In 2019, E P Jeevan, an erstwhile engineer from BITS Pilani, decided to quit a very lucrative corporate career to sell sugarcane and ice apple juice along with a summer thirst quencher — coconut water. While it was a huge risk, he says, “No matter what the business, risks are always part of it.”
Speaking to The Better India, Jeevan adds, “I have always been into athletics, running and sports of various kinds. After these sessions, I would always try and find natural electrolyte replenishing sources. This search led me to a roadside vendor who would make me a glass of sugarcane juice with freshly squeezed ginger and lime juice.”
The taste of the drink lingered, and from there, a business idea grew.
Jeevan says that like him, many other runners and athletes in the city were looking for a good post-workout drink. “The key was to ensure that whatever I was serving was 100 per cent hygienic. Sugarcane is always available, but getting the juice made in a hygienic manner was always an issue. That is the problem that I set out to solve when I started Absolute Sugarcane,” he says.
‘He’s always had a mind of his own’
Jeevan started Absolute Sugarcane from one store in Chennai, and says that the sales from month one took him by surprise. “The numbers surpassed whatever I had thought I would make. That was an excellent validation for what I set out to do,” he says.
Under the ambit of his business, the drinks use three main ingredients – sugarcane, ice apple and coconut water. With these, more than 20 different drinks are being made and served at the stores.
When asked how his immediate family members reacted to him selling juice for a living, he laughs. “If you want me to be honest, then I must say that there was no support that came my way. Everyone did a double-take when I said I wanted to sell sugar juice. All I said to them was I know what I am doing. So, I asked them to extend that trust to me.”
Nithya, Jeevan’s wife and friend for over two decades now, says, “I have known him almost all my life, since I was all of three. In a sense, we have grown up together. Jeevan has always been a very driven individual and the idea of doing something on his own was a conversation we would have very often during our courtship period,” she says. She says that as a wife, to see his ideas take shape has been such an amazing experience.
“He has always done exactly what he sets out to do. There is no chance of convincing him otherwise. He has a mind of his own.”
Jeevan adds to this and says, “I wasn’t trying to convince anybody about what I was doing. I had full conviction in my idea. Small tweaks that I have brought about in what I serve have made a difference. For example, we do not add any white sugar to the juices. We replace that with cane juice.”
While as a family there have been certain ‘sacrifices’ that have been made, Nithya says, “Not everyone gets the chance to live out their passion. I am glad I have been able to support Jeevan in this venture. The clarity of thought he has in making this big is worth pursuing.”
The proof of the pudding is in the eating
Even though Jeevan’s idea on paper looks good, the true test is only when the venture starts making money and can be called profitable. The real worth, success, or effectiveness of something can only be determined by putting it to test by trying or using it, appearances and promises aside. So how did Absolute Sugarcane fare in this test?
“We passed with flying colours,” says a beaming Jeevan. He goes on, “I have learnt so much along the way as well. I started with the belief that those within the age bracket of 20 to 35 would enjoy the offerings but was pleasantly surprised to see that my core audience was between 45 to 70 years of age. They became my biggest advocates and ambassadors.”
For many, it was also nostalgia – going back to consuming something they had grown up with.
“With the first food truck we had, we were able to be at various marathon and sporting event areas. It is a great post workout drink, which got us noticed, and expanded our customer base rapidly.”
After the lockdown, when things started to open up, Jeevan decided to move away from the food truck model and establish a brick and mortar store. The first store was opened in Adyar in October 2020. In the first month, Jeevan says that they made a revenue of Rs 30,000 and by April 2021, they had grown to Rs 2.25 lakh.
“For a 250 ml glass of sugarcane juice, we charge Rs 35 if consumed at the store, and Rs 50 for a 350 ml if it’s a takeaway. With serving approximately 100 customers a day, we are now making upwards of Rs 4 lakh a month on an average,” he adds. While the sugarcane juice reigns supreme and is the most loved drink at the store, Jeevan says that the cane pineapple mojito, coco-cane slush and nongu (ice apple) elaneer (coconut water) juice are the other bestsellers.
Another USP of the juice is the freshness of the sugarcane and ice apple. “We procure all we need from local farmers within Tamil Nadu. We ensure that no ice is added to the drinks. Once we procure the sugarcane we store it in the refrigerator and that is the only way of serving it cold.”
A family favourite is the sugarcane juice with lemon and ginger, with both Nithya and their daughter voting for it.
Open all seven days a week, if in Chennai, you can either visit the Adayar or Kilpauk outlet or place your order online via Zomato as well.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)