Story of Paper Boat: A nostalgic walk down the memory lane

The piece aims to understand the emotional story of Paper Boat. The brand is selling memories more than it is selling products. Before we start, take a look at the ad below, it will help you set a context for the story that is to come.

Emotional, isn’t it? They’re making you live your memories!

Beginning of the emotional journey: The story of Paper Boat inception

In the year 2009, former Coca-cola executives Neeraj Kakkar, Suhas Misra, Neeraj Biyani along with James Nutall (a packaging industry professional in the U.S.) co-founded Hector Beverages. The parent company of Paper Boat. During early 2012, Nutall’s parents visited him in India. Nutall wanted to buy Aam Panna for them which his partner Suhas Misra used to bring from his home, to beat the summer heatwaves. But he was not able to find a single hygienic option apart from street vendors.

This unsatisfied ‘want’ gave birth to the idea of selling hygienically packaged traditional Indian-drinks. And hence, Paper Boat was born in August 2013 by Hector Beverages. Their tagline aptly sums what they do. They sell “Drinks and Memories”. The brand is backed by Sequoia Capital, Belgian investor Sofina, and Hillhouse Capital.

How did Paper Boat manage to scale so fast?

Disposable income and concern for health have been rising factors for the Indian Market. These drivers have had a direct impact on Indian fruit juice. Fruit Juices enjoy about 30% of the market share based on product type and are likely to be the fastest-growing segment. This market is expected to grow at CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 17.1% by 2030.

With that being said, the market is highly competitive with giants like Dabur holding almost 55% of the share of the market. It became imperative for Paper Boat to stand out. And so, they focused not only on the functional benefits of fruit juices: good health, low sugar, etc. But also on the emotional benefit. In fact, they made it their priority and differentiation factor. Paper Boat chose nostalgia to create emotional appeal, visible from their tagline “Drinks and Memories”. The brand believed in ‘making people taste memories’. From their ethnic-flavoured Indian drinks to simple messages on their packaging, it created a strong connection with its audience evoking nostalgia, taste, and good health in every sip.

The 4P’s of Paper Boat

Let’s talk about each of these in detail.

Related: 4P's of Marketing.
Product

Initially, the brand only launched two flavours viz. Aamras and Jaljeera. The typical drinks you’d consume during your childhood. A real delight for the folks who spent their childhood in the 1960s. The brand then went on to launch 14 different variants in the ethnic drinks category. It has also added milk-based beverages to its portfolio and very recently, has started selling traditional Indian sweet ‘Chikki’.

All of this, with an aim to produce its products without any added preservatives. Just like our mother.

Portfolio of Paper Boat
Packaging

The products are packaged in the pear-shaped flexible pouch called Doypack. This gives a unique identity to the brand vs its competitors. The packaging is made up of layers containing paper, foil, and HSL (heat seal lacquers). The spout pouches have the same design; exceptions are there for limited edition pouches. For larger quantities (1L), Tetra Prisma packs are used.

It also has a witty and quirky one-liner at the bottom of its pouches, which adds a touch of personalisation. Take a look at the image below, it is like the brand is directly talking to you. This helped them with the word-to-mouth, and achieve a 71% revenue growth in FY18.

Distribution

Paper-Boat has a “no-questions-asked” return policy. It ensures their retailers always stock the fresh of the products and it very often refund them in full in case of returns. In this way, they were able to win over their channel partners. On the other hand, its competitors returned only a percentage of the order amount. Also, Paper Boat’s ‘insurance’ cover on returns ensured that its Aam Panna, Gol Gappa, and Aam Ras beverages adorned every retailer’s shelf.

You see, when sellers love your product, they will naturally recommend it more to the consumers. And, the fact that their retailers are in fact their audiences only added a cherry on top of the cake.

Pricing

Paper Boat follows a differential pricing model. That is, they sell same product for different prices at different places and hence cater to all segments. Currently, the drinks are priced at Rs 30 for a 250 ml pack and Rs.80-100 for a 1L pack. In the stores like D Mart, there are discounts available on the individual packs while for e-commerce platforms (like Amazon.com), discounts are available for bulk purchases (6packs).

Related: Psychology of Pricing

If you closely analyse their numbers, they’re either same or lower than their other competitors, like Dabur. The reason they’re selling 250 ml packs is simple, they want to penetrate in the market. Smaller packs induce trials of various flavors, helps the consumer to understand their flavours.

Promotion

Paper Boat has a strong presence on social media with compelling digital marketing campaigns. Like we mentioned at the start, they’re selling memories, they have to show it to the consumers that they do. Their Facebook, Instagram campaigns showcases illustrations celebrating childhood memories, the brand’s Instagram page uses doodles, visual stories and creative projects to tell the Paper Boat story.

This is how colorful their Social media handles are – with cool captions

Paper Boat’s television advertising campaign consisted of a series of simple, evocative ads that reflected the brand idea of childhood nostalgia. The ads were set to an adaptation of the music of RK Narayan’s iconic Malgudi Days. The one below connects so well with you:

Renowned poet and lyricist Gulzar penned and narrated the debut campaign for the brand, while the latter campaign was written by lyricist Swanand Kirkire. What’s more, the brand talks about things that were exclusive to your childhood. For example the “Can you hear this picture” below.

A range of short films were released apart from television ads, celebrating childhood memories and nostalgia. These short films aimed at bringing out the child in everyone. Take a look at a few of these:

The next came the “Hum Honge Kamyab” campaign:

The #FloatABoat campaign

The campaign aimed towards donating Rs. 20 to NGO Parivar for every image of a Paper Boat shared, demonstrated by the child below.

In 2016 Paper Boat decided to do something interesting. Something that would directly connect with millions of hearts. Paper Boat released “Rizwan – Keeper of the Gates of Heaven”. The film depicts the story of an old man named Rizwan who recalls his childhood. This walk down the memory lane is a celebration of innocence, bravery and love. The use of animation, narration, and strong characterization told a strong emotional tale.

As an extension of its marketing campaign, Paper Boat has also ventured into book publishing, reprinting classics like The Jungle Book. What we personally love about the brand is their candid nature. Here’s one example that we personally loved.

The sail ahead

Paper-Boat’s communication is interesting and different, but it is a niche, which is good as an early entry strategy. If a brand wants to appeal to a slightly larger mass, it cannot remain niche for long. We can see they’re coming out with new flavours to expand their product portfolio.

Paper boat products are available across all the major cities of India. Its international markets are in Dubai, Malaysia, UK and USA. The majority of consumers in these countries are of Indian origin. The company is now focusing on its direct distribution in Tier-II, III cities and rural markets while working on new strategies to increase its revenue amid sluggish sales in the FMCG sector.

The emotional differentiation will keep the brand afloat for long.

Related: Take a look at the Mondelez India's story
Author

The piece is written and researched by Emad Rashid, the edits have been made by the Casereads editorial team. If the brand touched you like it touched us, share it with your best friend on WhatsApp.

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