Hege brings Himalayan water to homes
Hege natural mineral water is known for its purity. It comes from the bedrock of the mountains of Himachal Pradesh. Thus, it retains a very unique, natural and soothing flavor. It is neither touched nor treated. It is free from the risk of foreign pollutants. It inevitably passed through layers of rock, clay and sand. It also stays free of bacteria naturally.
In an exclusive interview, Shailendra Rao, Founder of Hege – Natural Mineral Water tells Bizz Buzz about the benefits of drinking natural mineral water. He also informed about the dangers associated with the consumption of groundwater and packaged drinking water. He further revealed the Hyderabad-based startup’s ambitious expansion plans.
As a commercial pilot, how did you get into the world of bottled water?
After graduation, I started my career as a commercial pilot and later obtained the Certified Flight Instructor License to train pilots. While working in Miami, my friend and I started a water bottle business in Hyderabad with a simple investment during a leisure vacation in 2013. This remote bustle helped me gain great knowledge about the world water business.
We lived on a farm in the Organo community near Moinabad, where everything is natural except drinking water. The integrated ecosystem is consciously created with sustainable things like solar power and organic products like pesticide-free food. Although we eat organic vegetables and milk, I know that we do not consume natural water.
At that time, I observed that the packaged drinking water available was not really pure. A lot of treatment is required, resulting in 200% wastage of water from RO (reverse osmosis) purifiers. In addition, various dangerous chemicals are to be added for its taste, pH and shelf life. Even the water from RO purifiers in homes does not have the quality needed by our human body.
Could you shed light on the issues related to the consumption of groundwater, packaged drinking water and reverse osmosis water?
The conditioned drinking water process includes raw water chlorination, RO filtration and ozonation. While purifying water by removing chemicals like arsenic, cadmium and lead, all essential minerals like calcium, bicarbonates, magnesium, potassium and other trace elements are also removed.
Ozonation process is done to increase shelf life, chemical dosage to maintain pH value and synthetic chemicals to add artificial minerals. Alkaline purifiers are the fabulous new and trending in the commercial market claiming that alkaline water is very beneficial and even helps in curing cancer, but no scientific evidence or its health benefits are proven by any medical authority.
All major RO brands follow filtration throughout the process of removing chemicals as well as minerals similar to the process of packaged drinking water making it dead water unfit for drinking. Consuming these waters for longer causes bone problems, cardiovascular problems, malnutrition, underdevelopment, miscarriages and cancers.
In these modern times, our groundwater is polluted to an unconsumable extent due to pollution by industries and the use of fertilizers and pesticides. In a few areas ground water is also contaminated down to 2,000 feet below sea level. potable water.
Could you tell us more about your research on natural mineral water?
Spring water is mostly found in areas where there is zero pollution and it is widely used daily in countries of West, Middle East and Southeast Asia. This is usually untreated, chemical free and contamination free. They have good nutritional value as well as balanced total dissolved solids (TDS) and pH (a measure of acidic/basic water).
The best TDS level might be below 250 parts per million (ppm) and above 50 ppm. In packaged drinking water and reverse osmosis purifiers, the TDS is around 10-50 ppm. Ideally, our blood has a pH between 7.35 and 7.45 and we need a balanced pH to maintain the acid balance in our body. But some brands of water purifiers provide water with a pH of 8.5 and above.
Natural mineral water in India is only found in a few authorized sources, mainly in the Himalayas and the foothills. These confined aquifers are free from pollution, chemicals, pesticides and contamination. The water from these springs is enriched with naturally good minerals and micronutrients, making it directly drinkable and healthy.
Three glasses of water contain the same amount of calcium available in one cup of milk. Groundwater contains calcium, magnesium, potassium and bicarbonates, but the RO purifier removes all these essential minerals from our body. During my stay in Himalaya for a year and a half, I searched for natural mineral water and that’s how we found the source of Hege.
When Hege was conceptualized and how did you get back into the bottled water business?
Understand the demand and focus more on people’s lifestyle and consumable lot move to organic living and mindfulness, Hege’s ideation dates back to 2018 and it took a few years to visit all sources of water allowed. Finally in March 2020, we found the underground water source in northern Himachal Pradesh.
This confined aquifer is free of any pollution. The water is only mechanically filtered using fine sand to remove all organic particles and does not treat the water with chemicals and/or other treatments. As a brand, Hege was incorporated in September 2020 and we started marketing operations in Hyderabad and Bengaluru from February 2021.
Is the pandemic a blessing in disguise for your business?
Immediately after the launch of Hege there was the second wave of Covid, we had to stop all our operations and start again in July of the same year. Suddenly we observed that people became much more aware and turned to healthy water. There was a massive awareness about the consumption of pure and natural water.
People boiled osmosis water and mixed holy basil leaves (tulasi) before consuming the water. Many health-conscious households searched for pure natural mineral water on Google and other social media platforms. We started receiving multiple online orders in no time. We have added 500 customers in Hyderabad alone, and the number continues to grow.
What are the benefits of Hege natural mineral water?
Hege is certified by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), IS0:9000 and ISO:22000. It is subjected to 21 strict quality parameters before being filled and delivered directly to our customers’ homes in Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
Our pure natural mineral water is loaded with essential minerals like calcium and magnesium with the highest bioavailability to the human body. These minerals are helpful in stabilizing blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease. Loaded with 263 mg per liter of bicarbonates, Hege’s naturally alkaline water offers the best natural remedy for acidity problems.
In addition, this water contains micronutrients and does not require any artificial enrichment. At 70mg per litre, it’s as good as a low-calorie calcium supplement. It is natural alkaline drinking water with a pH of 8, and it inactivates enzymes related to acid reflux. Likewise, the bicarbonates in alkaline water also act as an antacid which relieves heartburn and acid indigestion.
What is the total capacity of the confined aquifer and the current use of the capacity?
The survey of geologists expressed a capacity of 6 lakh liter per day. At present, we only use up to 25,000 liters per day. Of this total, our customers in Hyderabad consume around 17,000 liters per day, while the rest is consumed in Bengaluru. On average, a family spends around Rs 4,800 per month to consume our natural mineral water.
What is the investment made so far? Do you plan to fundraise in the near future?
Hege is an ambitious startup. So far, we have started our business and have not raised any investment from external sources. Shortly, we plan to raise pre-Series – A funding before August of this year to fuel our growth plans.
What are the company’s expansion plans in the coming years?
Hege is launched with a global vision and we are looking to launch into the overseas market like the Middle East and Southeast Asia by the end of this calendar year. We are waiting for licenses from the respective countries. Over the next few months, we also aim to expand to three major cities in India: New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.
Hege is the first natural mineral water brand in India to be launched in 20 liter canisters. Compared to brands like Himalaya and Vedica (Bisleri), its price is 40% cheaper. At the same time, it is launched in portable formats – PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and glass water bottles of 500 ml, 750 ml and 1000 ml.