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The Coffee Connoisseur SleepyOwl, a young brand run by young entrepreneurs chose a platform that would help the company make an impact and reach a larger audience quicker

By Saptak Bardhan

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Ajai Thandi, co-founder, SleepyOwl

"It's amazing how the world begins to change through the eyes of a cup of coffee," said Donna A Favors. Coffee as a beverage has seen massive upturn as people have taken to coffee in India. There used to be hegemony of Tea in the markets of India. However, coffee has been able to penetrate the market and reach every household. According to the Mordor intelligence report, the Indian coffee market is currently valued at $1.46 billion and poised to touch $2.03 billion by 2025.

SleepyOwl, a young brand run by young entrepreneurs chose a platform that would help the company make an impact and reach a larger audience quicker. It was the foremost thought behind building a digital-first brand and using social media to its advantage.

"On a personal front, it was a big leap for me. I was at a cushy job, working on Wall Street in New York, living an investment banker's dream. But deep within, I had always known that I would end up working for myself," said Ajai Thandi, co-founder, SleepyOwl.

The dream of owning a start-up started coming to fruition when Ajai and his childhood friend started having a conversation over the bleak availability of a good cup of coffee in India which led them to realise a potential market gap in the coffee market in India. Ajai began his entrepreneurial journey while India was going through its third wave of coffee with consumers possessing a baseline awareness about coffee. There has been a major shift towards more upmarket coffee products, particularly in the post-COVID era. The coffee market has also seen a cultural shift with the growing interest of consumers toward artisanal and gourmet coffee. There is a growing demand for sustainable products, healthy alternatives, premium and flavoured coffees. As for the size of addressable market, the number currently stands at $1 billion.

The onset of COVID accelerating digitisation and the D2C model, more brands are taking the D2C route. The adoption of the D2C model coincided with the growing internet penetration and the evolution of technology infrastructure in India. Apart from the obvious benefit of capital to help accelerate innovation and push SleepyOwl's products further, it is the industry knowledge and advice that Thandi and his co-founder became privy to.

Ajai Thandi on the challenges of the D2C model, "There's no doubt that the current scenario paints a promising picture for D2C brands in India but it's not all sunshine and rainbows. One bullish challenge in building a D2C brand in India is scaling up. Unless you're only targeting a small and niche audience, it is difficult to survive solely on this model. Other prominent challenges could be controlling the supply chain and logistics, especially when you are trying to eliminate all intermediaries and reaching out to the consumers directly."

Thandi claims that the business is doing well and has adapted to whirlwind changes in consumer behaviour especially after the COVID-19 pandemic saga. The increasing comfort of people shopping online has given the business an extra boost. SleepyOwl intends to increase its presence in other metro cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. The company intends to expand its national distribution and newer markets. SleepyOwl's vision is to be present in each and every household of India and focusing on offline distribution.


Total SKUs: 75+

Team size: 150+

Repeat customer ratio: ~50%

Online platform resulting in maximum revenue: Website Split between offline and online sales: 40:60

Saptak Bardhan

Former Trainee Writer

Former Trainee Writer
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