Dipti Motiani in 2018 launched juice startup Second Nature, whose products are now available in select retail outlets and online groceries. She is now focusing on building a logistics network that will help supply fresh juice across India.Vishal Krishna
Dipti Motiani was working with her father a couple of years ago to build Freshtrop, a Rs 200 crore food processing company that focused on exports, when she had an epiphany: why not make in India for India? That one thought led to the launch of Nashik-based Second Nature, a range of cold-extracted fruit juices, fruit and vegetable blends, fruit nectars, and dairy-free nut milks, in 2018.
The 37-year-old was sure that the experience Freshtrop, a supplier of fresh grapes and pomegranates, had gathered while exporting to Europe for over 25 years was ample. She felt that their focus on quality and systematic, thorough approach to food safety and traceability would help them stand apart.
“Bringing these values to the domestic market was on our mind for a long time. Second Nature is our attempt to achieve this – to deliver the best in nutrition from fruits and vegetables to customers in India,” Dipti says.
So in 2016, she convinced her father, Ashok Motiani, that they had the requisite knowledge of “manufacturing, farming, and post-harvest management”, and the time was right to launch a fresh and nutritious juice brand for India.
“We wanted to make a product that we could offer to our children. This, in a nutshell, is our focus - a product that we ourselves love to consume and a product that Indian mothers can give to their families without worrying about what’s in the bottle,” she adds.
Soon, Dipti began to collaborate with the Freshtrop research department and work on the product. But why Second Nature?
Dipti, who has a Master's in Electronic and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, USA, launched her first tech startup in the US in 2007. Fabbrix, an engineering company, was acquired within two years of operations, and Dipti spent a couple of years in the company that acquired it. However, her desire to run her family business brought her back to India in 2010, and she began to research the processes that go into sourcing quality fruit by working closely with farmers.
A few years down the line, after she gained a broad understanding of farmers’ mindset and the distribution business, she realised that she needed to launch a responsible product for the discerning Indian.
Second Nature is keen to tap the fact that customers globally are getting increasingly conscious of what they consume.
“Consumers want to know how many artificial ingredients products contain, and what is the contribution of various ingredients towards their daily nutritional requirements. There has been a noticeable increase in their understanding of the nutritional vocabulary. Customers are no longer just blindly accepting everything they are told,” Dipti says.
Fruits and vegetables provide us with most of the nutrition we need, but they start losing their freshness and nutrient content as soon as they are harvested. Proper post-harvest management is what keeps the nutrition sealed till the produce reaches homes.
“Currently, it is non-existent in India,” Dipti says, adding that this is why fruits and vegetables end up tasteless and scant in nutrition. “At Second Nature, our endeavour is to bring the freshness, nutrition, and taste straight from the farm to our consumers through proper care of fruits and vegetables,” she adds.
Courtesy Freshtrop, the startup works directly with more than 1,000 farmers, training them in good farming practices that are accepted globally. Their team of agronomists ensures that fruit is harvested at the right time and shipped to Second Nature’s state-of-the-art processing facility in Nashik within hours. The produce is immediately put into a temperature-controlled environment to ensure freshness.
The fruits are sorted and cleaned, and then go through a cold-extraction process – a gentle juicing method that retains the maximum amount of fibre and nutrients of the fruit in the juice.
“This juice is then put through HPP, a form of pasteurisation that utilises high pressure to reduce the microbial content in juice. We maintain strict hygiene and food safety controls in our production facility, which has been certified in international standards,” Dipti says.
It took a couple of years to develop the process and the product. For this, Dipti worked with a global team of experts and found farmers locally. Test products were distributed among friends, relatives, and business associates. The response was so good that Second Nature went live in March 2018.
However, the way to begin shipping to customers wasn’t easy. Dipti had to show the company that the brand would make money in less than five years. She detailed out the strategy, distribution plan, capital needed, and the timeline to break even. Soon, Freshtrop decided to back Dipti, and the startup brand raised debt capital from Freshtrop’s internal accruals.
Every business has its challenges. When it comes to fresh juices, India lacks an established cold chain infrastructure and understanding of consumer and retailer trends of how it impacts the quality of fresh produce. This lack of infrastructure undoes a lot of the good work put in at the farm level. For instance, grapes from Nashik are sent to both Mumbai and London. In Mumbai, they hit the shelves within 24-48 hours; this process takes four-six weeks for London. But, ironically, grapes in London are fresher after those six weeks as compared to those sold in Mumbai after a day or two.
“It is a critical part of the food and beverage puzzle that needs to be resolved in our country. Finding partners who can manage the product with the same care that we do and educating customers about the differences caused by better product handling are our two major challenges right now,” Dipti says.
The right temperature is important to retaining freshness after bottles leave their facility. Second Nature uses a dedicated logistics network to service DTH consumers who place orders on their website. This allows them to control the temperature and handling of the product until it reaches the consumer.
Ecommerce is one of the most critical cogs in the company’s plan to reach out to customers, and Second Nature is at present in talks with big e-retailers. Their products are available on Amazon and Big Basket, and are delivered in Mumbai, Pune, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, and Nashik. The company will launch in Bengaluru soon.
Their juices are also delivered to customers directly to home and distributed through select retail outlets, cafes, restaurants, and clubs. Second Nature juices are available at 25 retail outlets.
Due to the strict temperature requirements for the product, the startup is setting up its own logistics network in most cities. The company will work with third-party logistics vendors who can manage standard operating procedures when it comes to transporting the drinks. Also the startup will manage the movement of the fruit in trucks that can keep the fruits farm fresh. Second Nature will work with logistics partners and will not own trucks.
Dipti aims to make India healthy by “changing the way Indians drink juices”.
Apart from juices, nectars, and nut milks, Second Nature offers subscription to customers in the form of 12 unit packs, including Alkalising Bundle, Anti-Inflammatory Bundle, Anti-Oxidant Bundle, Immunity Bundle, and Skin Rejuvenating Bundle.
India’s juice market is estimated to be $200 million in size, according to TechnoPak. Cold-pressed juices are already available in India, but they have a big market to cover. India is yet to see existing juice brands like Raw Pressery, MyGreens, and JuiceUp scale up, which means there is a huge opportunity in going pan-India.
No wonder Dipti sits in her lab trying at least 40-50 blends of juices every quarter. Her aim is to make Second Nature one of the biggest brands in India.