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[Startup Bharat] How this Punjab-based beverage startup is betting on traditional Indian flavours

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Founded by three cousins – Saurabh Munjal, Saurabh Bhutna and Nikhil Doda – in 2017, Archian Foods was started with a vision to introduce better-tasting, category-defining ‘desi’ drinks in India, targeting both rural and urban markets.

Realising that there are hardly any organised players in the homegrown/desi drink segment, barring the top two to three players, the Mohali-based startup launched its brand Lahori.

Speaking about the brand, Saurabh Munjal, CEO and Co-founder of Lahori, tells YourStory,

“Since our entire product line is inspired by Indian kitchen and street food of this country, we wanted to keep a traditional name for our drinks. Besides the key ingredient in most of our flavours is rock salt, another name for Lahori. That is how the name ‘Lahori’ came into being.”

The curated range of beverages that claim to be packed with natural ingredients is available in four ready-to-drink variants – Zeera, Nimboo, Kacha Aam, and Shikanji.

Lahori – drink variants

The inception

“While a few may choose artificially flavoured drinks, natural drinks are still hard to beat,” quotes Saurabh Munjal.

“Nikhil Doda and his family have homegrown culinary skills. Nikhil has always tried to experiment with drinks made from the ingredients at home – spices available in the kitchen,” he adds. 

In one such instance, he got Saurabh Munjal and Saurabh Bhutna to taste the Zeera drink, and they thought that it definitely had the potential to be sold commercially. The three got together and started operations on a small scale in 2017.

They started with a capacity of producing about 96,000 bottles a day. Currently, the startup has the manufacturing capability of making 1.2 million bottles a day. 

“Our state-of-the-art manufacturing unit is fully-automated, spread across 160 thousand sq ft in Roopnagar, Punjab where almost 1.2 million bottles are packed daily. We are proud to have a dedicated green belt of more than two acres of land to replenish natural groundwater. We strive to maintain the quality by not only meeting our own SOPs but also keeping up with the global standards,” claims Munjal.

He states that in about two to three months, that they will double the capacity to 2.5 million bottles/day.

The team

With an overall team size of 300 members (190 members on rolls with 110+ contractual labourers), Saurabh Munjal looks at finance and overall strategy, along with working on branding and marketing functions. Nikhil (CPO) looks after product, R&D, and distribution strategies, and also oversees the sales teams. Meanwhile, Saurabh Bhutna (COO) looks at the operations and has the production, quality and HR team under him at the plant.

Lahori Co-founders( L:R) Nikhil Doda(CPO), Saurabh Munjal (CEO), Saurabh Bhutna(COO)

Business model and traction

The non-alcoholic beverage industry in India is growing at a phenomenal rate and is expected to exceed $18+ billion by 2026, as per Mordor Research. The Indian market currently remains underpenetrated with low per capita consumption at about 5.5 litres per annum, despite the population size vis-à-vis the per capita consumption in the US, which is estimated to be at least 20x higher.

In India, given that the majority of the population resides in Tier II and III cities, price points have been a critical aspect in penetrating the markets and building a brand with customer loyalty. 

Lahori’s 160 ml variant is priced at Rs 10 per bottle with a shelf life of three months, but stays on the shelf for just a day or two, claims Munjal.

Its SKU’s include Zeera (including a stevia-based variant), Nimboo (both in carbonated and non-carbonated variant), Shikanji, Imli Banta, and KachaAam.

The products are sold in the northern part of the country, with deep penetration in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, and western parts of UP. Additionally, pilots have been conducted in over eight states. The drinks are sold through 500+ distributors across 4,000-5,000 kirana stores.

“It is a negative working capital business – the products are sold on an advance basis – that speaks volumes about the traction and brand recall of Lahori,” states Nikhil.

YS Design team

With revenue of Rs 80 crore generated in FY21, Lahori is on track to reach Rs 250 crore net revenue in FY22 and plans to reach Rs 1,000 crore in the next three years.

Funding and way ahead

In January this year, the brand raised $15 million in funding from Belgium-based consumer-focused investor Verlinvest for an undisclosed minority stake. Lahori said it will use the funds to double down on its brand’s growth through offline and online expansion, and will also enhance its national presence in retail chains.

Speaking of competitions, Munjal adds, “Amongst competitors, we feel with the kind of offerings we provide, we are the only ones. Having said that, in the non-alcoholic beverage space, there are only three players — ie Coke, Pepsi and Parle Agro — which are operating in an organised manner.”

Speaking of the future plans, Saurabh Munjal says the brand plans to cover the entire northern part of the country within this year itself. However, they have to tackle some challenges first.

“Freight is a bottleneck for us. We can’t manufacture something in Punjab and then sell it in Maharashtra because freight is very high. It makes the pricing economically unviable and hence we’ve gotten the funding to expand our reach by setting up plants in several parts of the country. Over the next two to three years, we plan to make our product go national by having a plant somewhere in the west as well as in the east. That’s the plan to make Lahori a national brand,” he adds.

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Dune: Awakening is an open world survival MMO

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Dune: Awakening made its debut at The Game Awards as an open world survival massively multiplayer online game.

The game from Funcom and Nukklear looks beautiful, full of very detailed imagery of the desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. The game asked for beta signups, but we got no other information. Survival is the key word. Dune is a very deadly world, with sandworms and an unforgiving climate.

You can see places in the trailer like the city of Arakeen by day and night, as well as desert biomes and more. It’s not clear when it is coming. With luck, it will be close to the second Dune movie coming in late 2023.

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Rumors confirmed, Street Fighter 6 kicks off in June 2023

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Fighting Game fans are excited now that Capcom announced that Street Fighter 6 is coming to PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S and PC on June 2, 2023. The game was initially announced in February 2022, but that reveal did not include a specific release date beyond 2023.

The trailer at The Game Awards focused on new mini games and the international setting. In addition to the 18 previously announced fighter, the trailer also confirms that several new fighters — Dee Jay, Manon, Marisa and JP — that will join the game’s roster.

Notably, the June 2 release date for Street Fighter 6 may be a strategic choice for Capcom. June is the very beginning of Q3.

The last installment of the franchise — Street Fighter V — released nearly seven years ago so fans have been eager for another installment. A day before The Game Awards, the game’s June release date was leaked via the PlayStation Store.

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5 Things to Do Now to Propel Your Business in 2023

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurship is a daily leap of faith. In times of economic uncertainty, that leap may feel like a dive off a cliff. We are in one of those times. It likely will take months to fully re-adjust to the forces that have pummeled the world’s economy, and to entrepreneurs, months can feel like years.

With the right playbook, entrepreneurs can survive and thrive in whatever economic scenario. Here are five things you can do to propel your business ahead now and through the difficulties of business cycles for years to come.

1. Learn the lessons of more challenging times

A rocky economy presents a unique opportunity to make tough decisions about the business plan. Everything is open to reexamination. How has the market changed? Are your customers facing challenges that create new opportunities for your solutions? How do new conditions change your assumptions, and what actions do you need to take in response?

Critically evaluate your product roadmap. Is this the time to pivot or become more aggressive with your current plans? Prioritize the highest margin features that are achievable in the next twelve months. Push out projects that don’t make that list, and re-assign resources accordingly. Re-assess pricing. Even as inflation tiptoes back from the highest levels in forty years, raw material and transportation costs remain way up. What will impact your customers if you adjust the pricing or add surcharges to offset these costs, at least temporarily?

It’s been a rough year for hiring. Many companies took the talent they could get. If there are employees or gig workers who would fare better in a different job, now is the time to let them go. Make tough-minded corrections that will pay off overall — corrections that might be avoidable in less challenging times.

Related: How to Turn Inflation and Recession into Your Largest Business Opportunity

2. Tighten your grip on cash

Venture capitalists are pulling back. In the third quarter, Crunchbase reported that funding for startups in U.S. and Canada fell 50% year-over-year. Valuations are down across the board. If you are fortunate enough to be a later-stage startup that benefited from VC largess in 2021, make your last raise last longer than intended.

Keep your dry powder dry, and put off going for another round until the markets even out. Reemphasize the basics for early-stage companies with less market validation and greater distance between now and a potential exit. Delay all capital expenditures. Leverage the hybrid work model if possible, to reduce rent and other office expenses. Continue with Zoom or Google Meet. Now is not the time to rack up travel costs. Re-negotiate fees and terms with service providers. Seek credit terms with key suppliers, in a word, bootstrap.

3. Talk to customers, in person. Now.

How have the business needs of your customers — whether paying or beta — changed over the last 18 months? Are there benefits to your solution that have more recognized value now? Nearly every business, for example, from corporates to startups, has been forced to re-learn the lessons of supply chain management. Startups that can help their customers make better business decisions based on artificial intelligence (AI), reduce costs by improving inventory management or protect against out-of-stock scenarios by identifying and building relationships with new, more local sources of supply will have an edge.

Related: Finding Validation in Serving Customers

4. Non-dilutive capital

According to PitchBook, venture capitalists are showing greater interest in portfolio companies “whose satellite, robotics and software tools can do double duty” in military and commercial markets. International conflicts are one reason, of course.

Another is that the defense and military security industries are generally viewed as recession-proof. Our firm routinely encourages portfolio companies to consider non-dilutive funding from the Small Business Administration — grants to support cutting-edge technologies range from $150,000 to more than $1 million.

Navigating the application process isn’t for the faint of heart. A startup must be realistic about the work involved, but in many states, there are resources to help. Besides the funding, severe responses to agency requests for proposals are reviewed and evaluated by technologists. At a minimum, this can be terrific feedback and a great source of industry contacts.

5. Blue-chip cultures attract blue-chip talent

Company culture can be an asset or a liability. An inclusive, rich culture helps key hires say yes. Finding stakeholders that believe what you believe and are aligned with your team’s values significantly improves the odds that they will stick with you in good times or bad.

After months of “great resignation” fever, the over-heated demand for talent may be cooling off. Maybe offers aren’t as fast or grand as they were a year ago. Maybe Twitter won’t be the only advanced technology business to let people go. Regardless, the search for great talent isn’t a faucet that a young company turns off and on. A startup might modulate the timing or the number of hires but stand at the ready to recruit and filter for culture fit.

Related: 3 Ways to Stay Competitive in the War for Talent

With the right mindset and intentional approach, an entrepreneur can make 2023 a year to strive and thrive. As Yogi Berra, my favorite baseball player of all time, said, “Swing at the strikes.” In business, like baseball, the right swing can turn even the most challenging pitch into a hit.

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URGENT: CYBER SECURITY UPDATE