Thursday, 12 September 2013

Fashionable Restaurants Find in Veen A Designer Spring Water Brand

By Sourish Bhattacharyya
A Finnish brand from Lapland with a striking bottle that
has won a slew of design awards, Veen is now also
bottled in Kotagiri in the Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu

I FIRST heard about Veen at a party hosted by Kapil Chopra, President of The Oberoi Group, for the winners of the BestCollegeArt.com’s emerging artist award. It was here that Vishal Dhar, co-founder of iYogi, the remote tech support service for small and medium businesses, introduced his friend Aman Gupta, who’s a director in the Finnish natural spring water company launched in ice-clad Lapland in 2006. Gupta was in India to seal a bottling deal with Arvind Rathnam, founder-director of the Nilgiris-based Blue Mountain Springs.
Veen came back to my life a couple of days ago when I was interviewing Dharmesh Karmokar, co-owner of the Silver Beach Café and Nom Nom restaurants. We were talking at his yet-to-be-opened restaurant at The Ashok in New Delhi when he devoted a good 10 minutes to talk about Veen. The slim 660ml bottle, with the name embossed on one side of it and a stopper very similar to that of Absolut, has won a slew of design awards, and had Karmokar not pointed out its special features, I would have never understood why.
The bottle has a punt at the bottom to allow you to put your thumb in and two ridges on one side of it designed in a way to let your index and middle fingers fit in. So, you can actually serve water the way champagne is meant to be poured — and the design innovations have ensured that even a rookie can do it. I just loved the subliminal association as Karmokar explained to me the bottle’s design features. “The moment I saw the bottle I fell in love with it,” Karmokar said, marvelling at the marketing genius of having a 660ml bottle — it ensures that a minimum of two bottles get exhausted at a table of four, without the diners realising it. Unsurprisingly, it takes Rs 45 to make a bottle of Veen.
Indian Accent was the first restaurant in the country to adopt Veen, which incidentally is named after the mother of water described in the Finnish national epic Kalevala. It is the second contemporary Indian establishment to take this decision — Michelin one-star chef Vineet Bhatia’s Rasoi in London was the first. But as Gupta had said to me, importing bottled water into India is a bitch. Hence the Nilgiris connection.
The water for the Indian Veen comes from a mountain spring in the dense Shola forests at Kotagiri in the Nilgiri mountains of Tamil Nadu, located at a height of 1,980m. The British Collector of Coimbatore, John Sullivan, who first discovered the region in 1819, described the highlands of Kotagiri as the ‘Switzerland of India’. Blue Mountain Springs bottles the Nilgiris water, whose defining characteristic is the low mineral content. Mineral water, Gupta had told me, is a misnomer, for the best spring water is the one with the least mineral content. The nitrate content of the spring water is less than 15mg per litre.
“We have been looking into India for a while now, but what attracted us to this source was the almost identical characteristics of the water to our source in Lapland,” Mikko Nikkila, Director of Veen Waters Finland, had said in a media release issued at the time of the Indian edition’s launch. The original Veen from Lapland is exported to the USA, Europe, UAE, Qatar, Singapore, China and Russia. Noted ad man Prathap Suthan’s Bang in the Middle is Veen’s global communications agency. With a bottle like that, Veen doesn’t need much help to communicate its qualities.