• Garima Gaur

Sleepy Owl Coffee | How A College Student Built His Own Coffee Start-Up

Sleepy Owl founder Arman Sood, with his two co-founders has started the cold brew coffee business in 2016. He was interested in entrepreneurship right from his college days while he was studying law. He was very interested and eager to do his own business and along with his partners, thought of the industry that they should go and what work they should do. It was during this time, he realized that any idea is the outcome of your own personal struggles.

How he got the idea of starting a coffee business in India?

Arman explained that whenever, we see something, any issue or any concern we try to find solution for it. Similarly, while thing about what business we should do, realized that in regular coffee habits of the people, there were some challenges. Instant coffee was easily available but to get a fresh cup of coffee one has to go to the Star bucks, CCD or any other such Coffee outlets in India. At home or office, it was difficult to get a good cup of coffee. So, we thought that it would be good to do some research in this area and bring in a few products in this line. This is how we got an idea and slowly and steadily we started our company and we have been running our business for four and a half years. Our journey till date has been an exciting and fun filled one.

Is Sleepy Owl Arman Sood's first business?

No, Sleepy Owl is not his first business. In 2012, while Arman was still a law student, he and his friend, Ashwajeet, who is also one of the co-founders of Sleepy Owl coffee, thought of implementing an idea and planned to start a business along with their studies. Arman opined that every student be it from any field should try to do some business. They should be able to ignite the entrepreneur within himself or herself. He also said that within every individual there is a hidden entrepreneur.

During his law college, he and his friend realized that there were no college merchandise so they decided to manufacture merchandise for every student. It was a profitable initiative. They started by doing all the planning, created designs , ask for students’ feedback, hired manufacturer, produced t-shirts and sold them to students. They managed the entire operation and this was the first time that they did something entrepreneurial that involved, design, product, execution, feedback, improvement and they really enjoyed doing the whole process and also got to learn a lot.

After the merchandise business they started a party accessory business realizing that in India, unlike the western countries, party culture doesn't involve playing games or party accessories. So, it was their first full-fledged business that they continued till their 3rd year of law and then decided not to continue it as it wasn’t a profitable business releasing that this business wouldn't have any repeated customers. They decided to sale off their stock and close the business.

What Arman Sood did after Graduation?

After graduation, he joined an education technology start up called Embibe based in Mumbai. Here, he worked as a marketing in PR and learned various marketing tactics from the team that helped him later in his business. Ashwajeet joined a company called Korra Jeans as a brand head. They both continued with their respective jobs for 6 to 7 months before finally starting ‘Sleepy Owl Coffee’.

What is Sleepy Owl all About?

Sleepy Owl Coffee is all about freshly cold brewed coffee. Indian coffee market was ruled by instant coffee companies, and for freshly brewed coffee, one has to visit the coffee stores. It is then when they decided to bring in an easy process of brewing to the coffee lovers. They went to Chikmagalur, the land of coffee production in India, met with the farmers, traders people in the coffee industry, asked them a lot and tried to learn how it works and tried to understand what exactly is coffee, how it is prepared.

They planned how to buy the beans, grind them and make products with them and started researching in this area. Arman opined that in every industry, you need to learn and execute your learning to make your business a success.

Sleepy Owl Founder Arman Sood and his partners didn’t have any food and beverage knowledge so their product development process was all about trial and error and try. They bought different types of coffee from Chikmagalur and started making cold brew coffee. Cold brew coffee is a method of brewing coffee in cold water over night and it was trending online and very popular method of brewing coffee.

How did they started Sleepy Owl?

They started with a thorough research. Arman believes that one needs to be aware of what is happening around the world to be successful. So they started with a thorough market study. At that time in India, there were no cold brew coffee company.

Initially, they brewed coffee at home and ask their family members, relatives to taste and also told them about how it is prepared. And after some practicing in brewing coffee, they decided to produce their first cold brew coffee product and introduce it to Indian market. As soon as the product got launched it got a lot of attention as ‘Sleepy Owl Coffee’ was the first cold brew coffee company in India.

They packaged their liquid coffee in bag in box concept. They started their product development in December 2015 and launched in June 2016 with an initial investment of 6 lakh rupees

What are the Initial orders of Sleepy Owl?

In the month of June and July Sleepy Owl Coffee did a business of about 4 to 5 lakhs. It sold a bag of coffee in Rs 600. But during the months of September and October, their sales started to drop as they didn't yet started to invest in marketing.

Not investing in marketing strategies was their big mistakes and now they have learned from it. Arman stated that if you want to grow your business, you need to invest in marketing because it will increase your sales and you will get a good return, people will get to know you and eventually your customer base will increase.

Sleepy Owl Funding Challenges

Getting investors for the business was a great challenge. Arman said that to get investors he had to grow his business 10 times more than it was initially. So they get connected with a digital marketing consultant, and a person who was helping them with the Google ads, Facebook ads and slowly started to invest money in marketing that helped them to get new customers. More traffic was generated in the website, conversions increased and more people started to order from them and in summer 2017 Sleepy Owl was at a position where it could find an investor.

Who Was The First Investor of Sleepy Owl?

DSG Investors was the first investors of Sleepy Owl. It is a food and beverage investor company that not only invested in Sleepy Owl but also helped Arman and his team to learn how to grow business in the right direction. Till 2017, Sleepy Owl was an online company and just took the first step into retail business. Its product was fit for a retail store where a customer can come and pick it rather than ordering it online.

Where Sleepy Owl Started First Retail Store?

Sleepy Owl started with Le Marche and modern Bazaar in the NCR Region. However, at present its product is available in 2000 stores. It was only possible with the help of a team of marketing officers and merchandisers. However, the company realized that it was difficult for its product to be sold off offline with its with short shelf life. Sleepy Owl Founder Arman again said that they have learned from their mistakes and experiences throughout their journey and have made improvements and also launched new products.

When the company was able to save a certain amount of capital, it decided to expand its business. Initially, Sleepy Owl Coffee was doing business only in Delhi NCR but eventually its co founders decided to grow its business pan India. Figuring out how to supply their product to consumers across India was quite a learning process for them. Their social media presence, marketing was really well-managed and it helped them to get new customers. Their products were in high demand in Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata. So, Sleepy Owl launched a cold brew coffee bag for ecommerce. It contained the coffee granules in a filter bag and started selling it online across the country. The product was really doing well online and it was of great demand among the consumers. This is how Sleepy Owl was able to grow its market.

Sleepy Owl Coffee Menu

Keeping in mind the young generation who were health conscious, Sleepy Owl decided to launch a ready to drink coffee. It introduced the ‘Sleepy Owl Ready to Drink Bottle’ in the market. It is a 100 ml bottle containing coffee with very low sugar, no preservatives, stabilizer or acidity regulators and is priced at Rs 100. It is now available in 3 flavors- Classic, Sweet and, Hazelnut. It is also planning to add one more flavor- Solid Caramel to it next month. With the launch of this product, the company is expecting to grow successfully in the retail market.

What Are The Future Plans of Sleepy Owl Coffee?

When asked about their future plan, Sleepy Owl Founder Arman said that at present their main aim is to grow in retail geographically. They are now available in Delhi NCR, Mumbai mainly but planning to start their retail presence in Punjab, Rajasthan, Pune, Goa. Currently, the company is planning only to launch new flavours to its existing products. It also has a plan to launch a new product as well by the end of this year or next year.

How you bring in the creativity?

Sleepy Owl founder Ashwajeet is the creative brain behind the entire creativity- company, packaging, designing. He manages and looks into everything. Arman said that he and partners have already realized that if they want to stand out among their competitors than they should be very attractive. Your designs should be such that people love it, pick it up from the shelf . Your designs and packaging has to be pretty and it is important that they resonate with your consumers. All of these are handled by Ashwajeet. He is the mastermind behind all the creativity.

How the name Sleepy Owl was decided?

“Again the name Sleepy Owl was Ashwajeet's brain child”, stated Arman.

Company Culture of Sleepy Owl

The company has a team of 60 to 70 members with some working in the manufacturing site, while it also has a strong sales team. Arman said that as Sleepy Owl Coffee is a retail-driven company, and they have invested very heavily, and hence, they make sure to grow their sales team with very good quality candidates. He also said that it is important to have in house resources like videographer, photographer and designer who would help your brand to represent itself properly on social media.

For creating advertisements again to have in house resources is better. Most of the employees in the company are young people under 30 years of age. The idea is to have young and fresh minds involved in the business with fresh ideas.

Sleepy Owl Coffee cultivates a very strong internship program allowing college students to come and do internship for 1 or 2 months and if the performance of work is good they are hired by the company rather than hiring from the market. It cultivates young interns who come and join the company right after the university.

Arman Sood’s definition of being successful?

Being contended. Sleepy Owl Founder Arman said that he doesn’t measure success on scale. He personally feels that if you are content with your work and life then you are successful. For him, it doesn't matter what the world thinks of him. He further said that you should have an inner feeling of being contended to be successful.

It is important to be hungry for more but at the same time you need to be contend where you are and at what position you are. He said that, he wants to grow his business but not with the intention of making more money, more revenue but with the intention that while this growth is happening, he is really being able to add value to his customers. For him satisfying his customers is one of the major elements of a successful business. He further said that one should be hungry to provide satisfaction to more and more customers.

Sleepy Owl Founder :- Arman’s hobbies

· Sports-love to play football

· He makes sure to hit the gym twice or thrice a week

· He enjoy cooking

His favorite books

· Shoe Dog by phil Knight

· High Output Management by Andrew S Grove

· Journey of a lifetime by Bob Iger

· Setting the Table by Danny Meyer