA�with buzzwordsa�� adsA�route. From uploading short films, centeredA�around the innocence of childhooda��A�like Rizwan on YouTube (whichA�crossed 2 million views in a few days)a��toA�sharing hand-drawn images and papercutA�art on Facebook (where almost everyA�post amasses over 2,500 likes), whichA�appeal to young millennials. a�?We dona��tA�have the marketing budget to outshoutA�large beverage corporations on TV. So,A�we make sure our sleek packagingA�(each with a snippet-sized story at theA�back) and jute bags filled with single serveA�packs stand out on the shelf,a�?A�explains the Wharton Business SchoolA�graduate, who worked at Coca-Cola forA�over half a decade until he was bitten byA�the entrepreneurial bug and roped inA�co-founders Neeraj Kakkar, JamesNutall, Suhas Misra and Neeraj Biyani,A�to start Hector Beverages in 2009.
In the next six to nine months, anA�all-new range of Paper BoatA�drinks will hit the shelves. a�?We tryA�to launch one or two drinks to
commemorate most major IndianA�festivals. Therea��s phalsa (fromthe Himalayan region), bhel (from
Orrisa), solkhadi (from WestA�Bengal) and kanji (from NorthernA�India). Those that gain high customerA�approval ratings will notA�get phased out (unlike their rasamA�and golgappe ka pani flavours),a�?A�shares Kakkar, addingA�that the parent company willA�soon launch Top Secret, a nonaeratedA�kids beverage, that isA�currently sold alongsideA�McDonalda��s Happy Meals atA�select outlets.
The fact that almost 80 per cent ofA�their sales is limited to Indiaa��s top tier citiesA�(due to distribution limitations) theya��veA�carved a niche in the single-serve premiumA�beverage market. a�?Wea��re making strides toA�reach every corner of India. Since PaperA�Boat is already at almost every major airport/airline in the nation, next wea��ve setA�our eyes on reaching every railway station/A�train. Though our eyes are clearly set onA�India, it is my personal dream to expandA�and make traditional African and JapaneseA�beverages as well,a�? claims Kakkar.
The writer was invited by Paper Boat