Ruchi Gupta, the co-founder, and CEO of Barneys comes from a Marketing and Branding background. Even after knowing nothing about the alcohol industry of India, her passion for mixed beverage flavors eventually led to the formation of Barneys, around two years ago. After working with several companies, the co-founder feels that Barneys has been the best learning experience for her and she has learned everything from finance to management through her company. Barneys is India’s first hard seltzer which has low calories and zero sugar added.
Team Sociobits connected with the CEO of Barneys to know more about the company and how are they giving party people one more drink to cheers:
Team Sociobits: Could you tell us a little about Barneys?
Ruchi Gupta: I would say that Barneys is about living life in a different way. At Barneys, we are trying to create a new drinking culture and experience in India by focusing on creating a low-calorie, zero-sugar hard drink. We noticed that post-COVID-19, people have become more health conscious. People who loved eating french fries as a snack are now choosing hummus with pita bread. This is the difference and so with respect to the calorie content and giving customers a premium experience, we are offering Barneys; seltzer water that can work as a very good alternative in the alcohol industry. In simple terms, seltzers are soda water with alcohol and flavors in them. It is prepared in the correct combination that makes you feel you are simply having a Redbull or a Pepsi and also gives you a hit or tipsiness because of the alcohol in it.
We have launched three unique combinations that you will not find anywhere globally; Apple Rose, Blueberry and Strawberry, and Lemon Grass and Grapefruit. These flavors have been created by researching and testing which flavor will suit the Indian palette and according to the global trends. Our seltzers have 6% alcohol content as we didn’t want to fall in the Bacardi Breezer category. In India, people tend to consume stronger alcohol so we were not looking to launch our product in the 4.8 – 5% range.
Team Sociobits: How has your journey been with Barneys?
Co-Founder: When we started ideating Barneys, we had no clue about making our product beyond one glass. We had to understand the basics of the industry because none of us (Ruchi and Gaurav) were from the alcohol industry. We only knew that we want to create Barneys and that we wanted to create seltzers. We started researching and talking to a lot of distilleries, units, and manufacturing houses. We did the blending and we still do it ourselves and for refining, a flavor house helped.
In the last two years, we have had immense learning because this time was not just about making the product but about launching the product. The alcohol industry is one of the most difficult industries to get into. It takes 6-8 months for the approval of licenses, and every state has its own set of rules. So, launching, positioning, pricing, and packaging, the product were extremely important. We emphasized the packaging too as we were very certain that we don’t want our products to be in glass bottles as our drinks are transparent and if we added color to it, people would have perceived it to be a “ladies’ drink”. We are the only IMFL product that is sold in a can.
We emphasized the packaging too as we were very certain that we don’t want our products to be in glass bottles as our drinks are transparent and if we added color to it, people would have perceived it to be a “ladies’ drink”. We are the only IMFL product that is sold in a can.
We launched our product in Goa and are now also available in Pondicherry, Telangana, UP, Delhi, Chandigarh, and also one international market, Australia.
Team Sociobits: Could you also point out the major challenge that you faced while founding the company?
Co-Founder: I think understanding the industry was a challenge for us. Every state has a different MRP and deciding the appropriate MRP was our first challenge. They also have different licenses like brand registration, label registration, renewals, applications, etc. It took us time to understand the basics. Also, taking care of legalities is very important in this industry. The alcohol industry contributes to a major extent to the country’s economy which is why entering it is a big challenge. There is a good chance that a person who is not from the alcohol industry and also lacks financial backing may get motivated then and there. This is why Angel Funds and VCs come into the picture.
Team Sociobits: Do you have any competitors?
Co-Founder: We have two big competitors globally, White Claw and Truly. They are ruling over the industry but locally, I would say that we don’t have any competitors but there are people trying to enter the industry. This includes seven brands out of which Budweiser is one and around 4-5 brands have already vanished. We wouldn’t call anyone our competitor until they set the market.
We are different from our Indian competitors because our products are placed in a different alcohol concentration category, and they also have distinguished packaging and combinations. Many of our competitors claim that they are seltzers but they add sugar in it and that negates the whole purpose of drinking a seltzer. Seltzers are supposed to be zero sugar and no calorie.
Many of our competitors claim that they are seltzers but they add sugar in it and that negates the whole purpose of drinking a seltzer. Seltzers are supposed to be zero sugar and no calorie.
Team Sociobits: What are the future plans of Barneys?
Co-Founder: After we get our licenses approved, we would like to enter Maharashta, Karnataka and Haryana. We would like to capture these three states and we are looking to launch three new flavors, out of which two will be available in the market from March 2023.
Around five to seven years down the line, I feel that Barneys should go global because people have a perception that Indian’s cannot make seltzers and we want to prove them wrong and to do that we want to go global. Also, in India, we would wish Barneys to rule the seltzer segment. There should be competitors for healthy competition as it is important that people understand this segment.
The name Barneys is inspired from the character ‘Barney Stinson’ of the American sitcom ‘How I Met Your Mother’. He was the perfect example that life is all about living in the moment or celebrating the little things in life and that’s what the company wants to do.