This is K Vaitheeswaran, one of the co-founders of the pioneer e-commerce company Fabmall. Some of you will remember the article we wrote about him in 2019, shortly after Cafe Coffee Day’s VG Siddhartha took his own life. We wrote about how Vaitheeswaran almost did the same on New Years Day six years earlier, when IndiaPlaza, another e-commerce company he founded after leaving Fabmall, ran out of money and salespeople and employees had come to threaten him and his family. He told us how he battled his depression and his inner demons.
Well, not only has he done it successfully, but he’s also now back to doing… guess what… yes, another business!
He created four flavors of low-fat, nutritious milk and yogurt drinks, no refined sugar, no preservatives, and no artificial colors or flavors; they do not require refrigeration and have a shelf life of 90 days. He says no FMCG company in the world has achieved this with a drink. The patent office in India agrees and granted it a patent on it.
Food products must either contain preservatives or be refrigerated to have a long shelf life. In India, sustainable refrigeration is almost impossible, considering electricity issues and costs. Vaitheeswaran, with his wife and a friend, experimented with different combinations of fruits, vegetables, milk and yogurt in their kitchen, came up with combinations they liked, and then worked with Thinking Forks, a food R&D company based in Bengaluru, to develop drinks that could last. at least 90 days without refrigeration. The brand, Again, was launched in 2019 and Vaitheeswaran is currently developing new flavors. “Product innovation is really a challenge and getting a product patent is like the holy grail,” he says.
After the IndiaPlaza disaster, Vaitheeswaran stayed away from startups. “People have come to me with suggestions for e-commerce, AI. But I had lost my energy, ”he says. When things fail in India, the entrepreneur takes full responsibility, although many others, including investors, are involved.
One day, Sandeep Thakran, a partner of his at Fabmall, told him that his son’s French tennis coach had suggested nutritious drinks and India had none. Most contained too much sugar, cold-pressed juices had no fiber. And he asked Vaitheeswaran to look at the space. Vaitheeswaran said if this was something that had never been done before and had a social impact, he would consider it. It was then that the culinary experiences began, with almonds, cashews, dates, cardamom, honey, strawberry, chocolate, jaggery, carrot, orange, banana, mango, milk and yogurt.
“The best FMCG and dairy experts have told me it can’t be done. It energized us, ”says Vaitheeswaran. Thinking Forks founder Rinka Banerjee, who had worked in food R&D, including at Unilever, for more than two decades, was a perfect partner. A number of friends, including former Fabmall partners, came in as angel investors.
Many reviews of Again on Amazon aren’t great. Vaitheeswaran says Indians have three levels of taste: if it’s sweet, it’s tasty; very sweet is very tasty; and very, very sweet is delicious. “Our target segment is different, we want those who are looking for healthy drinks,” he says. It is a category that is small, but growing rapidly.
Is he afraid that an IndiaPlaza will happen again? “I’m more careful now. Entrepreneurs think with their hearts, professional CEOs think with their minds. I hope I will reflect with my mind when the need arises, ”he said.