Coffee run

Sleepy Owl Coffee, founded in 2016, has made steady inroads into the Indian coffee market, not just carving out a niche for itself but also introducing a new category altogether.

Started in 2016 by Arman Sood, Ashwajeet Singh and Ajai Thandi, this Indian coffee brand was launched with the intention of not just providing quality coffee but also educating the Indian consumer about coffee culture. While it started off in Delhi initially, now, five years later, the company has expanded its footprint to Mumbai as well.

What stood out about the brand though, was its focus on cold brews, an unexplored segment in the Indian market, which has traditionally been dominated by ‘hot drinks’.

“We realised that one of the reasons why coffee consumption in India isn’t too high is because no retail brand has taken a stance to educate the consumer about coffee. Since we wanted to stand out from the other brands in the space, we had to create a category in the market and hence, we chose cold brew. Also, India being a hot country, and given that many of our customers are millennials who grew up drinking cold coffee, we believed it would be a product that we would be able to explain to them better,” says Ajai Thandi.

Choosing to focus on cold brew meant the flavour profile had to be perfect. A lot of experimentation later, the founders decided upon a medium roast coffee with a chocolatey taste, which they felt goes best with a cold brew. Of course, there were variations on offer too, with flavours such as vanilla and cinnamon, among others.

While the processing and roasting of the coffee is important, the source is also given a lot of weightage. Beans from farms in Chikmagalur, both small-scale and larger ones are tried, tested and then only the best quality selected. Roasting is done in small batches to maintain flavour integrity and freshness.

Another aspect of the business that the founders were intent on was sustainability. Something that is clear from the packaging of Sleepy Owl’s products. No plastic is used, and everything from the caps on the bottles to the wrapping on the boxes are recyclable. In fact, the company’s “sustain packs” are made entirely of paper and aluminium, eliminating the plastic layer usually found in food-grade packaging. “As a company, as an individual and as a society, it’s our responsibility to make sure we reduce waste, there’s already enough of it out there. That is our core sustainability philosophy,” says Ajai.

The brand currently caters to customers via its own and other online portals, and through tie-ups with retail stores, restaurants, cafes, hotels and airlines. And while it’s present in Delhi and Mumbai, there are plans to expand to other cities, as well as the Tier II market. “We have a pretty solid approach to every market. We identify the right clusters, shops, and keep tabs on consumption patterns. We’ve learnt a lot with the two cities and we’ll use all of these to chart the future,” signs off Ajai.

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