Bangalore Based Startup - Aromas of Coorg, Brewing Business with Coffee

30th Dec 2011
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When Friedrich Durrenmatt once said “It is surely easier to confess a murder over a cup of coffee than in front of a jury.” he quite simply put across the magic of a good cup of brewing coffee!Fresh, strong, steaming hot and hassle-free service are some of the words which come to your mind when you think of coffee and vending serivces, and these very words are the part of Aromas of Coorg’s philosophy.

In conversation with Abhilasha Dafria for YourStory, A.Chithra Uthappa, co-founder of Aromas of Coorg, tells us how they, at AOC, are full of fresh ideas, believe strongly in quality and customer satisfaction and have the best designed products for their customers so that they get the maximum value for their money.

Afterall, science may never come up with a better office communication system than the coffee break!

Hi Chitra, tell us about yourself and an introduction to Aromas of Coorg

Aromas of Coorg has been in business of Beverage solutions since 2009 & coffee cultivation for more than 3 decades. Our passion is to provide the most technology driven, innovative beverage solutions to both businesses and consumers.

I, A.Chithra Uthappa, am the founder & Managing Director of Aromas of Coorg and I’m an MBA from MIT MAHE University, Manipal and B.B.M From Mysore University. I have worked with large corporates like Kotak Mahindra Bank, Aditya Birla Minacs and iSeva/e4e. All my corporate roles have been with fast growing sunrise industries and have played significant roles in building the businesses and growing the companies to the next level. In my last assignment with the start-up open2save, I was a key team member and was instrumental in setting up new business channels ground-up.

Radhakrishnan M, my co-founder & Head of Operations  is a seasoned professional with over a decade's experience in large corporate before he set-up his own company, Aromas of Coorg. He has worked with large corporate like Dell, Infosys, Manpower Inc. etc and has extensive experience in building and managing businesses including sales, building teams and organizations. He is an MBA from Loyola College, Chennai and B.Sc. from Madras University.

 So what triggered this idea?

There are four important factors that made our idea into a company, ie, My husband's passion and support for my entrepreneurship, my son, our roots from Coorg and the corporate exposure.

First and foremost, to become an entrepreneur was always the dream of my husband and me ... this is what we wanted to be. I was on sabbatical for my child and during the break; I conceived the business idea too! We decided that this would be the right opportunity to start something on our own sitting at home. This is where it all started.

We are basically from Coorg and we have been into coffee cultivation for more than three decades. This was the primary driver why we chose to build something unique in this space and we thought out of the box. Having worked with corporate for more than a decade we understand this world well and we were able to quickly identify the opportunity.

Thus the birth of “Aromas of Coorg”, as we wanted our company to bear the name “Coorg” in some part and also wanted a name where our targeted customers can easily relate to it. Quite naturally the first thing that attracts anybody to any form of food is the “Aroma”. That is how we finalized on the name “Aromas of Coorg” and this also marked our entry into the beverage solutions for corporate, institutions, etc.

Since when are you operational? How big is your team? Are you looking at hiring?

We are fully operational since August 2009. We are currently a 40 member team. Yes, definitely, we are looking to strengthen our sales force and simultaneously our operational support staff will have to go hand in hand with every new client that gets added.

What is your clientele like?

We service range of clients like large corporate across multiple cities to a one location company as well. We have a well spread out client base across industries and geographies.

Where are you based and where are your clients from?

We are based in Bangalore and are currently supporting clients in Bangalore, Mysore, Tumkur, Nelamangala, Hosur and Chennai. However, we are not present in retail segment at this point of time.

Where do you have your manufacturing units? Which cities do you provide the home-delivery services?

Our manufacturing unit is also in Bangalore; currently we provide home delivery service only within Bangalore city limits.

How does the supply chain work?

We are currently able to manage the supply chain internally, our raw materials are procured from different locations and the respective vendors manage the supply chain of the respective products. All these products come to our processing units in Bangalore from where the supply of finished products to the respective clients is managed by full time employees of AOC. Machines are manufactured under our complete supervision.

Did you fund-raise to start up? If not, are you looking at getting funded now?

We used our personal money and angel money. We are looking to get funding for our future expansions.

How does the revenue module work?

We work both on variable and a fixed pricing model where clients can pay based on usage or based on usage+ a fixed monthly costs. The pricing model is designed with the motive of win-win for us and clients.

So what were the challenges you faced while starting up? Tell me about your initial hurdles.

First and foremost challenge was how to differentiate ourselves from the others; there were several big brands and more than enough small vendors. We really had to come up with a differentiator from the existing. This is the stage were we re-invented our traditional filter coffee. The wave of western form of coffee was so popular that everybody is racing towards the Cappuccino, Espresso, latte, etc.

Timing was tough; given it was the time of deep recession, all around you there were companies going under losses, almost all the corporate were planning for major cost cutting, and so on. It was also very difficult for us to penetrate the companies with our new concept and service offerings.

Of course our innovative thinking helped us make good inroads. We took this to our advantage and came up with our very own filter coffee which is truly Indian, especially south Indian, and presented to the corporate the first of its kind fully-automated Vending machines which serves authentic filter Coffee and freshly brewed Tea. In our very first Demo we knew that we hit the nail on the head with our concept.

Are there other players in the market doing similar things? What are your key differentiators?

Yes there are several big names in the market providing beverage service, Coffee day, Fresh & Honest, Tata Cafe, Hindustan lever, etc. Our USP is our focus on technology, our zeal to innovate and our relentless passion for quality. Our Vending machine is the first its kind which is fully automated to serve freshly brewed authentic filter Coffee & freshly brewed Tea on a single press of the button. We are the first company in India to build coffee vending machine with both HOT & COLD option in the same machine. We are looking at adding more features around quality assurance here.

Our Coffee is a blend of six varieties of finest coffees beans hand picked from our own cultivation and we apply expert science, combined with traditional artistry, in order to maximize the flavor attributes of each roast. Our coffee roasting process is tuned to develop coffee flavors to the fullest for flavor profile, aroma and overall character in the cup. These factors make us the pioneers and front runners in providing the most hygienic and finest Coffee but at the same time affordable vending service provider in the market today.

Can you share with us some interesting trends about the market that you are trying to capture?

The market is looking for continuous innovation and personalization as much as possible.

An interesting trend is enhanced customer awareness and focus on health drinks like badam milk, green tea, milk shakes, horlicks etc. In some clients these new drinks are consumed lot more than traditional tea and coffee.

What are the challenges of scale in this business and how do you prepare to cope with them?

The biggest challenge in scaling is to maintain the same levels of service and quality. This is B2B2C market and end consumers decide what they finally like to drink. Having a continuous feedback loop and connection with end consumers is another critical aspect of this business.

Where and how do you see yourself going ‘bout this?

We aim to build our company to PAN India multi format Beverage Company. To serve 1 lacs cups a day is our immediate 12 months target.

For more information, please visit their website: http://aromasofcoorg.com/

- Abhilasha Dafria

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