Sailing the high tides on a paper boat

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In April 2011, four friends — Neeraj Kakkar, Suhas Misra, Neeraj Biyani and James Nuttall — decided to take the bull by the horns. Hector Beverages, their Gurgaon-based startup, rolled out Tzinga in Delhi and Bengaluru for Rs 20 per 200-ml pack — almost one-fifth of the cost of the leading energy drink brand in the bazaar, Red Bull (Rs 95). It hit bull's eye, well, sort of. We got a chance to interview one of the founders Suhas Misra.

Wizards Island (WI): Can you share some markers?

Suhas Misra (SM): We first test marketed Paper Boat in Feb 2013 and we tossed Paper Boat in August 2013 countrywide. There were two tastes then and we have been intensifying alternates ever since we began. In 2014 we hurled 7-8 options more and now we have about 10 variants.

WI: How have you progressed since the time you started and what are your plans ahead?

SM: The ride has been very thrilling. We’re blessed to have been in a place where we are. The brand is loved, it is prized all across. We hit upon some hits and means of these outmoded brews which nobody was catering to and we’re privileged to be in this place. Paper Boat as a trademark has two faces. One is the traditional drinks side and we call it Paper Boat drinks side, and the second is Paper Boat Memories side which is our brand. And brand is all about memories. For us, we want to take Paper Boat Drinks to more areas and we want to take Paper Boat Memories and those stories to more number of people, and tell those stories to more viewers. And that is happening concurrently.

WI: What variants do you offer?

SM: All the variants are without any preservatives, colour and carbonation. Currently, Paper Boat offers 9 variants: Aamras, Jaljeera, Jamun Kalakhatta, Aam Panna, Kokum, Golgappe Ka Paani, Chilled Rasam and Ice Tea in two flavours: Tulsi & Ginger Lemon, across six leading metros.

WI: Was it tough for you to work on the packing, valuing and the delivery front? How did you go about the same?

SM: Difficult is a difficult term to describe. No, I would say it was not. We downright relished building diverse aspects of the business.

WI: What is the business size?

SM: The boxed drink trade is close to Rs. 30,000 crore in India. We have two central big companies in the nation, while others are minor local players.

WI: Do you think you have shaped a niche?

SM: We intensely trust that we have created a niche and there is no head-on opposition and it’s a way of living. We are attending a need because we need to be dissimilar. It is beverage but we want to share some sort of story along with it. However, I think it’s easy to say that it’s different from a usual carbonated drink. Our flavours Aam Panna, or Jal Jeera serve a different taste, invigorate people and at the same time have a different psychology all together.

WI: What kind of media mix do you use for the marketing campaign?

SM: The campaign is more electronic and digital. We are not doing Print or Outdoor at all. We are widely spread on TV, across channels. For digital, there is a lot of activity happening on Facebook and YouTube.

WI: Do you plan to go to Tier II & III towns as well?

SM: We do intend to go top 50 towns in the country. We’re still on the planning stage on that front.

WI: What are the strategies in the way forward for the brand?

SM: So that is very far at the core, the brand core is very robust. We are saying innocence by taking innocent memories out of this. So I think that part is tremendously durable and the merchandises that we propelled with the same honesty, we tried to be as natural as possible, we tried to create recipes which have been old-style and which have been there for scores of years and we did not want to mess around with those recipes. I think the strategy for the product is to go about and tell the story to masses. The story is there, it is very sturdy and it’s just about narrating it to more and more people.

WI: What do you visualize for 2016?

SM: This year can possibly take us to the next jump and we are seeing a lot of grip. People are speaking about us and as we go and tell the story to more number of people, I think we will be able to get a higher share of throat as they say. This year we are going to more cities, we are going with more number of variants. It’s a pretty exhilarating and high progress time for us.

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