Originated in 220 BC in China, fermented tea or Kombucha has a long history. From China it expanded to the North West then Russia. In the mid 90’s alone, almost 100 million people consumed it and in present, around 500 million people are consuming it. Also, it is one of the fastest growing drinks in the beverage market.
Utkarshaa Gautam, a 23 years old aspiring entrepreneur has taken the initiative to bring in this million dollar business to Nepal with K for Kombucha. The interesting part is she is not only selling this rich in benefits drink, but is also actively educating people about its health benefits.
We had an interesting conversation with this young and passionate, entrepreneur knowing every bit and piece of this drink. Read on to know what we talked about
How did the concept of K for Kombucha come around?
Actually, Kombucha was a solution to the problem I was facing. I am studying dentistry and I used to live in a hostel. So, I was stressed most of the time and was also not getting a proper nutritious diet because of which I used to frequently suffer from gut problems. I went to the doctor and got a number of medicines and probiotics prescribed. I am a really curious person and probiotics was something new to me.So, I did a bit of google search and that is where I came across Kombucha. I came to know its beneficial properties of treating the gut problem. Hence, without delay I looked for it but sadly it wasn’t available in the area where I was living. Then as an alternative I came across Scoby, the mother of Kombucha. I started having it, didn’t work for multiple times but in the end I came up with the perfect recipe.
It has been three years now since I started consuming Kombucha and it is doing wonders. My gut problem has gotten a lot better. Having experienced in person that Kombucha actually works, I promised myself that I will make this drink accessible to everyone once I grow up and here I am after three years with K for Kombucha.
So, that is basically my journey.
What exactly is Kombucha? How is it made?
Like said earlier, it is simply a probiotic with tons of health benefits and it is made from universal ingredients like sugar, organic tea, water and Scoby( Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). We can also add flavours to it. Currently we have mango, berry and lemon ginger flavoured Kombucha. It is 100% organic and is made with locally sourced ingredients. The final product is in liquid form and is sweet and tangy in taste.
How long does it take to produce the final product?
It requires 7 to 8 days for the fermentation process and if we are making flavored Kombucha it takes an additional 2 to 3 days. We currently have 8 jars to make Kombucha. Each jar holds 5 liters, so in one batch we produce 40 liters.
Where can people find your product?
Customers can order our product from our social media handles that is our Facebook and Instagram page. They can also call us or text us to place an order and once the order is confirmed we get it delivered to their place. So, as of now we are online based but in future we are planning to make it available in stores too.
What is the price range for your product?
The price depends on the size of the bottles. Currently we are offering three sizes. A 300ml bottle costs Rs.300, 500ml costs Rs.450 and 1l costs Rs.700. The price is quite reasonable considering the benefits Kombucha offers.
With sales of over $400 million dollars in 2014, the kombucha business is currently seeing around 30% annual sales growth, a rare sight in the beverage industry.
What about the packaging? Where does it take place?
We use glass bottles for Kombucha because I personally want to run a plastic free venture. We are also inclined towards recycling, so we have the facility of offering 10% discounts to the customers on second purchase if they return us the bottles.
Talking about manufacturing, we buy the bottles but my brother has designed them. We fill the bottles ourselves manually.
Who are your allies/team in running this venture?
My family is my team. My brother handles the designing process and the social media. My father looks after the accounting and finances and I look after the manufacturing process. And for packaging, my mother, father, brother and I jointly work on it.
So, your business is doing quite well. What are your plans for expansion?
Yes, it is doing quite well and we have also been constantly thinking about the expansion process to meet the increased demand for K for Kombucha. I am working on increasing the production capacity required to produce Kombucha. Due to the increased demand I also have plans on hiring a few staff and if all goes well, I want to open an outlet for K For Kombucha.
What are your future plans?
I have the long term plan of incorporating women empowerment in my business. As of now, it is more of a family business and only the family members are involved. But in future I plan to train the marginalized women in making Kombucha.
Also customers get their orders in a cloth bag. So, in future I also have the plan of training the women in making those cloth bags. To be specific along with the consistency, I also have the plan of incorporating sustainability in this business.
K for Kombucha is an interesting name. Is there a story behind it?
I wanted a catchy name for the venture. We did a lot of brainstorming and my brother came up with the name. Rather than a story, the name has a motive. When people think of the letter K, I want them to remember Kombucha. So that is the reason why we went with this name.
Kombucha is something that is very new to Nepal. Do people easily understand what it is?
Actually no. So, making them understand what it is and its health benefit is my very first motive. We are often flooded with questions regarding it and we are quite happy with this, This shows that we are on the right path. Also, to educate people about what Kombucha is we have provided its brief introduction in our social media handles and everyone is always free to shoot us with queries if they want to learn more.
How much Kombucha do you recommend for consumption in a day? What are its three key benefits?
We recommend 60ml a day but if your body feels good you can consume up to 300ml a day. It has many benefits but if I have to pinpoint any three, it would be:
- It improves digestion. So it is great for people suffering from bowel problems
- It is beneficial for detoxification. This is one of the reasons for its increasing popularity, especially in Western countries.
- It is also extremely beneficial for the skin since there are no chemicals that go into making the drink.