Do you remember the matka filled with kaali gaajar and rai (mustard) that would be placed on a three-legged stand in the neighbourhood? It would be left like that for a few days, and we’d all wait eagerly for the drink to be ready,” says Neeraj Kakkar, reminiscing about his childhood. Those who grew up in the northwestern part of the country have already guessed — the potion in question is kaanji, a spicy-tangy drink that made many a child’s springtime. “When was the last time your mother made kaanji?” he asks, and that leaves us thinking.
Kakkar, CEO at Hector Beverages, answers his own question: “The fact is, no one has the time to make that anymore, and it isn’t easily available in the market. Our traditional home beverages are becoming extinct,” he says in his next breath. And he is just the saviour we need.
“I am trying to get kaanji in a doypack for you guys soon,” he says. Kaanji (along with neer mor, sol kadi, panakkam and coconut water) is set to join the many regional drinks he has already revived — aamras, aam panna, jamun kala khatta, kokum, jaljeera, sattu, chilled rasam, tulsi tea, ginger lemon tea and golgappe ka paani. The drinks — some of which were at risk of fading from our collective memory — have been rescued by Paper Boat — a fitting name for Kakkar’s beverage brand.
Making its way
Paper Boat is navigating a market
dominated by bottled water and cola
Kakkar, along with Suhas Misra, Neeraj Biyani and James Nuttall founded Hector in Gurgaon in 2009. Kakkar, Misra and Biyani were Coca-Cola executives and so, knew the beverage market in and out. Kakkar left Coca-Cola to pursue his MBA from Wharton in 2008, where he met Nuttall, who joined Dow Chemicals after college. Of the four, Nuttall and Biyani are no longer with Hector.
Third time lucky?
Kakkar and his company Hector have put all their energy into Paper Boat. However, this isn’t their first beverage venture. Hector made its debut int