Aurora Magazine

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Spring Water From Gilgit

Published in Sep-Oct 2022

Pura Spring enters the bottled water market, but with a difference.

According to Mordor Intelligence, after the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for good quality drinking water has increased in Pakistan, with people becoming even more health conscious. As a result, it is expected that the bottled water segment will register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.46% between 2022 and 2027 (especially since over 90% of people in Pakistan drink water sourced from tube wells, boreholes and piped water). Given the growth potential of this segment, Pura Spring, natural spring water that is available in plastic bottles, was launched on April 1.

Zeeshan Hanif, CEO, Pura Spring, says that the company wanted to introduce healthy drinking water and points out that Pura Spring is “not just a category of bottled water that is available in Pakistan; We have introduced a new sub-segment – natural spring water that we source in Gilgit-Baltistan. We realised that this sub-segment is missing in Pakistan, and it is lucrative to establish it as many people prefer to buy imported brands such as Evian and Fiji.”

Hanif, in his “search for healthy spring water”, explored northern Pakistan and recalls that Dr Henri Coanada, known as ‘the father of fluid dynamics’, commented that the water in Gilgit-Baltistan is the best in the world, referring to it as ‘the fountain of youth’. 

After conducting a market survey there, a spring located in Guru-Jaglot, (near Hunza), was selected. Four months later, a bottling plant was then established adjacent to the spring. According to Hanif, the water plant adhered to WHO guidelines and is ISO certified. He adds that it was established next to the spring to ensure optimal quality, in line with international practices.

“Many brands in Pakistan do not adhere to these standards because it is more expensive to set up a plant next to the source. We did not do this because my vision is to provide people with high-quality and healthy drinking water, no matter the cost.” 

Elaborating on the quality aspect, Hanif says, “we are providing premium quality water which contains essential and natural minerals, such as magnesium, potassium and iron, whereas other brands rely on imported minerals (in the form of chemicals). He cautions that because importing these chemicals has become a challenge now due to increased restrictions, “the quality of several brands has been severely affected.”

For Hanif, although imported brands such as Evian and Fiji are Pura Spring’s competitors, he is of the opinion that Pura Spring is superior. “Firstly, because imported brands take two to three months to arrive in Pakistan and they are often close to their expiry date. Secondly, Pura Spring’s 500 millilitre bottle is priced at Rs 90 whereas Fiji’s is Rs 175 and Evian’s is Rs 280 and therefore much more expensive.” 

Hanif is cognisant of the fact that although Pura Spring is cheaper than imported spring water, it is more expensive than brands such as Nestlé Pure Life and Aquafina, which are priced at Rs 38 and Rs 35, respectively. However, this he says is not a cause for concern, “because you can’t compare natural spring water to bottled water from a reverse osmosis (RO) plant.” 

He also points out that Pura Spring’s target audience “is different. People who know about spring water understand our product’s health benefits.” For context, Mordor Intelligence estimates that there are over 130 local bottled water brands in Pakistan, and the top five are Dasani (Coca-Cola Pakistan), Nestlé Pure Life, Aquafina (PepsiCo), Sufi Water (Sufi Group) and Springley (Qarshi).

Pura Spring’s marketing approach is so far limited to digital media (their digital media agency is Q9 Advertising). Hanif is of the opinion that “I can reach out to an even wider audience on digital media with the same budget that is required for TV ads or billboards.” The product is positioned as “natural spring water from the mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan” in its packaging and other communication. Pura Spring is not working directly with distributing agents and is relying on their delivery service instead and has delivered their product to 350 to 400 retail points. These are mainly in Karachi as that is where Pura Spring’s storage units and headquarters are located; Pura Spring is available in the city’s leading supermarkets and high-end restaurants. Concerning shelf visibility, Hanif says that “because our product looks premium, stores display it prominently on their own accord, unbidden by us.”

Although the launch of Pura Spring has been successful, Hanif points out that several issues need to be addressed. “Getting the water to Karachi from Gilgit-Baltistan is a challenge since the costs of logistics keep fluctuating. When we began, the dollar-rupee exchange stood at Rs 170 and petrol was Rs 165 a litre; by the time we launched the product, the dollar rose to Rs 195 and petrol rates to over Rs 200. And now, the floods have hindered our operations as well.”

Despite the challenges, Hanif is optimistic. “We have made our place in the market,” he says, and adds that Pura Spring plans to establish storage units in Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan and Sheikhupura (where it is only available via online deliveries from Karachi). Pura Spring has also recently closed a deal that ensures that the product is available in 250 PSO and Shell petro-marts across Pakistan.