[Startup Bharat] Vadodara-based AV Organics makes India’s first bottled black alkaline water
They say curiosity leads to innovation.
This holds true for husband-wife duo Aakash and Vishwangi Vaghela, who co-founded AV Organics based on their curiosity and a whole lot of research. Founded in 2018 in Vadodara, Gujarat, the startup launched its first product Evocus - bottled black alkaline water - this June.
The first-of-its-kind in India, this kind of water already has many takers world over, claim the founders. But what is so intriguing about water being alkaline?
Aakash, 30, a graduate from Regent’s University London, was managing his real-estate company, Emerald Group, when, in late-2016, he came across an article on the benefits of alkaline water.
“The article stated it provides optimum hydration, better detoxification, improved metabolism, and heightened alertness,” says Aakash.
Curious to know more, Aakash dug further to learn that there is only a negligible presence of bottled alkaline water brands in India.
“Alkalinity of water comes down to neutral within 48 to 72 hours, and thus, the commercial non-viability in India,” he points out.
A week after stumbling upon this new type of water, Aakash then read an article by scientist Norbert Chirase, a PhD in Nutrition and Wellness from Texas. The intensive research done by the man caught Aakash’s attention and he contacted Nobert immediately. “By this time, the idea of making alkaline water into a business had already taken root in my head,” he says.
Aakash then flew to Texas to learn more about the mineral extraction process and returned to the country to start with his pilot project – Evocus (a portmanteau of ‘evolution’ and ‘focus’), to “disrupt the Indian bottled water market”.
Testing the waters
Fresh off the flight from Texas, Aakash was raring to go. An entrepreneur with varied interests — he is the Managing Director of Windward Builders LLP, a construction company, and Emerald Group — he knew he had the business chops but lacked the scientific knowledge to undertake this task alone.
“Since I had a commerce background, my knowledge in chemistry and technical product development was limited,” says Aakash.
It is then that he started looking for an expert who could help him set up a pilot plant and create formulations with groundwater. He met Awasthi, now the Technical Director and Head Product Development at AV Organics.
Aakash set up a pilot plant right at his house, in Vadodara, and started experimenting with the formulations.
“It took us a couple of months to get it right. Looking at the result, I decided to set up a commercial manufacturing facility and take the product to the market,” he says.
Aakash’s wife, Vishwangi (29), soon joined the team as a Co-founder. The founders then trademarked the product, got a team in place, and set up the manufacturing facility. Today, AV Organics has a team of 25 people and another 15 working in the factory. The startup has a fully automated manufacturing-cum-bottling plant spread across 50,000 sq ft in Vadodara.
Before joining AV Organics, Vishwangi was leading the operations and management at a Vadodara-based industrial facility management company. Vishwangi currently manages the digital media marketing for AV Organics. The startup uses social media to educate its customers about the benefits of alkaline water.
Perfecting the ‘no-taste’ taste
While the startup is headquartered in Aakash’s hometown Vadodara, AV Organics launched Evocus in Pune in June this year due to his affiliation with the city.
“I have done my graduation from Symbiosis so I have an emotional connect with the city. Also, I have a fair knowledge about the market and its acceptability,” he adds.
Evocus is a 100 percent natural, black alkaline water with more than 70 nutrients and high pH value, claim the founders.
The bottled water is made in two parts. The core minerals from the earth’s crust are extracted and refined in the US, after which the mineral concentrate is imported to India. The final product is created using AV Organics’ proprietary formulations.
Along the way, teething challenges persisted.
“Making the right formulation to maintain the ‘no-taste’ attribute of water was difficult,” says Aakash. The team worked long and hard to perfect the no-taste by trial and error.
The product complies with national and international regulatory standards including certifications by the USDA (the United States Department of Agriculture), WSDA (the Washington State Department of Agriculture), FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India), and those from the European Union and Japan organic certification bodies.
The plastic used in making the bottles is BPA-free and 100 percent recycled.
“We buy it from varied PET manufacturers in India. We eventually intend to move to glass bottles,” says Aakash.
For the health-conscious segment
While AV Organics is not restricting itself to any demographic segment, it is targeting consumers of certain lifestyle aspirations.
“Those seeking lifestyle change and are becoming very health-conscious are our customers,” says Aakash.
At present, Evocus is available in retail stores in Pune and Chandigarh. It has also partnered with a few online players – Amazon, Bigbasket, and Snapdeal for pan-India distribution.
The startup has one SKU - a 500 ml bottle of water, priced at Rs 100. Evocus also comes in a pack of six and a master case of 24 bottles, available both online and in retail stores.
Bootstrapped with an initial investment of $1 million, Aakash is planning to invest another $1.5 million in the next three years for marketing and building the brand.
Market overview and future plans
According to a report by Statista, the Indian F&B industry market is estimated to reach $46 billion by 2020. As of now, Evocus is new and unique in the Indian market. Globally, it competes with the likes of Essentia Ionized Alkaline bottled water and Phure Alkaline water.
Since its launch, AV Organics has distributed over 2,000 master cases.
“Our target is to sell five million bottles in the first year,” says Aakash.
The R&D team is also working towards developing new products under the beverage category.
“According to the demand, we will explore new avenues for expansion,” he says.
“For any company to grow, capital investment at every stage is important. We will be looking forward to raising funding,” Aakash adds.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)