During the lockdown in 2022, brothers Sharan and Nishant Kriplani established Sober & Co. These young siblings, discovered that drinking alcohol straight up became monotonous. Making cocktails at home seemed to take a lot of time, so they thought of the term "cocktail mixer." Although starting a company similar to "Sober & Co." was never their goal, they eventually became aware of a sizable gap in the market as other brands entered it with somewhat haphazard and conventional flavors.
At this point, Sober & Co., a brand of ready-to-drink beverages & mixers was launched by them. Sober & Co. is a versatile drink that can be poured straight from the bottle or mixed and stirred with different kinds of other stiff drinks. To know about this RTD beverage brand, we have done an exclusive interview with one of the founder of Sober & Co. Mr. Sharan Kriplani.
1) Tell us more about Sober & Co., and what inspired the name?
Sober & Co is India’s first flavoured carbonated cocktail mixer brand. The brand originated out of Kolkata with a small manufacturing unit with a production capacity of 250 bottles per day. We launched in 6 exciting flavours which were never tested before in the Indian market and sold our first bottle on the 16th of February 2022. Some of our best sellers are the Carribean punch, a sweet concoction of cranberries and blue curaçao, the Australian sour and the Goan Mule. The name of the flavours were derived from the origin of the hero ingredient of that particular flavour. For instance the Australian sour uses green apple which is predominantly grown in Australia.
While deciding the name of the flavours were easy as it depended on the ingredients being used, coming up with a name of the brand was quite a challenge. We wanted a name that was easy to understand pronounce and catchy. Our Eureka moment occurred when we realised that all of these flavours were just as amazing on its own as it was with their preferred spirit. So, in order to position ourselves as a ready to drink beverage and a cocktail mixer brand, we named it “Sober & Co.”
2) How did you succeed given that you lack prior industry knowledge?
Our first goal while setting up Sober & Co. was to create a superior product. So we started our research to understand what comprises a superior product. Having no preservatives or colour in your beverage is now an industry standard and not a unique proposition. So we had to figure out our USP that would disrupt the beverage market in India.
We observed that the Indian beverage market had similar flavours across different brands. Ingredients such as orange, mango, and lime were used a lot more which had now commoditised the market. So we moved forward using exotic ingredients such as Jalapeños, Tabasco, Kokum, Rosemary and a few more to create superior flavours that were hard to replicate in the market. Moreover, we ensured that no sugar was added which would set up apart as all the other cocktail mixer brand blatantly state adding sugar to enhance their flavour on the back of their label. This allowed us to create a superior product in terms of flavour while keeping health benefits in check.
No sum it up, I believe ‘product is king’. In order to survive in such a competitive market, it is the product that eventually sells. There is no marketing strategy that can last a lifetime or force a consumer to buy something that they don’t like to consume.
Founders Nishant Kriplani & Sharan Kriplani
3) What obstacles and challenges did you encounter both during the launch and since then?
The biggest obstacle we faced being in the beverage industry was meeting the suppliers Minimum Order Quantities (MOQ). At launch, we wanted to understand whether or not we have product market fit and did not want to commit to such quantities as a lot of capital would then get blocked. We had to order in smaller quantities at a higher cost which increased our Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). Profit margins were slim at the beginning but that was our best way forward keeping some budget aside for marketing activities and salaries. As we spread across markets and sales increased, we eventually could meet these quantities allowing us to operate at higher margins going forward.
Having crossed all teething issues, our biggest challenge now is to compete with MNC’s that have huge marketing budgets. Aligning our funds and planning out our marketing strategies will now be our biggest challenge till we raise some funds.
4) What are you innovating in the highly competitive beverage industry?
I think it is very important to keep innovating flavour combinations going forward. This is something that we have successfully done in the past, all our 6 flavours are unique.