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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

Startup Saturday: Juicing the drinks market for a healthy, tech-driven bottling choice

Pune-based Arka uses technology to preserve products’ nutritive value without artificial preservatives, cold storage and excess processing

pune Updated: Apr 28, 2019 15:19 IST
Namita Shibad
Namita Shibad
Hindustan Times, Pune
(from left) Prashant Niranjan, Sharanraj Chapparbandi, Rohit Hardikar and Prakash Mugali, co-founders of Arka, with their products.
(from left) Prashant Niranjan, Sharanraj Chapparbandi, Rohit Hardikar and Prakash Mugali, co-founders of Arka, with their products.(HT PHOTO)
         

Rohit Hardikar and Prashant Niranjan met in Brazil while working for the same company. Being vegetarians, it was hard for them to find food in the midst of meat, the salads and juices were too bland for their Indian palate.

“We started adapting to the salads and juices and these changed our lifestyle. It made us think about our diet back home and we realised it was poor in proteins and micronutrients. We realised that the best way to tackle the deficiency would be to have juices from fresh fruits and vegetables. We wanted to take it forward and offer it to all,” said Hardikar.

And the seed of Arka was sown and the year was 2016.

When the duo returned to India, they found out that their friends Prakash Mugali and Sharanraj Chapparbandi were working on a technology that could store fruits and vegetable juices without any preservatives, cold storage or excess processing. Tall order that!

Since Mugali had experience in the food industry, he developed a technology that could beat the challenges faced by the juicing industry.

“What Prakash’s technology involves is an additional critical process after the cold pressing. They do a rapid sterilisation of the juice for just 60 seconds. In this one minute the bacteria and micro-organisms are taken care of,” said Hardikar.

To find out what juices suit the palate, they used the sampling technique. “Our juices are unlike what is available in the market. People would not know the taste or the benefits without tasting our juice,” he said.

The four men went to several IT companies, stores and offered people a taste of their product.

They incorporated the suggestions and developed the product. The other challenge to make their juices were procurement of raw material. Said Hardikar, “It is important that we get vegetables and fruits that are free from pesticides and chemical fertilisers. We studied the market and visited several famers to ensure that the ones we chose were using good agriculture practices. Also our testing showed that there were certain kinds of fruits and vegetables that were more amenable to juicing. With a lot of trial and error we zeroed in on our suppliers. Though we cannot yet afford contract farming, we get the first preference from these farmers.

Hardikar concludes by saying “When we started out, our aim was to change the way people made food choices. Juice is a great way to get your vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. And we have managed to provide that with the right technology. Our juices can be stored at room temperature even and still retain its nutritional value and taste. We want people to understand the value of juice and adapt to it. What better way to be healthy?”

Funding

The founders of Arka put in a total of ₹1.25 crore to set up a factory in Belagavi. “We leased out the land, built our own rapid sterilisation equipment and invested further in sampling,” said Hardikar. Currently Arka is selling atleast 8,000 bottles of juice a month and 2,000 more bottles go in sampling. “Every time we enter a new area or city we give out free samples. It is through sampling that people become aware of our product,” said Hardikar. He shared that at least 60% of people who have tried their products turn into customers. The co-founders have managed operational efficiency and they expect break even by 2020. One of the biggest challenges of selling directly to customers is to get the price right. Too high and your customer is gone , too low and you are in the red. To get it right Arka used its sampling target audience. Chapparbandi said, “We not only asked people about the product, but also what they thought would be the right price for the product.” It gave the co-founders an idea about pricing. The co-founders factored in the chance that people could use the juice to substitute their breakfast or a light snack during the day. Arka Juices are now available in Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Goa. “We have tied up with a five star property in Hyderabad to offer Arka. Customers have leanings towards healthy food but do not have much choice. We hope that they will discover the benefits of Arka juice.” said Niranjan.

First Published: Apr 27, 2019 16:45 IST

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