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BW Businessworld

Paper Boat On A Smooth, Steady Sail

E-commerce and modern trade channels are promising to disrupt the distribution moat created by incumbent companies

Photo Credit : Deepak G. Pawar


Decades ago, traditional beverages and foods formed an integral part of people’s diet. As years passed by, many of the food items like the aam panna, jaljeera, kokum, jamun, kala khatta, etc., slowly started disappearing from people’s lives. This encouraged Neeraj Biyani to launch Paper Boat to save tradition­al recipes in beverages and foods. Biyani who is the co-founder of
Hector Beverages and owner of the brand Paper Boat believes the journey has just begun and he has a long way to go.

Born out of an idea while having lunch, Paper Boat has now become India’s fastest growing consumer brand. The company currently employs over 530 people and distributes their products in over 50,000 outlets and exports to over 10 countries.

Biyani has played an important role in making a difference to company’s fortune by pivoting the model thrice. He led from the front to pivot product idea to tradi­tional beverages and foods and launched brand Paper Boat in 2013. It was his pivot­ing the distribution model of the company that helped in significantly scaling their distribution in a short span of time. Ad­ditionally, Biyani also led many process improvements in manufacturing that have added to the taste, food safety and distinct identity for our prod­ucts and also led many cost initiatives in the company, leading to a significant increase in gross margins.

Through his work, he ensures that their products positively in­fluence the health and nutrition of society. The company has been able to give their farm­ers better livelihoods and have launched fair trade-certified products. “For us, the larger purpose is to preserve traditional recipes, the methods that go into mak­ing them, and the folklore that surrounds them,” says Biyani.

It was the positive response that the brand received from the consumers within the six months of their launch that made Bi­yani realise that the idea was very relevant. Furthermore, he also mentions that with the rising per capita income, their business is also undergoing a huge positive shift. He has three reasons to support this argument. “First, a large part of our consumer base is willing to pay for convenience; second, with a robust economy and booming op­portunity, the Indian consumer is confi­dent of themselves. They are comfortable to experiment with newer brands; and third, consumers today value health more than they did in the past and are actively seeking a healthier lifestyle by moving to products with a positive health quotient,” says Biyani.

“With growing aspiration and consum­er awareness I see a seminal shift in buy­ing behaviour. E-commerce and modern trade channels are promising to disrupt the distribution moat created by incumbent companies. A relevant brand can aspire a much faster adoption today than it could ever before,” he explains.

Paper Boat uses technology to aid in distribution and innovation. The com­pany has innovated much more than any other com­pany in the industry, from product innovation point of view.“At Paper Boat, we are partnering with large e-commerce companies to ensure our products are available to our discern­ing consumers just a click away. We also use technol­ogy in a unique way to take large scale feedback from our consumers that feed into our innovation pipe­line and recipe improve­ments” he added.

N. R. Narayana Murthy is my inspira­tion, says Biyani, who has received several national awards for being the best startup, for being among the country’s best disrup­tors, for having the best brand campaign, for outstanding performance and enter­prise in Manufacturing and Food Safety, for exemplary packaging design in F&B, among other accolades.  For the young en­trepreneurs he has only one advice to give: It is easier to live with failures than to live with regrets.