Paper Boat: Reviving Traditional Indian Drinks

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India is a land of diversity. This variance extends to language, culture, food, attire, and what not. From jal-jeera, the popular drink of north India, to kokum sherbet, the specialty of Maharashtra, the Indian food culture is earmarked with different beverages as one traverses across the Indian geography. The entry of global beverage brands in the Indian market complemented with the fact that traditional Indian drinks are not as easily available as the packaged ones has severely affected the popularity of these specialities.

To ensure that traditional Indian drinks don't fall into oblivion, Paper Boat—a Gurugram based startup—is going above and beyond. It has now established itself as a well-known brand with a vision to preserve ethnic recipes through innovation. The company is also catering to local and personalized tastes.

Paper Boat in a nutshell

Startup Name Paper Boat
Headquarters Gurugram
Founders Neeraj Kakkar,James Nutall, Suhas Misra, and Neeraj Biyani
Sector Beverages
Founded 2009
Website paperboatdrinks.com
Parent Organization Hector Beverages

Paper Boat - About
Paper Boat - Founders And Team
Paper Boat - History And Launch
Paper Boat - Name, Tagline, And Logo
Paper Boat - Products
Paper Boat - Funding And Investors
Paper Boat - Marketing Strategies
Paper Boat - Startup Challenges
Paper Boat - Competitors
Paper Boat - Partnership
Paper Boat - Acquisitions
Paper Boat - Growth

Paper Boat - About

Hector Beverages, Paper Boat's parent company, was founded in 2009 by Neeraj Kakkar. The Paper Boat brand was launched in 2013. Before launching PaperBoat, Hector Beverages launched 'Frissia', a protein drink, followed by the energy drink 'Tzinga' in 2011.

With the launch of Paper Boat in 2013, Vector Beverages shifted its focus on the traditional Indian drinks segment. Paper Boat is India’s fastest growing consumer brand today, selling 11 different traditional-nostalgic Indian beverages and foods such as aam panna, jaljeera, chikki, and much more.

Paper Boat's juice has distributors all over India with 48 SKUs. The single-serving flexible packages of Paper Boat use Doypack, and interestingly, NASA uses the same for sending beverages with astronauts. In August 2019, Paper Boat collaborated with Tetra Pak and introduced holographic packaging for two of its variants: alphonso aamras and pomegranate juice. This new packaging is both appealing and easy to hold.

Paper Boat also offers seasonal drinks like thandai, Serbet-e-khaas, Rose Tamarind, and Panakam. The company has carved a niche and is targeting Indians in other countries.

Paper Boat - Founders And Team

Neeraj Kakkar, James Nutall, Suhas Misra, and Neeraj Biyani form the founding team.

Neeraj Kakkar is the CEO of Hector Beverage. Before Hector Beverages, Neeraj had an impressive stint with Coca-Cola for around 8 years. He is a graduate from Wharton Business School. Neeraj was a bright student and was awarded the Palmer scholar in the University of Pennsylvania business program.

Neeraj Biyani is an SRCC and MDI alumni; he considers N. R. Narayana Murthy as his inspira­tion. Neeraj Biyani is the COO of Hector Beverages. Neeraj worked with Agro Tech Foods Limited and Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd before joining Hector Beverages.

James Nutall also attended the Wharton School of Business, Pennsylvania. James exited Paper Boat in 2015

Suhas Misra has a degree in marketing from IIM Calcutta. Suhas left Paper Boat in 2014.

The company currently employs over 530 people.

Paper Boat - History And Launch

The idea for Paper Boat blossomed during an office lunch between the co-founders in the early years. As they were mulling over potential business ideas, the flask of aam panna Misra's mother would pack him everyday ignited a thought. Commercial production of ethnic Indian drinks, hitherto unavailable in the market, struck well with all.

Hector Beverages, the parent company of Paper Boat, established its first production plant in Manesar in 2009. However, the Manesar plant couldn't keep up with the increasing demand. The plant also didn't have the facilities for the manufacture of coconut water and sugar cane juice, drinks that the company was looking to launch. This led to the setting up of a second, much larger manufacturing unit in Mysore, Karnataka in 2014. While the Manesar plant has a production capacity of 80 bottles/minute, the Mysore plant is capable of 380 bottles/minute.

Also Read: How Idea of BookmyShow came up

The name Paper Boat was coined by design and brand consultancy, Elephant Design. Two other names suggested by Elephant Design were Good Ol’ & Lost and Found. At the end, Paper Boat was chosen as it evoked childhood memories, when kids would nimbu-pani, etc.

Sources at Elephant Design revealed that the name 'Paper Boat' was inspired by a well-known Jagjit Singh gazal, 'Who Kagaj Woh Kagaz Ki Kashti Wo Barish Ka Pani' by Sudarshan Faakir.

Paper Boat's tagline is 'drinks and memories'.

PaperBoat Logo

Paper Boat - Products

Paper Boat offers more than 11 types of ethnic drinks such as jal jeera, aam panna, aam ras, alphonso aam, jamun kala khatta, chilli guava, nimbu pani, kokum, neer more, kanji, sugarcane juice, lychee ras, apple, and orange. It also has a range of milk based beverages like butter milk, badam milk, and thandai. The brand also launched coconut water in 2018. Apart from these, Paper Boat produces two seasonal drinks associated with Indian festivals—Panakam (available during Ram Navami) and Sherbet-e-Khas (available during Eid).

In 2017, the brand expanded its offering by launching its drinks in 1 litre Tetra Prisma Aseptic cartons, replacing the 500 ml packs. This move widened the brand's reach to the multi-serve category.

Hector Beverages entered the traditional Indian Food Sector in 2016. Besides the Paper Boat drinks, Hector Beverages' products include traditional delicacies like peanut chikki, banana chips, aam papad, bakarwadi, namak para, gur para, and shakar para. For producing chikki, the company procures groundnuts directly from a farmers’ collective near Rajkot at the Fair-Trade minimum price. Paper Boat chikki is a Fair-Trade product, a certification to attest that everyone involved in the making of a product is fairly employed and paid.

Hector Beverages uses priority customer feedback analytics platform to survey customers on a large scale through Whatsapp. Most of the recipe modifications are made after conclusions are derived from the survey.

Our intellectual property is the recipe. A small decimal change in pressure or temperature can alter the taste of our product and the unique differentiation can be lost,  said Neeraj Biyani.

Paper Boat - Funding And Investors

Hector Beverages, the makers of PaperBoat has raised over $ 38.2 Million funding till date.

Date Stage Amount Investors
May 2013 Series B $8 million Sequoia Capital India
July 2015 Series C $28.7 million Hillhouse Capital Group,
March 2019 Venture Round $1.5 million A91 Partners

The company boasts of Narayan Murthy as one of its investors. PaperBoat issued 10 million compulsorily convertible debentures to A91 Partners on a preferential basis at INR 10.

Also Read: How Ola is able to raise more and more funds

Paper Boat - Marketing Strategies

As a brand relying on age-old recipes and memories, Paper Boat's marketing strategy revolves around nostalgia, childhood, and innocence. Paper Boat's beverages are drinks that consumers grew up drinking and carry a strong association with.

Paper Boat's television advertising campaign comprises a series of simple, evocative ads that reflect the idea of childhood nostalgia. Paper Boat’s debut campaign was penned and narrated by the renowned poet and lyricist Gulzar, while the latter campaign was written by lyricist Swanand Kirkire.

Apart from its television ads, the brand has also released a range short films celebrating childhood memories and nostalgia. ‘Ride Down the River of Memories’, ‘Waiting for Ma’, ‘My Struggles with the Treasure Chest’, and ‘Hum Honge Kamyab’ (We shall Overcome) are all short films aimed at bringing out the child in us. The videos used animation, narration, and strong characterization to tell a moving tale.

As an extension of its marketing campaign, Paper Boat has also ventured into book publishing. It has published reprints of the classics Three Men in a Boat and Jungle Book; these were given away with the beverages as gift boxes and sales offers.

In 2017, the brand published Half Pants Full Pants by Anand Suspi, a collection of real-life tales about growing up in Shimoga.

Paper Boat - Startup Challenges

Limited distribution is one of the biggest challenges for Paper Boat.

In terms of design restrictions, the team faced issues when it came to the colors. Paper Boat's personality is in sync with the colors on the pack. On a doypack, the colors react differently. But the substrate on Tetra Pak is different. This was an obstacle.

Paper Boat - Competitors

PaperBoat's major competitors are, Dabur India, PepsiCo, Coca Cola, B Natural, and Nourishco.

While Dabur India has entered the functional drink market with aam panna,   beverage giants PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have also ventured into the non-carbonated drinks space. B Natural, an ITC owned brand is posing competition for PaperBoat through a wide variety of Indian beverages made without the use of any concentrate. Noursihco, a joint venture between Tata Global Beverages Pvt. Ltd. and Pepsico India Holdings Pvt. Ltd. is giving serious challenge to Paper Boat.

Paper Boat - Partnership

The company has partnerd with Indo Nissin Foods for penetration in smaller cities. Paper Boat is also partnering with large e-commerce and grocery delivery companies to make sure its products are available to everyone at anytime.

Paper Boat - Acquisitions

Tata global beverages wanted to acquire Paper Boat in February 2018, but the deal didn't progress.

Paper Boat - Growth

In 2017, Paper Boat's sales increased by 12.5%. The company reported sales of INR 69 Crores in 2016-17. Paper Boat's total revenue grew by 70% to 118 crores in 2017-18. According to sources, Paper Boat's turnover is about 200 Crore in FY 2019.

Hector Beverages' valuation was $130.2 million (INR 876 Cr.) in March 2019.

Paper Boat has two factories that produce up to 10 million pouches per month.

As per November 2018 stats, the company distributes its products in over 50,000 outlets and exports to over 10 countries. The company is moving to America, Britain, France, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, U.A.E, and Malaysia since Indian origin individuals reside in these countries in huge numbers.

Major business for Paper Boat comes from six cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, and Chennai.

Paper Boat - Contact

330, Finchley Castle, Outer Circle, Dodsworth Layout, Whitefield, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560066

Paper Boat contact number: 080 2845 2050

Paper Boat email-id: [email protected]

We have covered several other Indian startups in detail, and you can read about them here.

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About Shubham Kumar

Founder @StartupTalky. IIT KGP grad. Learner. Dedicated to the service of the startup Ecosystem. Love meeting people. Let's connect - [email protected]
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