Mumbai, India. How much can one do with something as regular as a coconut in the peninsular region of India that is rich in its tropical vegetation? While most south Indian cuisines prefer to use it as an active ingredient in their styles, very few have thought about utilizing the coconut water. Certainly no one has made a business out of a simple idea, the way four friends did in the garden city of India. ‘Coconut Express’, a brand under FruitLabs company started by four enthusiastic young entrepreneurs Vikas Chhajjer, Bhavesh Mehta, Vinod Chhajjer and Pawan Verma. “The fundamental philosophy of our business is to offer unique foods which are substantially healthy without compromising on taste. We intend to be an Indian multinational company in this unique venture”, says Bhavesh, the main spokesperson and CEO for the brand.
“We realized that much of the nutrition of the fruits is lost in the pulp, and a lot of sugar is added to the drink, making it a less appealing choice as a health drink. We then realized the vacuum in this space. Most of the thirst quenchers available in the market were either tasty but not healthy, or healthy but not tasty”, says Vinod, speaking of how it all began. This search for a combination of a tasty drink with adequate health benefits got them going nuts! Literally coconuts! “India, with its climate and population, is a great market, in our opinion. The warm temperate climate is extremely conducive for our products. At large, the younger populations appreciate our products. The concept of health-food is fast catching attention across urban and rural India. We see ourselves as major players in triggering off this and offering genuine products”, he adds.
“We haven’t been students of any hospitality industry or its allied ones but do have a first-hand experience in handling business efficiently”, say both. With all the myth and rumours of the F&B industry, this is inspiring case-study, enough for many who wish to set their path on a similar journey.
One nut, many brands. “We have a few prime brands-Coconut Express, Cocostop, Coconut Express on Wheels and Volcano. On the beverages offerings, we needed to cater to the entire spectrum of people-classes and masses. However, it was not possible to cater to all segments under one roof. To tackle this, we segregated our offerings into three categories- Coconut Express-stores, which cater to people with higher disposable income, are located at prime up market places and have all our Product offerings-Plain Tender Coconut Water, Tangy Twists, Exotic Floats, The Chocolate Lounge and Icebergs. These are served in larger quantities.
At Cocostop, our products are offered at lower quantities and lower prices on account of reduced material cost and lower overhead costs. To ensure that we cater to those willing to spend less and who need to energize themselves on the move, we introduced ‘Coconut Express on Wheels’. These are handy mobile carts that offer apart from fresh chilled tender coconut water, four other varieties from our tangy flavours. The idea in this model is to ensure that we are for everyone and in proximity to the customer at an affordable price point,” says Bhavesh. As it goes, one can literally find these little carts spread across every nook and corner of the city. Apart from the Coconut Beverages, they also have brand called ‘Volcano’ which offers premium desserts and chocolates.
Branded or stranded? Every year scores of retail brands flock the market and most of them don’t manage to sustain themselves. So one more to the existing list, could have enough eyebrows popping up in doubt. “While some of us may be brand conscious, I am personally one. However, I am certainly a quality-conscious person, and like to choose quality over brand. We don’t mind using brands like Adidas and Reebok (though they are in a bit of fire fighting mode these days in India with the events unfurling much to their dismay).
Levis could very easily be considered a synonym for denims, just like Xerox is for Photocopying. Google is understood, but search engine is not! This is the power of a Brand. This is what inspires us and what we want to achieve. We believe we have a fantastic future. We are a niche brand, and the first entrants in this very exciting space. We believe health is getting right up there in terms of priorities of people, and this product is an excellent option for those who want to consciously opt for a healthy product without compromising on taste”, says Bhavesh very confidently about the future of his brands.
“Life is a classroom and each moment teaches us something or the other, provided we are open to the idea of learning. One works and learns simultaneously. A lot of lessons have been learnt. However, the biggest lesson is that unless one’s goals are extremely well defined, a lack of direction will end you no where”, signs off Vinod with an air of confidence. Going by the way they are, one can ensure the indian retail market will soon be dotted with enough coconuts for one thing and a healthier society for another! Fruitlabs is all set to expand its horizons beyond their existing market and get into every city in india before taking it overseas. Before you know, like the famous Indian curry or the Dosa, a different variety of coconut might reach your doorstep, in whichever corner of the world you are in.
Images by ISG.