Vaitheeswaran, popularly known as ‘Father of E-commerce in India’ has launched AGAIN beverage, which brings the goodness of low fat dairy (milk or yoghurt), real fruits, nuts, vegetables and natural sweeteners.
Curious as we are, we did a QnA with K Vaitheeswaran on the opportunity that the company is going after and lessons Vaithee learned from his earlier ventures and will put them to use at Again Drinks.
NextBigWhat: Why Again? Why now? What’s broken in the current space?
Vaitheeswaran: There are several things that are broken:
There are no beverages in the market that are healthy and tasty, it’s one or the other. Most beverages including aerated drinks, carbonated beverages, juices, flavoured milks – all of these have boatloads of white sugar and preservatives. New age startups offer cold pressed juices but these are not as healthy as made out to be and in any case have limited shelf life.
India is now the second country with child obesity, 1 out of every 5th adult is obese and we are the diabetes capital of the world with accompanying complications starting at a young age. Over 50% of the cause of all these is the easy access to packaged foods with high salt and sugar content.
The cold / chilled supply chain systems in India are completely broken. When you consume any food item like ice-creams, dairy, juices you run the risk of consuming high contamination.
We wanted to develop a range of beverages that address the above gaps.
While investigating the market, we stumbled upon an interesting fact. The USDA (US Dept of Agriculture) has identified 5 food groups – dairy, fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains – as essential for the wholesome development of the human body. We zeroed upon this and decided to develop beverages that uses all these food groups. That was the starting point.
To make it truly nutritious, we said we will use ingredients at a different order of magnitude than what is currently available. Here are some examples – “Badam” milk in the market generally use flavours and have 1.5% max of badam. We use 500% more i.e. 7.5% almonds. We use real almonds and cashews in making paste. Most fruit drinks in the market have more artificial sugar than fruit (say) mango. We have a whopping 25% mangoes in our mango drink. Our milk drinks have 0% water. We use only vegetable and fruits in puree form, not nectar or concentrates. There are many examples like this.
To make them healthy, we use only natural sweeteners like honey or jaggery. Even the chocolate is unsweetened cocoa mass. We do not use white sugar, artificial sweeteners, no artificial flavours or colours, no preservatives.
To address the supply chain problem, AGAIN drinks are ambient (no refrigeration required) and have a shelf life of 90 days.
We truly believe that AGAIN is a WTF moment in the beverages industry – Wholesome, Tasty, Filling. In fact, this is such a breakthrough from a formulation and process perspective that we have filed patents also.
NextBigWhat: What’s your target market?
Vaitheeswaran: Anyone can consume AGAIN without any guilt – that is the beauty of this drink and hence consumers range across the age spectrum. We have seen kids to senior citizens enjoying the drinks. Someone recently posted a Facebook image enjoying vodka with Again Mango, clearly not something we envisaged!
Having said this, our primary target group are urban consumers in the 18-45 age group with a high level of awareness of health and wellness matters.
NextBigWhat: In general, beverages (at scale) are a function of distribution more than the product (especially in offline stores). What’s your roadmap over there?
Vaitheeswaran: That’s right. Despite our emotional connect with digital and e-commerce, AGAIN is not an online only product. It will be available at all major modern trade retail chains apart from e-commerce sites.
We will also get into general trade outlets as we penetrate cities more deeply.
One of the reasons we can do this is because even though the products are premium from a quality perspective and the packaging looks world class, the MRP is just Rs 50 and we have launched at Rs 39. Hence we want to target the mass customers also in general trade outlets. We do not wish to charge artificial premiums.
NextBigWhat: Will you be launching more products under Again brand?
Vaitheeswaran:We will certainly expand the current range from 4 to 6 or 8 variants within a year’s time. Over time, we may expand into other food and beverage categories as well.
NextBigWhat: What are the few things you have learned from your earlier experiences which you will implement (or not implement) at Again?
Vaitheeswaran: Oh, I have learned several things from my earlier ventures regarding fund raising and dealing with investors. I will not repeat any of those mistakes.
What will not change though is the focus on sustainability and profitability. We are building this venture to scale profitably and we will not focus purely on growth without worrying about financial losses even though it is something that went against the grain last time.