Freezing memories with Paper Boat Aims to reconnect states by bringing more regional flavours to the market

By Sneha Banerjee

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Entrepreneur India

Chief Executive Neeraj Kakkar talks about how "Paper Boat" steered its way from being a slightly under-confident idea initially to now becoming the face of the company in three years. Backed by names such as Sequoia Capital and Catamaran Ventures, Paper Boat helped consumers revisit some of the most authentic Indian drinks.

Paper Boat was never the original idea

When we were starting Hector Beverages, Paper Boat was not the original idea. When we started the company after coming from U.S. our plan was to start a functional beverage company, which means any beverage that has some other function apart from the regular thirst quenching bit. These include protein drinks, vitamin water and many more.

Initially we started making a protein drink with the hypothesis that India is a vegetarian market and there are not enough people consume proteins and hence everyone would start consuming their product. But that did not really click.

Skepticism and under-confident about Paper Boat

They then came up with an energy drink named Tzinga and after one and half years of its launch we realised that they needed something to support the distribution. Then we considered launching that one idea that was there in mind from the very beginning – launching Indian traditional drinks. We never dared to launch these drinks but we wanted to be a protector of these drinks as they were dying out and some of these drinks are no longer there in the market.

With a lot of reluctance and far less confidence we launched Aam Panna. There were a lot of questions about whether we could make the right aam panna, whether people would pay Rs. 30 for the same but in our mind it was very clear that we had to launch a functional beverage. We started working on it and launched aam panna and one thing led to another. Within six months of Paper Boat's launch we saw a tremendous response from consumers which made him realize that they were on the right track.

Today one can safely say that the company is majorly focussed on Paper Boat and Tzinga is a small part of it!

Most innocent childhood memory is a "paper boat"

The name Paper Boat was because we thought that these drinks are becoming memories now. All these drinks in some sense are no longer available. In my childhood I used to consume a drink called "kanji," a purple carrot drink available in North India. It's no longer available now. So I thought can we create memories back into life. So these drinks are no longer reality, these are memories. Then we came to the conclusion that making a "paper boat" is the most innocent memory we have.

Aam panna -Tracing back to mom's kitchen

We were not able to get the right green mango. Green mango is very hard to process and nobody was processing it here. We worked with processors for 1.5 years to see how to go about cutting a green mango and pulp it because the yields weren't coming. Finally the idea came from home, we started boiling it. In the end large boiling vessels were put and they were pulped. We tried so many methods and finally did it the way our moms make it at home

Getting a legend on board – Gulzar

Advertising started a year and a half later after the brand launch. Veteran film maker Gulzar came in March 2015. "There are a lot of common things between Gulzar and Paper Boat! Gulzar is very contemporary, he writes pretty old stuff but he has own side where he wears only white, doesn't use a cell phone and still writes in Urdu. But he is very contemporary; his thought process is extremely modern. In some sense he has brought in the good of old and the right part of the old times into the new age world for the young population. I think he does it beautifully. And in some sense we as a brand are trying to do the same thing. There is poetry and innocence both in our brand and in Gulzar as a person.

Trying to create the benchmark taste

The company focuses on product range, communication tone and customer centricity. Our goal is that any product launched by Paper Boat has to be the benchmark for generations to come. Next generation people should say, "Aam Panna means this recipe" and for other brands who are launching something similar the question should be, "have you made it as good as Paper Boat?" For aam panna, which is now two and half years old, we have a reference taste, we think nobody can make it better than us. In every stage we have tried to improvise on our products just like how a technology company does.

No preservative formula

Food goes bad due to microbial growth and in an ideal world if you create an environment where microbes cannot grow then food can be preserved. You can kill micro-organisms by subjecting it to certain levels of pressure, temperature and other parameters while filing the pack. Indian companies tend to take the shortcuts, whereas internationally the usage of preservatives has come down drastically.

Going more regional

We are very keen on going more regional with drinks like solkadi, kanji, thandai and pannakam which people haven't heard of in other parts of the country. By our count there are 75-80 beverages that we can create from different parts of the country. All of them exist but one state does not have any idea about the drinks existing in other states of the country.

Sneha Banerjee

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Staff, Entrepreneur India

She used to write for Entrepreneur India from Bangalore and other cities in South India. 

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