Siddhesh Sharma, President of the Baidyanath Group and Founder and CEO, Naturedge Beverages Pvt. Ltd knows the millennials rather well. He shares their passions and understands their motivations, having lived the life of the ‘work hard, party hard’ generation. These insights have helped him leverage the ancient healing system of Ayurveda — his illustrious family’s core business, into modern new ways.
Naturedge Beverages, an FMCG brand, is embracing the old while finding inventive new directions to grow in, such as the launch of two health-based drinks in a market that is booming for innovative beverages.
An alumnus of the University of Nottingham, the young scion is decade-old in his entrepreneurial journey that spans across varied sectors — healthcare, mining, hospitality and more. He is very passionate about sports and fitness, and has played tennis competitively at the national level.
What is your vision for Naturedge Beverages Pvt Ltd?
At Naturedge, we want to create the best products to lead a healthy everyday life. The aim is to inspire a culture of ‘responsible indulgence’ in the country and encourage our consumers to lead an active lifestyle. We want to make sugar, responsible for a host of diseases, a thing of the past in the Indian beverage industry. We have an aspiration to see millennials in India embrace Ayurveda and be proud of this age-old Indian science.
How are you integrating contemporary ideas into the business of Ayurveda?
We have brought this vision to life by creating great-tasting beverages with the best-quality ingredients, made using cutting-edge manufacturing processes and designed in a contemporary format to fit seamlessly into the modern lives.
Ayurveda 2.0 is the need of the hour, undoubtedly! Ayurveda is already winning hearts across the globe in the most amazing ways. Our good old haldi doodh
is being repackaged as Turmeric Latte in the West. At Naturedge, we aim to serve old wisdom in a new bottle, but with a whole lot of value additions.
What do you think Ayurveda can offer in the contemporary world?
Ayurveda is no longer for just the older generation. Just like Yoga, Ayurveda is now widely accepted by the younger generation. Even the most developed countries are experiencing a truly global shift towards 100% natural and plant-based nutrition. The use of herbs and cleaner ingredients in the beverage space is very popular in North America and Europe. All Naturedge products are designed keeping in mind the global market. We are preparing to launch Shunya and ARMR in GCC countries by the coming summer.
How are your two products
—Shunya and ARMR
—different from the products in the market?
Shunya is a revolution in the beverage market in India. It offers great-tasting drinks with zero calories, zero sugar and zero artificial sweeteners. It replaces your everyday unhealthy drink choice with a healthy drink.
Currently, the shelves in India either feature vitamin drinks or hydration drinks with minerals and electrolytes. Most of these drinks claim they have less sugar and are low on calories. But the truth is they still have sugar ranging from 20 grams to 50 grams in one bottle, which is equivalent (and way more in most cases) to the recommended daily intake by the World Health Organization.
This literally means that in the name of sipping on a healthy beverage, you end up consuming a day’s sugar intake or more. Add to this, their lack of focus on the taste factor. There has been a glaring gap between what functional drinks in the Indian market promise you, and what they actually give you. With Shunya, we spotted this gap early on and pressed into action efforts to create high-quality beverages that are high on taste and higher on life.
With access to the finest innovation centres for R&D at Baidyanath, bringing reputed nutritionists on-board and collaborating with international beverage innovation centres—we created Shunya, filled with the goodness of nature. It is the only 100% naturally sweetened drink in the market enriched with anti-oxidants, vitamins and electrolytes. It is also the only drink infused with the power of four super-herbs - Ashwagandha, Brahmi, Khas and Kokum.
We have also launched Shunya Fizz. Unlike the perception, fizz is not all bad. Today, consumers increasingly prefer ‘diet’ soft drinks to avoid sugar and calories but have no clue about the harmful effects of artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame. Shunya Fizz has zero-sugar, zero calories, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. High dosages of Aspartame are used in ‘diet’ soft drinks to sweeten them. It’s important to read the back of packs of these drinks which clearly mention that these drinks are not recommended for children. They are not good for adults either. Consumers need to be educated about the ill effects of aspartame.
Shunya Fizz is the only fizzy drink that offers the same great tasting fizz but with zero calories, zero sugar and artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Shunya Fizz has no preservatives, no caffeine, no artificial colours & flavours - unlike its contemporaries. With Shunya Fizz we have gone a step ahead.
With ARMR, we have created a whole new category — the all-herbal, anti-hangover shot. The R&D team made dozens of attempts over two years to formulate the perfect blend and it took us two years of hard work and some heavy night-outs (only for testing purposes, of course!) before we landed on the magical potion that we call ARMR, pronounced as Armour.
ARMR shots are clinically proven to help prevent hangovers. All you have to do is drink a shot of ARMR before your first alcoholic drink. ARMR let’s you enjoy your night like you would normally do but it helps you wake up fresh the next morning.
So far we have largely seen anti-hangover products in the form of ‘pills’, which to my mind is too medicinal. Plus their efficacy is questionable. We have packaged ARMR in a 60 ml shot glass and the consumers are thoroughly enjoying the experience. Be it at house parties or right at the bar counters, ARMR shots fit in seamlessly. Made from 15 powerful herbs, ARMR is also far more effective than a pill.
An anti-hangover shot coming from Ayurveda is quite interesting…
If you have never had a hangover, chances are you have never had alcohol. Passive mornings after a night out are never fun. This holds true for most as they grow wiser (read older)! The good news — your drinking habits become better with age. The bad news—the hangovers only get worse! I have seen young energetic members in my team get sluggish on days when they battle a hangover. I confess, at times I was one of them. This gave me the impetus to dig deep into Ayurveda, find an effective solution to prevent hangovers.
What are the kinds of changes you have bought on the products' front?
Product development is a continuous process for us and we have set up a state-of-the-art beverage innovation centre. Since something like this has never been done before it requires constant re-calibration of the formulation and processes at the plant. We believe in strong consumer feedback and with every batch that we produce, the feedback is improving significantly. Our innovation centre is also working on developing new products and we feel probiotic drinks are going to gain good traction in the near future.
What has been your biggest takeaways/learning from your company’s success story? What is your vision?
I wish to offer products to the masses and not just classes. I am happy with the progress we have made so far. In less than a year we’ve created a robust distribution infrastructure in the major cities of India. With Shunya and ARMR, we have covered all channels across general trade, modern trade, HORECA, institutions and even organised pharmacy chains. We are available online on all major portals and sales are growing at a rapid pace.
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