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Oranges and lemons

Five years ago, Rachana Kumari was struck by a thought while having her morning glass of milk: “What if one got a morning bottle of juice instead? Wouldn’t it be far healthier?” There was an opportunity there, she was sure, writes Lalita Iyer.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2009 22:48 IST
Lalita Iyer

Five years ago, Rachana Kumari was struck by a thought while having her morning glass of milk: “What if one got a morning bottle of juice instead? Wouldn’t it be far healthier?” There was an opportunity there, she was sure. Many would want their daily dose of juice but have no time to make it every morning.

Soon, she teamed up with Anupam Adarsh, a health-conscious friend who was also thinking along the same lines. Both of them had jobs they couldn’t quit because they had families to support— she was an equity research analyst with Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services(IL&FS) and he an engineer with a pharmaceutical company.

“It was hard. Waking up at 5 am, supervising the making of the juices in our small kitchen, dispatching the juices to the customers, and then going to our respective jobs. There was no other way,” says Kumari.

When they started J-Kart, Kumari got a lot of flak from her family for following her ‘juice dream’ when she was so well-qualified. In 2003, their idea was far ahead of its time. Her partner had got used to being called ‘juicewallah’ by all and sundry. But they kept at it, studying the market, getting feedback, hoping for that turning point. “Today, you no longer have to market wheat grass, spinach, bottle gourd, spirulina or aloe vera… people ask for it. They also appreciate the word ‘organic’ a lot more,” remarks Kumari.

The turning point came in 2006, three long years after they started. Fitness was the new buzzword and gyms and healthy eating were on everybody’s agenda. The duo made their first big investment, opened a J-Kart outlet in Bandra and entered into tie-ups, setting up kiosks at nine outlets across Mumbai, including Gold’s Gym branches, Leena Mogre’s fitness centre and Hakim’s Aalim in Versova. Kumari and Adarsh finally quit their day jobs.

From 20-25 standard juice concoctions, the J-Kart menu has now grown to include 400 different juices, smoothies, health shots, salads and soups. They now have nutritionists and naturopaths advising them on juice combinations as well as therapy juices.

Kumari handles the finance and operations, where she claims she puts her equity research background to good use, while Adarsh handles the marketing and PR. “The toughest part is managing cash flow and working capital,” she says. They are very particular about quality control, which is one reason why they have stayed away from the franchise model.

So, every morning, between 7 and 10 am, 3,000 customers across the city get J-Kart’s daily juices, smoothies or health shots, all of which come from a kitchen in Bandra.