Sowkea Enterprises' healthy coconut-based alternatives to aerated drinks

The company will soon register itself on Flipkart and Amazon.

MUMBAI: Eating healthy is only just picking up in India. When thirsty we grab a can of cola and not water. People are not aware of healthier options available to them because it's easy to get something from the street vendor.

This led RB Sivakumar to start  Sowkea Enterprises in 2019. The Tamil Nadu-based startup has an alternative for aerated drinks. Sowkea’s objective is to provide consumers farm-fresh tender coconut water, grated coconuts, and other coconut-related products. The intention is to get the right coconuts from the right farms which will benefit farmers and consumers alike.

Sowkea Enterprises is promoted by Vignesh Polymers, a leading player in South India in the manufacturing of injection moulding components. Sivakumar is a first-generation entrepreneur who belongs to an agricultural family.

In a conversation with Sowkea Enterprises CEO RB Sivakumar said: “Venturing into the agro-industry has been a passion of mine for a very long time as it relates to my roots. Moreover, social entrepreneurship is of utmost importance in the current and future scenario. It must be carried out to give back to the strength of our country’s farmers. Having delved into the manufacturing industry for the last 15 years, I felt I needed to give back to society, the country and our aforementioned strengths. Sowkea was started with the same ideology in mind and will forever be embedded with such principles of doing well.”

The company has around 1000 individual customers as of now; these customers include individuals, educational institutions such as schools and colleges, IT companies, luxury hotels, hospitals, and other companies.

“Sowkea had tied up with large coconut farms in and around Pollachi on a long term basis for the best quality coconuts. Last month I was invited to Kerela by the Coconut Development Board to meet coconut farmers. Farmers initially did not agree to the innovation as they did not feel it would be a success. After we explained to them about my agricultural background along with my technical knowledge, they were convinced to help us. We paid them an advance for one year andnone farmer’s approval paved the way for encouraging various other farmers and soon, we had a group of farmers willing to supply us,” Sivakumar further added.

Consumers based out of Chennai can order coconut cans directly through the Sowkea app.

The company is currently participating in Gulfood 2020 being held in Dubai. Apart from India, Sowkea is trying to tap the Middle East market. It has already launched Sowkea Halo Elaneer in Oman and Qatar.

Sowkea a self-funded start-up with around 20 employees. This year the company’s agenda is to concentrate on vending machines and exports.

Sivakumar said: “We have started promotions in South India. Slowly we will launch products in Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad. We also conceived the idea of using vending machines to increase the reach of our product for this very reason. Soon these machines will be available at public places, hospitals, bus and railway stands.  The machines can be operated by cash or card.”

Sowkea has spent around Rs 6 crore in the development, manufacturing, and advertising of the product. To make Sowkea Halo Elaneer reach every consumer the company will soon register itself on Flipkart and Amazon. Halo Elaneer has been priced in the ex-factory format of Rs 40, Rs 45 and Rs 50.

As per Sivakumar the major challenges were to procure good quality tender coconuts and to identify custom made specialised machinery to make this innovation come true. R&D was done for more than a year.

Sivakumar concludes the conversation by saying, “We have a group of farmers who supply to us throughout the year during all seasons. Fixed pricing has been given to them throughout the year, regardless of peak or off seasons so that the farmers can sustain efficiently.”

Directly buying produce was the long-felt need of farmers. Direct procurement from farmers can go a long way. It helps marginal farmers to derive benefit throughout the year.

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