Yogesh Valaulikar, Managing Director of UAE-based Aqua de Fonte, elaborates on the brand’s success mantra and what helped them tide through the pandemic
As a packaged drinking water brand what is Aqua de Fonte’s USP?
Aqua de Fonte is a youthful and energetic brand targeted at the urban middle class. This is best represented by the vibrant colours of the brand logo which signify the youthful energy of Aqua de Fonte. Since the brand launch in 2017, Aqua de Fonte has created a niche for itself over the last three years and won customer loyalty because of its quality, taste, consistency and smart packaging.
With the capacity and scale that we have created in the last one year along with an expanded distribution and logistics network, we witnessed tremendous growth. Starting with a capacity of 5,000 bottles per hour (BPH), our plant, housed in a state-of-the-art facility at Dubai Investment Park 2 (DIP 2) we have now reached 30,000 BPH. Our plant compares with the best in class internationally in terms of efficiency and hygiene.
What are your takeaways from 2020?
Water being an essential commodity, the industry was relatively insulated from the impact of a pandemic induced lockdown. Furthermore, more customers started opting for bottled water on hygiene grounds and this kept the demand firm despite other Covid related challenges. The UAE Government has also been supportive to small business enterprises such as ours and ensured that we were least impacted and able to serve our customers efficiently. The pandemic has had a positive impact on sales and we saw our brand gaining substantial mileage during the last six months. We even promoted the brand at various sporting events such as IPL, lending the brand substantial visibility.
How did you rally your team during this critical phase?
We have a 65-member team at Aqua de Fonte. Since an extended lockdown was not enforced, we didn’t have to resort to cost saving measures such as pay cuts. Despite the covid related challenges, our team rallied to ensure our operations continued uninterrupted.
Drinking water solutions are constantly evolving in terms of packaging, what are your views?
Packaging does play an important role in creating customer appeal and new customer segments. We recently launched a 200 ml pet bottle which has become an instant hit. Due to extreme sensitivity to hygiene, people nowadays want to carry just the right volume of water in a bottle that can be used and discarded readily. New packaging solutions are also in the mix in the new year.
Any plans to broaden your product profile?
As Aqua de Fonte gains traction and brand equity, we will leverage this to launch new products in allied market and customer segments. For instance, responding to increased demand for hygiene accessories, we launched Aqua de Fonte brand of hand tissues just last week, and are drawing up plans to enter the fresh and natural juices segment next year. We are also strategising to get Aqua de Fonte to gain prominent shelf space in leading UAE supermarkets and hypermarkets. Our enhanced distribution fleet will also help us cater to a wider geography in the UAE and expand to other GCC countries. We are already official beverage partners of many A-league UAE hotels and will be expanding in this space.
More importantly, we have added leadership talent in our marketing and strategy team with experience in the B2C space, which will enable us to execute our brand growth. I can assure you that Aqua de Fonte will become the fastest growing bottled water brand in the UAE in the coming year.