Meet Vaani VetriKo, Co-Founder at Neitiv

Neitiv’s mission is to reconnect our modern society to its natural roots by reintroducing eco-friendly and wholesome indigenous products from around the world. They are reviving and renewing ancient beverages and products in the hope of inspiring a more ethical and mindful way of life – one which nurtures appreciation for our earth and nature. Thus, implanting inner peace within us all.

 

Vaani neitiv
Vaani VetriKo, Co-Founder at Neitiv

 

Tell Us About Neitiv. How Did It Start?

It all started when my husband, Keeran and I decided to revive an ancient Tamil drink called ‘Callu’ (Coconut Flower Wine) four years ago. Callu is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in the world, made by nature, with the help of bees. It is a drink often enjoyed by rural communities in tropical countries. Neitiv is on a mission to bring coconut flower alcohol to the western market.

The research and development work began in early 2019. It entailed visiting coconut farms, to have an understanding of the complex product we wanted to source, plus we wanted to seek partners to collaborate with. After we selected a partner located in Kerala, India, we then developed a process for harvesting and fermenting the coconut flower drops in a controlled environment.

Developing the best system to harvest our key product took nearly two years of research as it is a highly delicate natural ingredient, which is reactive to light, heat and time of harvest. Once we were able to successfully transport the flower drops to the UK, we began working with local food labs to develop our first product, Coconut Flower Beer.

 

What Have You Learnt?

Keeran and I both come from corporate backgrounds, one being project management and the other engineering. Entering the food and beverage industry has been a massive learning curve as we have built up our industry knowledge from scratch. Naturally, launching a startup in a new industry to us, we faced many challenges, but we divided our workload amongst the team.

Having previous experience working internationally really helped to build relationships with our international partners and suppliers. We faced a large amount of administrative work which was particularly new to us. Additionally, COVID-19 of course drastically impacted our business and nature of work. We faced complications with our suppliers in India as they went into lockdown, and travel restrictions impacted our communication efficiency. Also, shipment and production costs increased tremendously.

Overall, the whole startup process was all a learning curve from inception, research to sales and marketing within the context of the global pandemic.

What Challenges Have You Faced?

We faced challenges at every stage, as a start-up, we had to rely on our savings, so for the past three years, we have been investing in our company. Even before we registered our company we wanted to ensure Coconut Flower Drops was a tangible product that can be made – therefore we invested in the initial R&D with our partners in India. Once it was confirmed, we then undertook the work of starting Neitiv and resigned from our regular jobs.

There were product challenges and process challenges. Product challenges were mainly due to the unique new beverage that has never been made in the UK before and the Coconut Flower Drops has particular preservation requirements. We are still working through the challenges of creating Coconut Flower Wine with the help of local food labs.

Process challenges have involved working with global suppliers where trust plays an important role. International trade can be rather complex especially with the added pressures of the pandemic. Shipments were delayed, suppliers were struggling with their workforce during lockdown. Costs were increasing as this caused a delay in launching our product.

Finally, hiring the right team is always a challenge for any organisation and especially for a start-up like us because every role is important and holds a lot of responsibility. We predict that as we grow that we will continue to face new hurdles.

 

What Can We Hope To See From Neitiv in the Future?

We will be releasing a low alcohol Coconut Flower Wine and a superfood Coconut Flower Drops next year. We also plan to launch our Coconut Flower Beer across Europe and the US very soon. Currently, there are large amounts of interest in Germany and the US that we are seeing, so we are looking forward to expanding our markets.

Furthermore, we have recently been selected for the Global Incubator Programme that was launched in Singapore, with the collaboration of Innovate UK. This programme will help us to launch our product in Asia next year too.

Finally, Neitiv is looking forward to expanding our international team. We are also setting up a crowdfund early next year to gain financial support from our customers and the wider public.