Odisha’s all-women group brands traditional drink ‘Tankapaani’ as Bou; plans to sell 50 lakh litres during Ratha Yatra

A 55-women group in Odisha’s Kuhunda village began producing and marketing the traditional rice-based beverage in November 2023. The nutritious drink, branded as Bou, is now sold through 80 distributors and will soon be available across Odisha

Niroj Ranjan Misra
New Update
Women workers preparing Tankapaani at the Kuhunda unit in Odisha. Pic: Shanti Mahila Udyog

Women workers preparing Tankapaani at the Kuhunda unit in Odisha. Pic: Shanti Mahila Udyog

A group of 55 women in Kuhunda village of Odisha’s Mahanga block has given a new identity to the state’s traditional rice-based drink Tankapaani (also Tanka pani) by packaging and branding it as Bou (meaning mother in Odia).  The beverage that is rich in nutrients and keeps the body cool in summer has made a dent in the soft drink market in the coastal belt of Odisha. 

Families in Odisha have been traditionally making this drink at home for ages. The all-women Shanti Producer Group (SPG) is now furthering its popularity through the commercial launch as a soft drink. The all-women Shanti Producer Group (SPG) produces the drink in a plant set up by the Odisha Rural Development and Marketing Society (ORMAS), Cuttack. 

The SPG’s marketing arm Shanti Mahila Udyog (SMU) sells it through over 80 distributors in the coastal districts of Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara, and will cover the state in the next six months.

Launch and rapid growth

Launched at the Pali Shree Mela during the weeklong Bali Yatra in Cuttack in November 2023, Tankapaani was an instant hit. “The SPG members produced 30,000 to 40,000 litres daily through several shifts to meet the burgeoning demand for Tankapaani,” says ORMAS, Cuttak’s executive Dr Srikant Parija.  

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 “Now we plan to sell over 50 lakh litres of Tankapaani through 30 stalls during the upcoming Ratha Yatra beginning on July 7 this year,” says Ritanjali Biswal, the managing director of SMU. 

Prepared with a-day-old cooked rice, curd, ginger and other ingredients, the tangy Tankapaani is somewhat similar to Odisha's 'pakhala', also one of the traditional drinks made with fermented rice, curd, cucumber etc. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bhubaneswar-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences reported ‘pakhala’ to be packed with antioxidants and nutrients. We then trained the women group to prepare Tankapaani and inducted the SMU to market it,” says Bipin Behari Rout, the joint chief executive officer, of ORMAS, Cuttack.   

Operations are automated at the Tankapaani manufacturing unit. Pic:  Shanti Mahila Udyog 

“ORMAS provided Rs 2.4 lakh to SPG for capacity building and institutional set-up of the food business in the first phase and another Rs 1 lakh as working capital in the second phase. This apart, each SPG member also contributed Rs 5000 to the venture,” he adds.  

The robust sales of the beverage provide a monthly income of Rs 10,000 to Rs 12000 each to SPG members, empowering women. They were earlier housewives with a family monthly income of Rs 20,000 or less, says SPG’s Secretary Smrutimayee Behuria. 

The production of Tankapaani

“Arua Chaula (un-boiled paddy) is mixed with water before being boiled for Tankapaani. Mostly Arua Chaula of Makhi landrace is used for this purpose,” says Smrutimayee.

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Before Tankapaani was released in the market, it went through tests in Bhubaneswar-based Qualitek Lab Limited to determine the nutrient content. The test found it to have fat, carbohydrates, protein, energy, sugar content, Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B12, and antioxidants that pakhala is said to contain.

About 50 lakh litres of Bou Tankapaani is expected to be sold during the Ratha Yatra in July 2024. Pic: SMU 

“However, Tankapaani gets fermented with time to become alcoholic, losing its nutrient content. Therefore, we use stabilizers to keep it fresh for about three months,” explains Dr. Parija.  

Initially, only a small broiler, set up at an investment of Rs 15 lakh was put up to boil the mix of rice and water. All other work was done manually. SPG members filtered the mix and segregated the rice from it to collect the liquid in aluminium containers. Then they added mango ginger (ambakasia ada - ginger with the aroma of raw mango), cumin, green chillies, curry leaves and lemon juice to the liquid before bottling it.

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Later SMU installed an automated plant over nearly 2000 square feet of land for Rs 60 lakh to expedite the production process, according to Dr. Parija. “After the initial success, we set up a large plant over 15,000 square feet at about Rs 1.5 crore to produce over 20,000 litres daily per shift. Our plant also has a laboratory to check the nutrient levels in Tankapaani. The laboratory test also ensures it is free of any contaminants,” says Biswal.

At the plant, the liquid is also heated in the pasteurizer at 80 degrees Celsius.

During this phase, bits of ambakasia ada, pieces of green chillies, cumin and curry leaves are added to the liquid. After 30 minutes, it is kept in the cold tunnel when lemon juice is added. 

Every batch undergoes laboratory tests before being marketed. Pic: SMU

“We pack Tankapaani in two sizes. While a bottle of 180 ml sells at Rs 15, that of 250 ML has a price tag of Rs 20,” says Snehashish Biswal, the business coordinator of SMU. “We distribute the segregated boiled rice as fish and cattle feed free of cost,” he adds. 

Now the success of Tankapaani has inspired both SPG and SMU to go in for producing and marketing healthy ‘kolotha paani’, a traditional gram-based drink. Horse gram, considered to be a miracle pulse, is packed with protein, calcium and antioxidants, and the beverage is said to stabilise sugar besides helping patients with asthma, according to Bipin.

“It also acts as a sort of curative for cold affliction and is considered as an elixir for kidney ailments. So we plan to assist the SPG to produce ‘kolatha paani’ and popularise it in the market through SMU. However, at present our main focus is to streamline and strengthen the production of Tankapaani, and expand its marketing network throughout Odisha,” he adds.

(Niroj Ranjan Misra a Cuttack-based freelance writer. He writes on rural and tribal life, social issues, art and culture, and sports)

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