Three friends promised to return back to Nepal to start a venture together when they parted ways for higher studies. Aakash, Dibeev and Puneet kept the promise and have launched a personal care brand Saboo:, offering the Nepalese market a wide range of products.
Read on the article to know more about them and their venture Saboo:
1. How did the concept of “ Saboo” ideate?
Dibeev: As friends, we have always wanted to do something and work together here in Nepal by using the locally and naturally available resources. Having stayed abroad, we saw how the businesses there used their own resources and made valuable products out of them for exporting and all. Also, I had always been interested in making different bar soaps and liquid soaps. So, that interest and the scenario we saw aboard, led us to establish Saboo: But Saboo: wasn’t the first venture we decided on. We knew from the very beginning that we 3 will be working together no matter what but we didn’t know which area we will be working on. We initially thought of opening a service- based startup, a designing firm but as we all know things don’t always go as planned, that didn’t workout. So, at the end, all these trial and errors led to the establishment of Saboo: in 2017.
2. Has there been change in your target market after almost 2 years of operation?
Dibeev: Initially our major targets were the expats but with time we have extended our products to the Nepalese market too. Nepalese market is growing at an exceptional rate, especially for the personal care products. So, considering the growing demand we launched the liquid body wash with high quality natural ingredients and packaging with the concept of branding it to the Nepali market.
Aakash: Also, when we started off the market was completely different. The concept of entrepreneurship was new and using made in Nepal products was also not that common. So, we started Saboo: targeting expats and only a few Nepalese. But, in two years’ time span, the dynamics of the market has changed. But rather than saying there has been change in the target market, I’d say we have extended it, adapting to changes the time has brought.
3. Where can people get the products from Saboo:?
Aakash: As of now we are online based, so the customers can order the product from our website. If people prefer in person shopping then they can also find our products in 9 different stores like Maya ko Cheno, Masala Beads across Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Dibeev: People can also find our products in Daraz, mainly those outside the valley.
4. What are the products that Saboo offers?
Dibeev: We offer liquid/bar soaps, shampoos and essential oils. We also sell electric diffusers as complementary to the essential oils as of now but we are planning to put it down because there’s too much competition and hassel around this product. Apart from this, we have perfume roll-ons, focusing on 5 different essences which have been our best seller for the past 6 months. I believe we are the first in Nepal to locally produce it.
5. Can you take us through the production process of your products?
Aakash: All the products that we offer are 100% made in Nepal. Talking about our products like body wash and face wash, we use a mixture of various types of oil like olive oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil to name a few which is then combined with only one kind of chemical, potassium hydroxide to help in mixing of the oils to make the soap, saponification process to be precise.. Then, we add various fragrances to the mixture.
For soaps, cold- pressing technique is used. We reuse coffee grounds as we all are well aware of its natural exfoliating property. Then these products go through our eco-friendly packaging, where we use saal ko paat. Also in order to preserve the fragrance, we use a thin layer of plastic on the outside.
Dibeev: I lead the production team. Like I said I experiment with ingredients, so based on that I orient our production staff through the process and they get the products produced.
6. Where do you source the raw materials from?
Dibeev: We get the materials from both inside and outside Nepal. We import some of the oil like coconut oil, sunflower oil but they are imported in raw form so we process them here in Nepal. Similarly we are promoting 18 to 19 essential oils out of which 5 to 6 of them are produced locally here in Nepal. But like other oils, those that are imported are also processed here.
7. How do you ensure the quality and consistency of your products?
Dibeev: We have standardized procedures in place. We make sure that the products before they go out in the market are checked, to ensure that they meet our quality benchmark. Similar is the process for raw materials. We only get those oils and other materials that meet our quality and consistency requirements.
8. What are and were the challenges running Saboo:?
Aakash: The first challenge was regarding packaging. We had actually planned to start by June 2017 but due to lack of packaging options we had three months delay. Another challenge was to educate the people regarding our products. When we first decided to start Saboo: all three of us were quite clear that rather than pull demand we wanted push demand, which means people need to know about our products and the benefits they offer and that was a tough egg to crack. Also, Made in Nepal products were not that popular during those times and people preferred cheaper imported alternatives. But with time that has changed.
Dibeev: Currently addressing the increased competition has been a challenge for us. When we started there were only a handful of made in Nepal personal care brands but now they are constantly on rise. Also, most of them have similar packaging like us, so it makes things more difficult. We also recently changed the packaging for our essential oils , so that customers can differentiate our products from the competitors.
9. What makes Saboo: unique?
Dibeev: We have a very strong R&D which I believe is what makes us different. We are constantly experimenting which allows us to stay in line with the customers’ taste and preferences. Also, this has allowed us to develop and introduce new products to the market, electric diffuser is one of them. Apart from that, we are trying to create a pull demand, for which we have been constantly awaring and educating people of products we offer so that people can themselves know the benefits and buy them.
Aakash: Also, our quality is another aspect that makes us unique. Quality is of utmost importance to us and that is what we believe has retained our customers.
10. What is your future plan for Saboo?
Dibeev: Talking about our short term plans, we will soon be launching perfumes roll- ons with five different blends . Likewise, we also have few other new products in our pipeline, which we plan to launch after the lockdown.
11. How has your journey been so far?
Aakash: It has been a great journey full of new experiences and learning opportunities. When we first started branding, marketing, online platforms were new for us but with time we have been able to leverage them to take Saboo: to new heights.
Dibeev: The journey has been going quite well. Like, Aakash said we have learned many new things and I am sure there is a lot more to learn. Also, we have been able to create synergy. Back then we were just friends who hung out and enjoyed life. Now we have Saboo: which is an essential part of our lives. It has brought us closer and made us stronger.
12. Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
Dibeev: People usually have this misconception that “Made in Nepal” products need to be cheap and are of low quality, which is not at all true. We have a lot of things that get exported yet Nepalese don’t want to use those products. So, I would like to urge everyone to promote their own Made in Nepal products and support the local business .
Aakash: Also, after the lockdown, the economy is bound to change and the supply chain is going to get disrupted. So, it is high time we move towards self-reliance. The blockade did teach us that but we seemed to have completely forgotten it. So, let us not miss the signals this time and promote entrepreneurship in Nepal.
Interviewed and article by Trishna Shakya.