IDE – Spice Flavored Water

Indian Drinks

A few months back I was facilitating an Idea generation session at a Entrepreneurs Development program at an incubation center. Most entrepreneurs in this group were focussed on the food industry and I for one has never worked with this one industry though as a consumer you just can not escape them. Initially all the ideas came from what is the trend – healthy packaged food – pack this, pack that – nothing that was really new and non-existent. So when I challenged the participants to come up with something that does not exist as a product, one of the ideas came was that of flavored water.

The idea obviously came from the fact that we wanted a drink with no sugar and or other chemicals and we wanted a drink that was more than water. Something like a water plus, and something that can come in many variants as that is a natural way to give choice to the consumer and to expand the business. So came the idea of water flavored with various Indian spices – it could well be called spiced water. Initially the ideas came about single spice flavors like Jeera or Cumin Water or Cardamom water or Clove water or Saumf or Fennel water. Some even had ideas like betel leave water as lot of Indians are addicted to that flavor. In no time. imaginations were running wild and people wanted to combine two or three flavors – everyone had their own choice of flavors. Not to mention people recounted the health benefits of each of these flavors and what can be used by people suffering from what ailments. The whole naturopathy angle came into the picture.

I thought the idea had a business potential, though may require a bit of technical as well as market research.

After the session I did a basic search on flavored water on the Internet and found that some brands of flavored water do exist around the world, but most of them focus on fruit flavors and use the drinks for vitamin fortifications so that they are sold as supplements. In India it seems Bisleri did explore the opportunity a few years back but they too explored fruit flavors only and I do not recall any launch of their product. But its possible I missed it as I no longer live in a big city. The only spice flavored water I came across was a mint flavored water that a reviewer said was quite good. There are some flavored water manufacturers in India but not for the retail segment it seems but more as essence or flavors for the processed food industry.

Based on this basic research I think the idea of a product range of ‘ Spiced Flavored Water’ has a business potential. A bit of research effort would be needed to develop and research the exact products to begin with. The product would have to go through the regular product launch process. I have a feeling lot of existing beverage companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi may be able to develop this in no time, but if it fits into their strategy or not is a different question. However some new beverage companies in India like Hector Beverages who have a successful portfolio of a range of Indian drinks may be better positioned to experiment on this, as it is a natural fit for their range and go well with their existing branding.

Of course, it may be a challenge to explore for new entrepreneurs. Remember Limca, Thums Up & Maaza were developed right here in India though they may belong to a global brand now.

Please share your views on this idea.

IDE – Upcycling Centres

Art Installation

Art Installation

I participated in a community arts project in Goa for three weeks at Goa University. project involved coming up with a public arts installation on the concept of Utopia Dystopia and the team chose to create a tree of life where one side was created using ceramics and other using waste material. Waste material included anything from broken shoes to plastic bottles to electronic waste and just about anything that you cannot use anymore. I am not too good at it, but I saw my team mates creating brilliant stuff out of waste and that gave me this idea – why can’t some entrepreneurs set up upcycling centers?

Ok, so what do I mean by upcycling centers – These are centers where people can get their waste  – primarily inorganic waste that will not go bad, and they can take the help of creative professionals to convert them into usable or may be decorative items. The center can also be a repository of items that can not be used by its current owners but may be useful for creative professionals. These could include recycling old clothes to make something useful from them. Two main components of this business. First would be creative professionals who can get a place and a branded platform to work with and earn livelihood through the use of their craft and skills. Second would be the public who would both be the primary source of raw material as well as customers of the business.

Business model can have some independent revenue streams:

As a service – where consumer walks in with primary raw material and seeks to get it recycled into another product that can be used. I see a lot of recycling happening with old cloths that have infinite possibilities to re-use, but then my creative thinking is pretty limited in this space. They may need some extra material can the creative team can source for them and re-use from their existing stock. Service would come at a price but the price must be less than the cost of procuring what is being produced after recycling.

As a product – The store maintains a collection of products made from recycled stuff that may been sourced from various sources like Scrap yards, raddiwallas, donation drives or anywhere else. These products are sold just like any other retail product. I see a market in corporate buyers who may want to invest in ecologically conscious products.

Workshops – The creative team can have periodic workshops for a fee that allows people to convert participants to convert their own junk into useful stuff.

Renting Space & Tools – There can be designated areas that can be rented out to creative professionals for a period of tiem. This should come with a facility to use the tools and some consumables. My observation says that to create something worthwhile required working with many tools – be it to dismantle stuff or to join them in a creative way. In fact guidance can be provided to use these tools or suggest the appropriate tools ( of course for a compensation)

This may not be wealth creating idea, but I see a lot of potential in doing it as a local business that can very well go into a chain of upcycling centers.

ITE – Recreating Heritage

I have attending a few courses on ancient Indian Art History and it is painful to see lot of it being lost due to various reasons. The biggest reason is of course time and climate but there are human factors when graffiti is written in precious paintings. Take the case of Ajanta Paintings in Maharashtra – a UNESCO world heritage site. The paintings inside the caves have survived for almost 2000 years even when they were covered with vegetation for a long time. There are walls and walls filled with visual storytelling – that not only tell the stories of that era but are like a living documentation of human evolution. Most of these paintings can not be seen without the aid of artificial lighting – that has the potential to damage the works. It is also very difficult to visualize the paintings and understand the stories they are telling without the help of a good art historians – who are again small in numbers.

Can technology step in and recreate the magical works digitally? This would include using photographs and sketches by the early discovered to recreate. Some recreations have been done by artists like Yadegar Assisi using the old drawings, sketches and photographs, so it is not in the realm of impossible or unattempted. These paintings are detailed and would need the help of historians who have been studying them for a long time. The washed away portions can be recreated may be only digitally or the same can be used to create a real life model that the tourists can walk in to get a feel of how the life was in those days. This can be accompanied by documentation of the content of these sculptures or paintings.

Revenue can be generated by the

  • Licensing of the content to various agencies
  • Subscription / fee based access to content
  • Creating tour guides in various format ( books, audio, assisted ) and charging a fee for the same

Challenges

  • You would need to work with government agencies like Archeological survey of India and Art Historians who may not be India based
  • Capital intensive project may need funding from agencies like UNESCO / Government

With some brainstorming, more avenues for revenue generation can be thought of. Revenue gestation period may be long, but this information once documented will get valuable over a period of time as the historians and students of tomorrow will refer to this time and again.

I see a need for this solution – both for the tourists and for the historians.

Idea to Explore: Destination Time Table

Travel industry is centered around attractions for which tourists come to a destination. Transportation industry helps people reach the destination, hospitality industry provides a temporary parking place but it is the attractions that bring people to the destination. Some destinations are natural – like mountains, beaches, rivers or deserts while others are man made – museums, performances, religious places, old heritage sites etc.

Most man made and some natural attractions follow a time table – as in they are open for certain times and closed at others. Most museums are open during the day time and are usually closed once a week – the day differs from place to place. Some attractions may also close during certain times of the year like national parks. Quite a lot of tourists spend a lot of time and money on reaching the destination to realize that the attraction they came for is closed.

A small mobile application / website with simple listing of all the attractions and their open and close timings and any special requirements like dress code or special rules can be listed. A simple search and display should help the user do micro-planning of their trip. Some additional information can be added like

  • Any special notices of disruption of regular services can be provides e.g. if some attraction is under renovation and not open for a period or a natural attraction that is cut off because of things like landslides
  • Ticket prices wherever applicable can be displayed
  • Best time to visit
  • Any objective information that helps people plan their visits better

Key success factor for this application would be authenticated and dependable data. Data collection will have to be done personally or sourced from credible sources. May be a date stamp on the date the data was updated would help users cross check if the data is dated.

Since this is a content based business, the revenue model would come from advertising.  Hyper local reach of the model should make it very viable for the players of tourism industry. For example someone checking out attractions in South Delhi may be interested in a link like this: Book hotels in Gurgaon at Thinkhotels.com and may get the best reach for their marketing money spent. Similarly local taxi service providers, restaurants and other service providers would be interested in reaching out to potential customers who are about to visit in the vicinity.

The model is very similar to what Zomato does for food, though it would have to be adopted for this vertical niche. If a user generated layer can be added or not – needs to be thought through or rather experimented with but what one can definitely do is let users point out any anomalies in the data that you have posted.

I would love to see this in action – and I promise to be the first user of this app, if you build it.

ITE – Localized Fashion

I moved to Goa a few months back and have been going to the beaches more as a local than as a enthusiastic tourists. Sometimes I just sit back and watch the happy tourists – happy because they are on holiday and many of them on their honeymoon. The dress code for Goa is – Minimalist – be it locals or tourists. While most men are in their easy shorts and T-shits ( that sometimes read funny messages), it is always interesting to see women specially dressed for Goa. You can see they have bought all that they are wearing just for this trip to Goa. Some of them are visibly uncomfortable in their unusual attire, but nonetheless to comply with the expected norms they  buy clothes different than what they would normally wear.

Now, should there not be Goan fashion designers who create these dresses and sell them in major cities and may be airports and definitely in Goa. Something like a beach wear or a coastal wear that can cater to various sections of society and nit just the high end fashion consumers.

Extend this thought to fashion required for other places and you may have a business model in place.

Extend this to what India or for that matter any other country can offer to the its visitors in terms of affordable fashion. I know many inbound tourists in India want to pick up local ethnic wear but suited to their needs. This is usually catered to by the street vendors who either sell export surplus or second hand stuff at a rate that they think the tourist would pay. There are no brands that exist in this space.

The market is huge and fragmented, the opportunity – big in my opinion if you cater to all sections of travelling middle class anywhere within a geography. If you can give the option of customization, there is no limit to the potential although it would mean as much complexity as well.

ITE – Mobile App for fare for Local Transportation

Local transportation fares are variable in India, even when there are meters are there, fares are regulated. When you reach a city, specially at the railway stations and bus stands auto drivers, taxi drivers, rickshaw drivers demand what they think they can extract out of you. On metered vehicles also, they tend to take you through a round about route when you do not know the way. This is a big hassle for travelers to the city.

If a small mobile application can tell them rough fare between two points in a city based on the mode of transportation. So if I need to go from railway station to a locality – it can give me a comparative fare for various option – bus / metro / cab / auto or a combination thereof with the approximate fare and time they would take. This can be referred to by the travelers while moving around in a new place. This would also help check unfair fares asked by the transportation providers.

Next stage could be live status of public transportation on the move.

This would need integration with public systems that fix the rates for transportation.

For revenue options, the transportation players can advertise their products and services. A small application download fee can also be charged from the users.

A lot more thought needs to go into it, but this is something that Indian cities need.

 

ITE – Jaggery Based Confectionary

Araku Coffee 5

This Diwali I was searching for alternate options to sweets i.e. products that do not have white sugar in them and I could not find anything except fruits and dry fruits. There were many Mithai shops in the city selling sugar free sweets but not only did they have unhealthy alternative but they tasted pathetic. I finally picked up some pieces of jaggery from the grocery store with an intention to make something out of it. Then I was  reminded of a high end restaurant that served beautifully cut pieces of raw jaggery after the meals and this idea was born. Products directly made of jaggery – a healthier option to eat sweets. Some of the products I could think of:

  1. Cut jaggery in a toffee shape and pack them in paper like toffees – simple, nothing to be added to it. You can then experiment with various flavors like saumf and rose petals that can be added to it. You can also have variations of different types of jaggery like palm, sugarcane etc.
  2. Chiki that is essentially jaggery + something can be packaged as toffees – easy to eat small bites rather than big bites that are usually sold
  3. Like Hershey’s, that have a almond or a nut wrapped in chocolate, you can have the same wrapped in jaggery. This may need some formulation or design research, but it is do-able.
  4. Use your creativity & imagination for more options

Build a brand around healthier confectionary options and make them popular. The cost of product should not be very high, if you can keep the marketing cost in check, this can be a killer product range. If course, replication is very easy and that is where branding will make all the difference. You can start by marketing it to organic products companies and portals. In villages women’s self help groups can easily be engaged in this activity, the only thing one would need to ensure is the hygiene and the quality check.

ITE – App for Meeting Resolutions

Thought of Idea came when a FB friend said that it was just yesterday that we celebrated new year and its March already. All the resolutions we made have been forgotten though. Made me think of why do people loose focus on the resolutions that they make every year. Can technology and /or social media apps help them keep the focus on? And the answer is potentially yes. Technology can do two things

  1. Keep reminding the person of the goal, let them not forget it
  2. Create a public / peer pressure on them by making them commit to the resolution trackable by their friends online ( this has to be optional of course)

Let me take an example of something that I think is the most common resolution: Say a lady has made a resolution to eat healthier and hence loose weight. With a combination of SMS / E-Mail / Tweet / FB update she can be reminded on a weekend morning to go shop for fruits and vegetables for the week. On a daily basis she can be reminded of drinking 8 glasses of water, of eating the fruit at 11:00 AM, go for a walk. There can be some kind of tracking saying that you have not done this or you have done this well that can be shared with the family and friends. If people are inspired that inspires her back. A feature can be built to add sub-resolutions to the main resolution e.g. now that I have started eating fruits, I want to start doing Yoga, now that my Yoga routine is set, I want to do swimming on weekends.

Revenue Model – I think if designed well, people would be willing to buy the App, there may be ad revenue of complimentary products. I have not done the calculations of  financial model, so some thinking is required there.

My inspiration for this idea came from the website Ohlife.com , that helped me write a daily diary, something I did not achieve ever in my life inspite of keeping a diary next to my bed. Since the day I signed up with them, I have not missed writing my diary. So, some reminders, some nudging helps till it becomes a routine, a ritual for you.

 

ITE – Branded Travel Merchandize

Most travel economy based countries / regions have one major revenue stream of travel shopping, a lot of which involves picking up souvenirs and mementos by the tourists. In mature travel economies there are players who design travel merchandise and keep coming up with new idea in tune with the times and the tastes of the visitors.

India is yet to catch on to this trend. I see a huge opportunity in developing tourist friendly merchandize that people can take back with them. India, though not dependent on tourism , still has substantial numbers of domestic and foreign tourists. Absolute numbers are not small. On the other hand the variety of local arts and crafts that can be potential candidates for merchandize is huge. Need is to come out with a reliable brand that designs, manufactures, packages and distributes these items through a reliable network with a reliable quality.

Design is the most important aspect of this idea, followed by quality. There are too many crafts that are being sold outside tourist monuments, but they have not changed since I can remember. The same Kashmiri shawls and Kaftans are sold even in the sultry south. Design elements need to blend the modern utility with the ethnic aesthetics and come out with products that will make the visitors pick them up for themselves and for their family and friends.

Where to start, which products to begin with a question that needs debate and discussion as the choices are infinite. Weather you should ‘buy or make’ is another decision that needs a business plan level of research to decide weather you want to pick up a range of products and then manage the end to end supply chain or you want to source products from various other entrepreneurs based on your designs and quality parameters. Where to start geographically is again something you decide based on where you are or where you think the market is best.

This is a Brick & Mortar idea and has to be executed on the ground, as travel merchandize is purchased while traveling and rarely would people buy it online after they have returned home.

If someone wants to pick up and work on this idea, I will share with you the list of potential merchandise that I have created over many years and many travels.

 

ITE – Tree Leaves Fashion

Now this may be the most bizarre and whacky idea from by stable, as I am not a fashion expert nor a garment expert, but then sometimes ideas come to us and we must share them for people who can probably do something about them.

Yesterday, while going through the displays of tribal museum in Hyderabad India, I came across Jackets, Hats and long coats made out of levaes. I was told these are leaves of Adda tree. The leaves were closely packed to make thick fabric and stitched together with straws. There was absolutely no manufactured item here and everything comes from the Jungle.

Idea is to decipher this technique of making garments from tribal communities, and add a design to suit the sensibilities of your clientele and make truly organic and natural fabrics. The leaves were a dull green grey color, the color of dried leaves, but I am sure with a tinge of innovation, colors tones can be brought in. Though tribals make the basic garments for their consumption, I am sure our creative designers can make various things including accessories from leaves.

Challenges may involve scaling up the operations that would depend on the availability of leaves and durability of the product.

Eager to hear the responses to this.