Startup Startup Stories

This Brand Is Reinventing The Concept Of Paan In India

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What do you think of first when you hear the word ‘Paan’? Paan, for many, is associated unfavourably with the dirty habit of spitting in the open, stained teeth and is mostly male-dominated. It lacks acceptance and respect in many Indian households because of this. But did you know that Paan was once an accepted post-food delicacy enjoyed by many?

The Inception Story

To reduce bloating after meals, the founder of The Betel Leaf Co, Prem Raheja, was advised by his nutritionist to try Paan. After extensive research, he settled on a Paan, customised to suit his needs. It was tobacco-free and had ingredients not commonly used as they were expensive.

It didn’t take long for him to develop a taste of this Paan flavour or realise that Paan varies from shop to shop. Many shops in his vicinity used low-grade betel leaves and substandard ingredients. His excitement at this realisation sent him on a quest to revive the ancient Indian tradition of Paan as a wholesome Indian Dessert.

He shares, “After travelling to 11 Indian cities and tasting hundreds of Paan’s, I collected various ingredients across the country, did over 300 Paan trials with different permutations & combinations, and arrived at the proper recipe for the same product consistency as well. 

My goal was to reposition the Paan as a healthy dessert. I wanted to make it easily accessible to all, without having to stand at a Paan shop, and make Paan chewing a sophisticated activity while dispelling the notion that it is invariably associated with the offensive spitting.”

Betel Leaf Co. was launched in June 2019, followed by an online launch in different portals in July 2019. Naming the company ‘The Betel Company Co.” was straightforward as their main ingredient is Betel Leaf, and the brand is all about Paans.

A Paan That Is Good For You

The Betel Leaf Co. is India’s first online FSSAI-certified Paan delivery company selling 100% Non-Tobacco Paans and Paan-infused products. The Betel Leaf Co wants to show its clients the flexibility of Paan by bringing variety to the table.

The company uses premium betel leaves and condiments with its aim to variety and distinctively condition the Paans. They adhere to strict quality standards and precise recipes to retain the flavour and ensure product and taste consistency across all locations and cities. They are the leaders in creating the world’s first direct-to-consumer Paan business, all structured so that you, their customers, may enjoy the product from the comfort of your homes. The company is still at its nascent stage in its third year but has already sold 3 million Paans to date.

Paan And The Gender Bias Story

Payal Raheja, Co-Founder, The Betel Leaf Co. shares, “To bring back an age-old post-meal craving at the convenience of your home, breaking the taboo of its consumption predominantly by men and making it easily accessible to women.”

The company is known for its brilliant Paan-infused chocolate bars, Betel Leaf Teas, and Paan blended Ice Creams innovations. Their decision to bring Paan home to customers was born out of the desire to break the discomfort a woman faced while purchasing Paan traditionally, owing to the way it was sold.

The brand boasts of a market of 66% women led in their direct-to-customer segment of the business. They have been successful in shifting the gender dynamics of the Paan industry from a male-dominated to a female-dominated industry.

From Ideation To A Functional Business; The Journey Thus Far

With the world in the throes of a hard-hitting pandemic, The Betel leaf Co. was created for easy accessibility to this favourite Indian post-meal delicacy looking to revolutionise the concept of a dessert. The brand’s extensive market research led to the conclusion that although Paan was loved by many, it did not enjoy its share of respect. There was a lack in quality; they were sold in unsanitary environments without proper packaging and were not easily available.

At its inception, the brand acquired substantial funding, and plans are on to re-assess another funding in December 2022. Within this timeframe, they will hit the milestone of 50 stores and re-evaluate their employee base. The Betel Leaf Co. has 25 stores and a 60–70-member team. They plan on serving Paan through 35 dark kitchens across 13 cities by Diwali 2022.

By December 2022, round off the number of dark kitchens to 50 in 15 cities. These cities include Ahmedabad, Indore, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Surat, Nasik, and Baroda. The Betel Leaf Co. is creating a niche product in the industry which may lead to the company becoming one of the few unicorn start-ups.

Why Choose The Betel Leaf Co.?

The brand is based in Bengaluru and is attempting to reinvent Paan with a variety of clever 100% tobacco-free flavours ranging from exotic coffee to mango coated to red velvet. You are spoilt for choice with its nearly 45 varieties: chocolate, coffee, fruity, ice cream, or cognac-flavoured Paans. While the original Paan offers a typically refreshing aftertaste, the flavour-infused Paans are primarily meant to meet post-dinner demands of a characteristic cuisine you enjoy.

Magai Meetha is a best-seller because the leaf used is authentic and is sourced from different parts of India. The company credits the popularity of Magai Meetha to the quality of the Magai leaf, which gives a distinctive flavour to the Paan. A knowledgeable consumer can differentiate these leaves from the substitute and cheaper leaves that have entered the market. It has been seen that more youthful customers enjoy unique flavours like coffee, cherry pineapple, cognac, and Tiramisu, to name a few.

Also read: This Gender-Neutral Product Range Is Shattering Gender Bias

The Betel Leaf Co. offers the world’s first Paan-infused chocolate bars in four different flavours; Betel Dark Coffee Chocolate Bar, Betel Dark Mint Chocolate Bar, Betel Milk Chocolate Bar & Betel Dark Chocolate Bar. This comes as a deconstructed Paan sandwiched in between 2 slim chocolate Slabs.

The Betel Leaf Co. is setting the benchmark high and is unafraid of pushing boundaries. They’ve introduced the world’s first organic healthy tea from 100% betel leaf. Betel leaf is known for its health benefits like soothing gut inflammation, reducing bloating, improving digestion, improving oral health, reducing bad cholesterol, and so on. The consumer just needs to add hot water to the dried leaves before consumption.

Product Pricing And Highest Selling Product

The paan at Betel Leaf Co. is priced at Rs.180 for a packet of 4, while the chocolate bars are priced at Rs.200 for a 100-gm chocolate bar. During the pandemic, intending to bring back the age-old tradition of Paan chewing at the customer’s doorstep, they introduced celebration hampers for occasions and gifting purposes ranging from Rs.499 to Rs.799.

Some of their best-selling paans are the Calcutta Meetha, Magai Meetha, Meenakshi Saada Chocolate coated Paan & Coffee flavoured Paan and Tiramisu Meetha. Constantly innovating, they’ve added several new flavours to help consumers fulfil their post-meal cravings based on the kind of meal cuisine that the consumer had.

Take A Look At Their Business Insights

The brand’s target audience is every consumer with post-meal cravings ranging from children to adults, as all their products are 100% tobacco-free and pro-health. As a brand created 36 months ago, its customers are delighted with the product’s consistency and taste. The stress on delivering premium quality products propels customers to stay with the brand with a re-order persistency of close to 94%

The Betel Leaf Co. is operational across 11 cities and have very diversified demography of age and gender due to the comfort of ordering & delivering. They work with all the online food aggregators across India, including their delivery fleet. This ease in the transaction is owing to their channel partners as well.

Media Mix Used And Distribution Channel

The Betel Leaf Co. has a multi-prong approach to marketing and distribution with mainstream media, digital and print media, radio, and social media. Their mainstream media outreach includes Lifestyle, Hospitality, and Corporate/Business digital and print media. Their media mix includes various social media channels like Instagram and Facebook, a few celebrities, and lifestyle and food influencer partners.

The Betel Leaf Co. is a primarily D2C business. In its journey of over 36 months, the company has observed that of the 16000 orders placed each month, 3500 boxes are for Magai Meetha. Their typical order value has increased from one box, which is a pack of 4 Paans, to 2.2 boxes. This translates to an average order of 10-12 Paans per order. Owing to its high demand, Magai Meetha makes up around 30% of the orders.

It has separated its orders into three segments: the direct orders that come through the company’s website and WhatsApp account form 20% of all orders. Around 65% of orders come through online platforms due to the convenience of last-mile connectivity. Additionally, the brand has partnered with hotels and offline locations like five-star pubs and restaurants, generating roughly 10 to 15% of the revenue.

Tackling On-Ground & Other Challenges

Getting traditional and small-time Paan walas into a full-time employment mode, finding fresh people and teaching them the art of making Paans the Betel Leaf Co. way was an enormous challenge at the start. Another significant challenge is the need to bring in some automation in a vastly manual-driven sector.

The Betel Leaf Co. is a pioneer in doing paans in a proper kitchen, and they do that by hiring people to execute different functions. As a brand, they’re very conscious about using the right amount of ingredients and placing them on a small 3×3 or 3×5 leaf or holding the Paan in a particular way. This, they feel, adds to the USP of the brand.

Next, the brand had to ensure Paans were delivered the TBLC way. Staffing, job opportunities, and training were another challenge in this highly unregulated industry. As serial entrepreneurs and consumers, the founders put themselves in the customer’s shoes and only serve what they consume. The offered products are served the way they would like it served to them. And this is what differentiates The Betel Leaf Co. apart from the traditional Paan Walas.

Prem Raheja, Founder, The Betel Leaf Co. concludes by sharing, “Paan is an inseparable part of the Indian food cycle which was lost due to modernisation and adulteration. We are on a mission to bring it back to every household with the true benefits of consuming Paan while dispelling the notion that it is invariably associated with the offensive spitting.”

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