5 years ago, when 3 friends - Ajai Thandi, Ashwajeet Singh, and Arman Sood – realized that it was not easy to find a good cup of coffee in India, they decided to introduce their own brand Sleepy Owl.
At that time, the concept of Cold Brew Coffee wasn’t very popular in India but was quite appreciated in western countries. So, they decided to take the risk and start brewing their own.
“After several trials and errors, we finally launched the Brew Box (on tap) - a product that we enjoyed ourselves and were proud to share with others. This has been a non-conventional start unlike other coffee brands, but the risk paid off and there has been no looking back since,” says Ajai Thandi, Co-founder, Sleepy Owl Coffee.
For most of us in India, our first introduction to coffee was generally through instant coffee brands available at the time.
“The idea and purpose of launching Sleepy Owl Coffee were simple - we wanted to share our love of coffee with others. As we’ve grown and traveled to western countries, we’ve associated ‘good coffee’ with those places. As a brand, we not only wanted to introduce our customers to great coffee but also educate them about Indian coffee, which is grown here in our homeland but mostly exported. We wanted to grow in a category where we could educate the customers about high-quality beans that our farmers work so hard to grow, but do not get their due credit,” he shares.
Retail and Marketing Strategy
The retail presence of Sleepy Owl is currently concentrated in Delhi NCR and Mumbai, in category A modern retail and general trade stores.
“Our retail strategy has been pretty focused. Rather than going wide into various cities, we wanted to deep dive into each one as we went. The products we have need to be tasted in order for a customer to make a purchase. So, we have a team of promoters who work on sampling activities in these stores who let customers try products and get their feedback, as well,” states Thandi.
“In addition to this, we focus on our design - right from packaging to ads. Great visual design is needed to stand out in a crowded space like a retail shelf. Through our design and visuals, we ensure clear communication so that the product stands out on the shelf, through sampling, the flavor speaks for itself,” he adds.
Since its inception, Sleepy Owl has come a long way in terms of its product range.
“We started off initially with the Brew Box, which is essentially Cold Brew on tap. Once we realized the logistic limitations of shipping this beyond Delhi/NCR, we innovated with Cold Brew Packs which allowed customers to make fresh Cold Brew at home with just a jar and water,” Thandi states.
“As we started being recognized for our Cold Brew, we launched the Ready-to-Drink Iced Coffee bottles at the beginning of 2019. Later that day, we launched Hot Brew Bags - roasted and ground coffee in a teabag format. This product had an instant impact - within B2B as well as our B2C customers. As a brand, we’ve taken feedback very seriously, so when we had numerous requests from our customers telling us to sell our signature coffee in a loose format, we knew we had to act on it. This led us to our latest launch - Whole Beans and Ground Coffee,” he adds.
As a brand, Sleepy Owl has been constantly innovating to make customers’ cups of coffee better, every day. The brand takes this as a challenge and is constantly on its feet aiming to achieve that. With new flavors, variants across products, and new markets to target, the brand seems to have a quite busy year ahead.
Social Media: A platform to Educate Consumers
Through the content that the brand produces, it tries to spread awareness and educate customers about what it means to have a ‘real’ cup of coffee.
“Although we’ve been around for 5 years, we get queries on social media every day from customers who aren’t sure what Cold Brew is or how our coffee is different from instant coffee that they’re used to. In an age when most information is absorbed through social media, we’re making sure we use this platform to the fullest. We are also customer-obsessed and focused on giving a great customer experience. Through timely support and engagement, we make sure we have our customers hooked to our social media pages,” he asserts.
Technology: The Game-Changer
As a DTC brand, Sleepy Owl has the advantage of being in touch with the customers directly, so, giving them a great, streamlined experience is the key.
“Using tools like Shopify, we’ve created a custom brand store with great visuals which allow for good storytelling in a virtual environment. The goal is to build a community with whom we can interact through emails/ SMS campaigns, and give a great Sleepy Owl experience end-to-end. Since we can communicate with our customers directly, we take their feedback quite seriously, which helps us improve and grow constantly,” he shares.
The online presence of the brand has been growing consistently. From its online sales, the brand can see demand in other parts of the country, apart from the metros.
“Our goal is to grow our retail presence in cities and towns with the same focus, with the aim to make Sleepy Owl Coffee a household name,” concludes Thandi.