Hyderabad: India is set to get its first indigenous “true health drink” by 2016, one that will have natural vitamins and minerals. Absolutely nothing artificial. The Indian government’s department of biotechnology recently approved “300 ml sample of the drink” and awarded a grant of Rs 50 lakh to Hyderabad-based bioprocess engineering graduates Arjun R. and Damini Mahajan to scale it up.
Arjun, 24, and Damini, 23, were among the youngest start-up contenders at this year’s Biotech Ignition Grant, held in New Delhi to promote innovation in the field of biotechnology. Damini tells us why the six judges fell for that one small bottle, “A judge told us, ‘If you give me something so good, which is healthy and tasty, I won’t stop at 300 ml’. There you go, how many health drinks are tasty?”
So, what makes their beverage “truly healthy”? Arjun, who graduated from the University of Sheffield with Damini last year, explains: “Fortified juices that you get in the market have artificial vitamins and minerals. So, the juice is made in one industry and later vitamins are added to it. Also, remember, these juices are mostly made from fruit concentrates and the vitamins and fibres are chemically-produced.”
And here’s what they do inside the lab at BITS-Pilani in Hyderabad, where their start-up Naturlich Global Beverages is incubated: “We are making the juice from cereals, by fermentation, much like beer. It has a refreshing fruity flavour, minus alcohol. We use a multiple strain fermentation formula and vitamins and minerals are the by-products of this process, produced naturally. We later remove microbes from the drink,” explains Damini, who hails from Jammu and Kashmir and first met Arjun during an internship at the city’s Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology.
And, as they wait for the grant to be released by the government and scale up the production to a thousand litre, the duo is working on another health drink, called Smoosh. “According to WHO, two meal portions out of five in a day should ideally be fruits. So, we blend in the right proportions of whole fruits into a 250 ml bottle. We retain the natural fruit fibers, which are usually removed. We have blends of watermelon-banana, pineapple-coconut water and sapodilla-sweetlime so far. They will be on the shelves in two months,” she says.