An idea that was seeded in the company of friends and nostalgia, set sail to become one of the favourite beverages in the Indian market – Paper Boat has a unique success story.
The company has built a brand that bridges the gap between the old and the new with flavours that are packaged in the most interesting way. Plus, the brand strongly connects with the audience with nostalgic storytelling. In conversation with Neeraj Kakkar, Co-founder and CEO at Hector Beverages, about Paper Boat’s journey, their upcoming flavours and the many creative hacks they deploy to keep it sailing.
How did Paper Boat come into being?
It was one of those days that unknowingly steer your life in another direction. It all began when three of my closest friends and I sat down for lunch on a hot summer day. Of course, we were all busy sharing our dabbas when my friend James tried the aam panna that had come from one of our homes. He fell in love with it and suggested that packaging it would be a great idea.
We realized that raw mango drink, a.k.a, aam panna, is not available anywhere in a ready-to-drink format. We were instantly married to the idea, and that was the inception of Paper Boat.
Paper Boat highlights nostalgic memories. Tell us your Paper Boat story.
When I was ten and living in a small town in Karnal, our landlady used to make a drink called Kanji. It was made with purple carrots, sesame seeds and other spices. I never got to have it again after we moved. Now, I’m on a quest to recreate the taste and authenticity I had grown to love so much when I was a child.
After a long phase of trial and error, we’ve procured some purple carrot seeds from Turkey and are very hopeful about our crop in Ooty.
How do you employ ‘nostalgia’ as a brand emotion? Since most of your ad campaigns are very heart-touching.
Our drinks are based on age-old recipes and memories, and our ad campaigns are just an extension of that. For example, aampanna and jaljeera are drinks that we have all grown up drinking, and they share a strong association with our childhood. When we think of Aamras we are instantly reminded of getting our clothes messy eating mangoes with our bare hands.
So, it was only natural for us to pander to the child within all of us in our communication. We talk about the fights we had with our siblings, the pranks we played on our friends, and the love we shared with our family. We want to remind them of their innocence. We want to reach out to their inner child. We want to be like family.
What kind of a brand is Paper Boat?
As a brand, we are big believers of innocence and finding beauty in our everyday lives. Even our name stems from the emotions we felt when we set a paper boat to sail as children, or when we got wet and splashed around in puddles. We believe in life and how easy it is to be happy.
What marketing hacks did you employ to scale up the brand?
We want to tell consumers a lot of wonderful stories and delight them at every turn. And we don’t shy away from looking beyond our drinks in order to do this.
For two years now, we’ve been reprinting classics. Like Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome, and last year, Kipling’s The Jungle Book, all to rekindle the simple pleasure of reading a book and the journey it takes us on. We forayed into the short films arena with our first short, Rizwan. Recently, we ran a social media campaign on the Indian Railways as a tribute to the sheer majesty of this grand institution, and people readily wrote to us with their own memories on a train.Even with our packaging we try to make an emotional connect with our consumers by tucking in little nuggets of stories and one-liners.
I wouldn’t call these hacks, because they haven’t been designed to be so. It’s just us having fun, knowing fully well that others too would enjoy it, and hop along on the ride!
Tell us about your expansion plans.
The future looks exciting and full of possibilities to us. We have recently invested in our spanking new R&D centre here in Bengaluru. And fingers crossed, we would have launched many more drinks by the end of 2016!
Paper Boat has very particular flavours that can be associated with childhood. How do you choose the flavours?
Interestingly, the last three drinks we produced – Panakam, Neer More and Thandai – were all based on suggestions given by our own employees! Apart from that, we also welcome customer suggestions and take their feedback very seriously.
While brainstorming for ad campaigns, what kind of thought process comes on the table?
Most good ideas come out of the blue. For example, the idea to reprint The Jungle Book was born while we were sitting by the pool sipping on some ginger tea.
Why did you name your brand Paper Boat?
Paper Boat reminds us that it’s so easy to bring our childhood alive even today – with the simple act of folding a piece of paper. It tells us that no matter who we are, where we lived or what we’ve done in our lives, we remember how to make a paper boat, right?