Sleepy Owl Coffee: Brewing big business

The cold brew coffee brand, launched from a two-bedroom apartment in Delhi, now boasts of 60,000 customers and is sold in over 1,000 retail outlets in New Delhi and Mumbai

Sayan Chakraborty
Published: Feb 11, 2020 11:18:15 AM IST
Updated: Feb 11, 2020 11:23:18 AM IST

Everything about entrepreneurship, the good, bad and the ugly of it, fascinates me. I take a keen interest on startups and venture capital firms and have written extensively on fundraises, M&As and business strategies. I can safely say changing tracks from engineering to journalism has been one of my best decisions. When not working, I indulge in almost every Indian's poison, cricket, playing or watching. I am a foodie and video game buff.

sleepy owl coffeeImage: Amit Verma

Ajai Thandi | 29
Ashwajeet Singh | 28
Arman Sood | 28
Co-founders, Sleepy Owl Coffee

For Ajai Thandi, Arman Sood and Ashwajeet Singh, who worked with JP Morgan, Embibe and Korra Jeans respectively, getting into the coffee business was an easy choice. The trio—Thandi and Singh are childhood friends while Singh and Sood met in law school—are aficionados who often brew their own coffee.

They launched Sleepy Owl Coffee, then a direct-to-consumer cold brew coffee brand, from a two-bedroom apartment in Delhi’s Dwarka in 2016. The company, which launched hot brew last year, claims to have about 60,000 consumers. The products are sold across more than 1,000 retail outlets in Delhi and Mumbai, which accounts for about 40 percent of the business. Online platforms—the company’s website and Amazon—make up the rest. The company claims to service 8,000 orders a month online, with an average ticket size of ₹500.

Making a business out of coffee in a tea-drinking nation like India and weaning consumers off brands such as Bru and Nescafe is a tough ask.  But Thandi, Sood and Singh want to play to their strengths—superlative quality and great packaging. The trio wants to take it slow and steady. For instance, Sleepy Owl restricted itself to Delhi until early 2019 before entering Mumbai. “Both growth and cash flow are important to us. That’s why we didn’t expand rapidly,” says Thandi.

Over the next year, the DSG Consumer Partners-backed company—they raised $500,000 in February 2018—wants to expand to Chandigarh, Jaipur and Bengaluru. Work is underway to tap into the US and UK through Amazon. Thandi says they will close FY21 with an annualised revenue run rate of ₹35 crore.

See the full Forbes India 30 Under 30 list for 2020 here

“Cold brew coffee segment, with its rising popularity around the world, presents a great opportunity in the Indian market,” says Deepak Shahdadpuri, MD at DSG Consumer Partners.

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(This story appears in the 14 February, 2020 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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