Energised potential: Indian start-up intent on shaking up country's energy supplement sector

By Cheryl Tay contact

- Last updated on GMT

The product contains botanical and herbal ingredients such as ashwagandha, safed musli, kaucha, amla, and green tea extracts.
The product contains botanical and herbal ingredients such as ashwagandha, safed musli, kaucha, amla, and green tea extracts.

Related tags: Energy drink, India, start-up

Functional beverage start-up Triquetrus Essentials is looking to fill India's energy supplement space, which its founder Rahul Manek says is "a wide space, with nobody currently occupying it".

Manek describes the Mumbai-based firm's aim as producing beverages for 'hardworking Indians', and is drawing on his experience as a private equity investor to drive its first launch, an energy supplement brand called FYRE.

But first, research

Manek's interest in energy-boosting supplements was piqued in South Africa, where he observed that drivers relied on energy gel sachets to keep them awake on long drives.

He realised such products were scarce in India, the energy drink segment was limited to sports drinks such as Gatorade and protein shakes, energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster, and hydration drinks such as Glucon-D.

He went on to research successful energy booster products in Japan, Thailand and the US, eventually sourcing up to 130 energy booster samples globally in different formats, including beverages, gels, shots, toffees and even chewing gum.

In addition to product research, he conducted his own consumer research by speaking to employees across a range of professions and industries, especially those whose work involved long hours, manual labour and / or public safety, such as truck drivers, food delivery staff, and Uber drivers.

Ayurveda​, affordability and accessibility

Manek decided the right move for Triquetrus Essentials would be to offer an affordable ayurvedic take on the standard energy drink, and thus developed FYRE Energy Booster, which is marketed as an "all-purpose ayurvedic formulation"​ .

Unlike the high levels of sugar and caffeine typical of energy drinks, the product contains botanical and herbal ingredients such as ashwagandha​, safed musli​, kaucha​, amla​, and green tea extracts.

The drink comes in 30ml single-serve shots, each sold at US$0.42 (Rs30), and is said to increase alertness and energy levels for about three to five hours.

It is also said to be the first energy shot product in India.

In addition to affordability, accessibility was crucial, as FYRE's target market consisted of office workers, delivery staff, university students, and drivers.

After a successful trial whereby samples of FYRE were made available in office canteens and pantries, the product is now sold in 120 corporate vending machines and 40 corporate canteens in Mumbai to cater to office workers, especially those who work long hours.

It is also stocked in 400 pharmacies in Mumbai, and available online at Amazon, Paytm and NetMeds, and will soon be sold in local retail outlets such as Big Bazaar and Reliance Mart.

Building the business

While he has taken some time to adjust to being contacted regularly by businesses seeking investments to having to convince retailers and distributors to take on his company's product, Manek has had the added challenge of convincing experienced industry professionals to join Triquetrus Essentials.

He told NutraIngredients-Asia​, "I started off on my own, but we are now a 12-member team and are continuing to slowly expand."

The core team comprises four people, each with considerable industry experience: R&D and NPD manager Ajay Pathade, operations lead Rupesh Tupe (formerly occupying the same position at Nature Pure Extracts), marketing and institutional sales lead Siddharth Shoot (former marketing head at Merck Consumer Health), and retail sales lead Pradeep Singh (former South India sales lead for P&G).

The US$500,000 funding from an angel investor last October — early on in the Triquetrus Essentials' conception — also provided the start-up a much-needed need boost.

Manek said, "Venture Catalysts was our angel investor. We had been looking for someone to fund our business and had spoken to a few potential investors, and eventually, Venture Catalysts showed the most interest in our vision."

The investment was headed by Venture Catalyst Angels, which included industry players such as Shaadi.com founder Anupam Mittal and Pidilite Industries founder Apurva Parekh.

Following the success of FYRE Energy Booster, Triquetrus Essentials recently launched its second product on Amazon under the FYRE brand — FYRE Energy Drink Mix, a powder meant to be mixed with liquid to create an energy drink.

The product comes in 4.5g sachets that contain a mere 2Kcal each, and is sold at US$0.28 per sachet. Unlike FYRE Energy Booster, however, it contains caffeine, taurine, and vitamins B3, B6 and B12.

Manek said, "In India, the energy supplement space is a wide space, with nobody currently occupying it, so our objective is to fill it with new and innovative products.

"Our focus remains on boosting energy, and we are looking at developing other delivery formats for FYRE, in addition to the current shot and powder sachet formats, including gels and chewing gum.

"We will also develop different types of energy-boosting products under the brand, be they herbal or non-herbal."

He is keen on capitalising on India's energy drink market, which analysts say is due for a CAGR growth of 9% between 2018 and 2023.

Furthermore, the country's ayurvedic market is projected to experience a CAGR growth of approximately 16% over the coming 10 years.

Despite FYRE Energy Booster being the first and only energy shot on the Indian market so far, Manek welcomes competition, saying it would benefit the market and consumers on the whole, and give Triquetrus Essentials added incentive to keep innovating.

There are also plans to expand to other parts of India, as well as overseas markets.

Manek said: "We are expanding our network in Mumbai, and we also want to bring our products to Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad and Delhi within the next year.

"Outside of India, we have received interest from exporters to Africa and Eastern Europe. We also see potential in South East Asia, especially in Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, and neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal."

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