This entrepreneur sold 30,000 aluminium cans of fresh spring water in just a month of launch
Ankur Chawla, Cofounder, Responsible Whatr
Do you know how much India struggles to collect the waste plastic water bottles? According to a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report from 2012, India generates 15,000 tonnes of plastic a day of which 40 percent remains uncollected. This trashed-but-not-collected plastic waste adds up to land and water pollution, posing serious threat to the environment.
Not just industries and households, but five-star hotel chains and restaurants also generate alarming plastic waste mostly in the form of plastic water bottles.
After seeing such large scale plastic consumption, Ankur Chawla undertook a research to find a solution.
A beverage expert and a veteran of the hospitality industry, with over a decade of experience of working in Taj Hotels and JW Marriott, Ankur realised the biggest problem this sector faced was disposing off plastic waste.
In an interaction with SMBStory, he says,
“I wanted to solve the plastic waste problem which I have been witnessing for many years. I quit my job in 2016 and for the next three years, I set up a catering company and worked as a consultant for big brands and the problem of waste disposal existed there too. It was like everyone was seeking a solution but nothing was available. And then I chanced upon some luck”.
Ankur met Bhrigu Seth who was into exotic farming and was supplying greens to modern retail shelves. Both of them realised that they shared a common goal and it didn’t take long for them to draft a plan of action.
After going through the intricacies of the issue at hand, the duo came up with a solution - aluminium.
Ankur and Bhrigu decided to launch Responsible Whatr, natural spring water beverage packed in an aluminium can to solve the problem of waste plastic water bottles.
Responsible Whatr is one of India’s first natural spring water beverage, offered in a sustainable and endlessly recyclable aluminium can. It’s a non-alcoholic beverage that was launched with a vision for a sustainable future and an agenda to reduce single-use plastic pollution. Responsible Whatr is a home-grown brand launched with the purpose of offering solutions to alarming environmental hazards.
“Aluminium was the natural choice for packaging as it does not contribute to heaps of landfills and is infinitely recyclable without any quality loss when compared to glass and plastic. It does not alter the freshness of the water when exposed to light or heat and the water remains fresh and cold. It is an extensively researched product that caught our attention while finding a sustainable and eco-friendly solution,” Ankur tells SMBStory.
Ankur and Bhrigu started research in 2019 and launched the product in June 2020.
Bhrigu Seth, Cofounder, Responsible Whatr
Responsible Whatr sources water from an untouched natural water spring in Solan, Himachal Pradesh where Bhrigu has an exotic farm. The water is canned near the source at a state-of-the-art production facility without any human intervention. The brand sources aluminium cans from Ball Corporation - one of the biggest manufacturers of aluminium cans in the world.
Competition in market
Water is the basis of life. However, with cases of adulterated water rising high, big brands like Bisleri and Kinley have been launching their packaged water in different sizes to make it handy for people.
Despite the stiff competition in the market which is already dominated by global companies, Ankur and Bhrigu didn’t give a second thought to launching a water brand. Ankur says,
“We respect all the big brands. They have been around for a long time and we have to learn from them. We were sure that we are bringing a product to solve a problem and we won’t be left disheartened.”
Before launching the company, both co-founders visited five-star hotels and took samples of water in aluminium cans asking them if something like that comes in the market, would they buy. The duo received an overwhelmingly positive response.
To their surprise, Responsible Whatr was presold in its first batch. In a month of launch, the brand has sold around 15,000 litres of water that counts for 30,000 cans of 500 ml each, costing Rs 60.
Responsible Whatr is available widely in the retail shelves of Delhi/NCR including Foodhall, Modern Bazaar, Konic Mandi Mart, Farm Square, Exchange Store, Defence Store, among others. The brand is also selling through its own website.
Recycling of aluminium
One of the biggest problems the country faces is the “throw-away” culture. To address this, Ankur and Bhrigu wanted to come up with a solution where they do not add to the problem of waste. It is estimated that over 90 percent of aluminium beverage cans in India are recycled. Therefore, Responsible Whatr does not contribute to the problem of landfills. Instead, 70 percent of the cans are manufactured through recycled waste. Going forward, Ankur and Bhrigu plan to start collecting the cans from the consumers directly.
Ankur says, “We do not pump groundwater and instead offer whatever nature provides, which is further purified at our plant. In addition to this, the entire production facility is designed to capture rainwater, which is then used for irrigation. We are offering our customers the best quality water with naturally balanced essential minerals and a pH of ~7.4.”
A Responsible Whatr can
The impact on customers and society will only be seen in a few months, Ankur says adding that they believe in the adage 'little drops of water make a mighty ocean'. He says this is their contribution towards the environment to have a plastic-free nation one day through a product that is truly made in India.
Responsible Whatr is dealing with a perception problem - consumers do not perceive water in a can as ‘normal’. The country is used to using water from plastic bottles since ages and it is difficult to change the mindset of the consumers to shift to a non-plastic product.
“There are many products we consume on a daily basis where the contents of the product are not visible. However, when it comes to water, consumers prefer a transparent bottle rather than a much better, sustainable water can. We hope to overcome this hiccup very soon,” Ankur tells SMBStory.
The brand has also tied up with hotels for cobranding the cans.
The way forward
Ankur and Bhrigu now aim to join hands with airports and ecommerce portals which would help them in directly reaching the homes of high networth individuals (HNIs). They also plan to tie up with corporate firms and cinema halls.
The promoters of the brand also plan to launch the product in different sizes and make them available in all metro cities in India. The focus of the brand promotion currently is in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan and there are also plans to expand to the international markets by March 2021.
Also, Ankur and Bhrigu are planning to join hands with NGOs that are fighting for the conservation of beaches and oceans.