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 – 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 – 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 – 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.

ITE – Neem Twigs (Daatun) to replace Toothpastes

I received a Neem powder based tooth powder from a friend and after trying it for a couple of days only I felt fresh, gums were happier and there was a sense of not putting chemicals in the mouth first thing in the morning. Traditionally people in India used to chew a twig from Neem tree to clean the teeth and mouth in general in the morning.

Neem tree grows almost across the country and grows pretty fast. Best option would be if people could go to the nearest tree and pick a twig and use it, but given our densely populated urban centers that can not have trees or not enough trees for the population. So I think there can be a business case for packaging these and making them available at retail stores.

This may be a good idea for organic products manufacturers, but the idea is so simple that it can be picked up by anyone. As idea exists in my mind today, it does not look like a high investment option, but this needs to be thought through.

Innovation would be required in packaging and them marketing it, getting people back to it to it.

Organic India and Neemfoundation gives more information about this native and medicinal tree.

ITE – Repair Centre

In this time and age, repairs is becoming a vanishing concept. It is difficult to find someone who can repairs your clothes, shoes, household goods specially in the upcoming areas dominated by shopping malls. At the same time repair is something that is needed to keep the green cause moving. If you can setup a center for all kinds of repairs say:
  1. Tailoring – including repairing broken shoes, bags, curtain rings, changing sofa covers etc
  2. Appliances repair – maintenance of mixers, iron boxes, TV
  3. Home needs – Plumbing Services, Carpentry services, painting job
If you can provide this at a single point of contact, you would be a big hit. Trick would be to provide reliable and dependable service. If you can establish a pool of trained or skilled service providers, there would be no dearth of customers. Challenge would be manage such a pool and run them professionally. Customers will be willing to pay and even give you time to serve if the service is dependable.
You can either target it for urban upper middle class, and work on a low volume high margin model or for the large middle and lower middle class with high volume low margins.
Another variation of this could be a working women’s aid, all the help that she needs for running her house.

ITE – Tea Stalls / Chains

Tea is a basic India beverage. Most Indian love to have it, as a matter of habit, as a rejuvenator while breaking, as a company when they gossip with friends and sometimes without any reason. In the new India that is being built, Coffee Chains have cropped up in every nook and corner but they do not serve the basic chai, and even if they serve it comes at atrocious prices.
Can someone think of a basic tea stall that is neat and clean and serves the basic tea, may be a bit customized on the spot for the customer like letting them choose their favorite flavor.The cost involved is too much, skill required is available or can be easily acquired and there are no entry barriers as such. There can be two formats that tI can think of at the moment – one a small stall, very similar to the roadside stalls that we all use, but neat and clean with glasses or cups properly washed and dried before every use. Second is a chain like Cafe Coffee Day or Barista, that can be a bit higher end with proper branding, something like Cha Bars at Oxford book stores. This may require some capital, some planning and a long term strategy, but stalls is something that can be done at a very small level too to begin with. I would love to see these stalls in all shopping malls where getting a cup of tea is almost impossible and this is a place you really need when you are tired of shopping, when you have to wait while your other family members shop or when you have to just wait for someone whom you plan to meet there. I think even a small stall serving basic chai in a neat and clean environment can do toms of business in shopping malls and in similar urban areas.
I heard of couple of such experiments in bangalore malls but am yet to see how they are doing. Any ideas?