Most of us might have seen “Nochini” bottles in Qfx cinemas. While some like to try out new things, some are reluctant to purchase a new brand. After looking up the company online and asking a few people around who had actually tried the product, we came to know that Nochini-a healthy and fulfilling juice company that offers varieties of products is run by two young entrepreneurs.
Tsewang and Sonam graduated from the U.S. with Neuroscience and Chemistry as their majors respectively. Noticing the gap in the health market after returning to Nepal, the duo partnered to explore their potential in the entrepreneurial scene and came up with a lifestyle brand “Nochini” which currently offers cold-pressed healthy juices. Soon they also plan on introducing drinking water to their product line. Read the article to find out more about their journey and future plans.
1. Nochini is a really catchy name that communicates what the company is all about. Can you introduce your juice brand to us?
In a market where every juice says no sugar, no added preservatives, all-natural, Nochini is one a kind health drink that offers what it promises. Unlike other companies, we don’t add concentrates in our juice. Even though the concentrates are made from natural products, and the flavor is natural, that’s not how juice is supposed to be made. It is supposed to be made by squeezing the fruits and vegetables without losing their nutrients or adding anything else.
So in that regards, in Nepal at least, we’re the only responsible company in terms of honest ingredients. That’s why our products are expensive too as we don’t cut corners.
2. What’s the Nochini story?
Tsewang: I have always been a health-conscious person and always made sure I go for healthy options when it comes to food. After returning to Nepal, I saw that the Nepali market lacked health drink with no-sugar and no-preservatives that was tasty and fulfilling at the same time. She also saw that the health-conscious segment in Nepal was slowly growing. So, using these factors as an opportunity, I sought a like-minded partner with an entrepreneurial spirit to start a full-fledged business with. That’s where Sonam came in and since then we have only been growing both as a team and as a company.
Sonam: When we came to the market, we had around 10-15 thousand in cash and an idea which we brought into life by basically getting a juicer, making a stall and then getting the plastic cups with our logo on it. We wanted to test the hypothesis of whether juices can be sold in the market where every juice is sold in tetra pack. So, we did a really easy test without actually having to invest too much. That was our start.
Then we got a cold-pressed machine, switched to glass bottles, had little workshop in what was like a miniature factory for about 3-4 employees working all the time. We had huge stacks of inventory all in a little space. Then we gradually moved on to bigger things and now we have PET recycled bottles and a shelf life of a month which used to be 2 hours when we started out. We’re really proud of this product which isn’t going to be the final one as we’re still working on making it better. We want to iterate on the product as much as possible and as fast as possible.
We do not have our own store for now, but people can purchase our products from a number of outlets including gym, retail stores and restaurants.
3. Are the juices supplied on order basis? What’s your average monthly customer base?
We make them in batches. While the goal is to sell all of them before their life ends but like in any other FMCG, you’ll have about 8-10% return which is totally normal especially for a really short shelf life product.
In a good month, we’ll probably sell closer to around 10k bottles and in other months, we sell around 5-8k bottles.
4. Is the company self-funded? Are you looking for investors?
Everything invested in the company has been self-funded and we’ve so far been able to do pretty well without outside investment. But, we’re looking to grow and in this day and age, if you don’t form a team and seek outside investment, you’ll always end up being a small company.
We were 3 months old as a company when we enrolled in a business accelerator- One to Watch. We had a pitch in Kathmandu and also went to London. There were a lot of big investors that wanted to come but the investment is a very tricky game and both parties just couldn’t come to an agreement. Nevertheless, we’re happy that we have full control over our company for now and hopeful to connect with investors with mutual understanding in the future.
5. The number of health-conscious people in Nepal is ever rising. How do you see Nochini growing in this market?
I think we’re a little early in the game but we’re really confident about our growth. The health trend is only getting bigger and it’s here to stay because people realize the importance of being aware of what they put into their mouths. Moreover, Nochini that you see is basically just one of our products. Nochini is not just juice; it’s going to be more than that. We added water and we’re looking into more avenues such as food, cosmetics and so on which is like so far off. But, as long as we can tie it to our theme of sustainability, we can make sure it’s for the betterment. So, it’s going to be all about promoting health and wellness.
6. Can you tell us more about your team?
We’re really happy about our core team with whom we don’t practice any sort of hierarchy. In the beginning, it was just Sonam and me for a good two to three months. Then we added two people in production who helped us out. It was really hectic in the beginning for us though. To test our product, we sold the juice at pop-up markets and events. We’d make the juice, prepare a stall, put it on top of the car and then we’d drive to the event. To do this, we’d be awake from 5-6 in the morning and stay empty stomach till 12 in the noon under the sun. We’d only end in around 3 or 4 in the evening. After that, we’d clean up everything so we were doing literally just everything.
So, realizing the need to portion the system and create an engine we have 7 more people in the core team now. Before we only had people working in either sales or production but now, we have people dedicated to office related work whether it be data-driven marketing, product development or creative design. Besides the core team, we have a lot of people working indirectly with Nochini.
7. When did you register?
We had the idea in February and registered Nochini around July 2018 with the two of us as co-founders.
8. What problems did you face while starting out the company? What are the problems you are currently facing?
Tsewang: While starting out, finding the right suppliers for our raw materials was really hard. We also had difficulty finding the bottles since we don’t have manufacturers in Nepal. Sonam managed to find suppliers in India and bring the bottles here. So, those two things stood out to me particularly. They weren’t really hard but long and tiring. The communication wasn’t too clear especially considering it wasn’t in the country.
Sonam: I think finding a team is really hard. When we were looking for someone in marketing, we got around 32 applications and out of which we didn’t even select one. That’s when we came across Dipesh who has been my friend for a really long time. Finding people that are like-minded is just incredibly difficult. So, that would be one of the biggest pain points as an entrepreneur. We’re still working on that till day.
9. What were the opportunities when you first started out?
Tsewang: We saw a need in the market and readied to fill that gap. Along with the product, we leveraged our assets, networks and branding capabilities. Additionally, we were college graduates who had nothing to lose when we first started out. I had just completed my internship from Doko Recyclers and Sonam was doing his own thing. So, in terms of opportunity, I think we started out at the right time of our lives when we could experiment. We invested our time, effort, ideas and pocket money to test the product which turned out great.
10. How do you come up with the recipes?
We like to try new recipes and mix different things to see how the results turn out. Of course, there’s a base that you can get off of the internet then we alter it here and there to suit our palate.
11. Has the company reached the breakeven point?
With startups, you have no hope of breaking even because you have to continuously grow and to grow you have to put in money. Our operations started only a year ago we did break even but after reinvesting to make the product and company better, we are yet to break even.
12. Do you consider yourselves as social entrepreneurs?
We didn’t start this out with that in mind. I think nobody starts a venture because they want to become a social entrepreneur. You’re just passionate about something that you’d like to work for. A lot of people promise to revolutionize an industry but those are empty promises. We’re trying to move the needle just slightly towards a healthier side by giving diversity and options when there is none. For us, that’s the bigger part and that aligns with social entrepreneurship.
13. Based on your experience as young entrepreneurs, how would you advise other youth interested in entrepreneurship?
I think the hardest part comes before you start because after you start the only thing that matters is not giving up. As long as you don’t give up, I’m sure you’ll succeed in some way or the other.
For anybody reading this, know that you just have to make that leap. I can’t imagine how miserable I would be if I was pursuing a Ph.D. career and then going into research. Even though it was a safe bet for me, I didn’t do it because I wanted to take this leap. I think it’s so important to believe in yourself in that aspect. Don’t listen to your parents because they’re going to be like “Finish you Masters, finish your PhD, you can always do business after”. If you really want to do it, do it now.