NewsX was recently joined by Bharat Sethi, Founder Rage Coffee, for an exclusive conversation as a part of its special series, NewsX A-List where he spoke about his brand and the coffee business in India.
Talking about what contributed to the success of his brand Bharat said, “I think the biggest thing would be a fundamentally differentiated product. When we entered the market we did not just see one gap, the legacy giants were not innovating in several functions of a product company that make them great in today’s time- the Millenials and the Gen Z. So, there was no aspirational brand around a product which is so emotional for people on a daily basis. There were not many brands they could compete with a cafe kind of a coffee at a fraction of the cost and that was the need of the market and we catered to that segment.”
Rage Coffee is known for the number of flavours it offers, speaking about the flavours and his personal favourite Bharat said, “We have looked at this market from a consumer’s mindset and not the manufacturer’s mindset or a brand mindset and when we started asking questions around the onset of this new trend around people and just consumers wanting to have that quality coffee which they’re having at high-end speciality cafe when they have their hazelnut lattes and the caramel cappuccinos and those double shot espressos. So we wanted to rival that at a fraction of a cost and we’ve gone out and created some very interesting flavours. We’ve recently launched the butterscotch delight, the first of its kind, nobody has ever tried to do anything with butterscotch and coffee. We have a mint mocha flavour, we have a sparky orange flavour and then the usual ones which do really well for us are the Irish, chocolate, double chocolate and then there’s the caramel with that we have the creme caramel. My favourite is the sparky orange and now it’s the butterscotch delight.”
When asked what approach the uses in sales, marketing and distribution Bharat explained by saying that, “When we started, we started out as a digitally native brand. We are a digital-first brand. The milestones that we wanted to go after were very clear that we want to initially do all the communication, messaging and the brand building to be online. The initial hundred thousand customers that we wanted to go out and cater to had to be online. So distribution is now the only channel. We’re present in close to about 500 retail stores, we have 20 distributors pan India, we are present in all online marketplaces. So that’s about distribution.”
“About marketing, our approach has been very authoritative and being honest, we have gone out and taken a very pole position and said that we are the best and we know what we’re doing. Most of the products that can compete with our quality are being imported into India in the instant format. So you’re getting an affordable product that is convenient to use and is very high quality. Since we know our position in the market and the quality we give also take a very bold approach to marketing and we don’t shy away from saying that this is how we compare with the other brands and this is the feedback which we get from consumers. We post videos and screenshots of reviews we get on social media and a bunch of other growth hacks that we use,” Bharat continued.
Talking about creating a niche in the market where people are used to having traditional coffee Bharat remarked, “If you look at the data, you’ll see that coffee consumption is being by the Gen Z and the millennials, the 18 to 35-year-olds. They are driving new-age coffee consumption. When you talk about the filter coffee experience or the coffee with chicory experience with a lot of bitterness, that we have a product that is the original blend which does not have any bitterness any chicory. So what happened is people traditionally in India have been drinking a product that is not coffee actually because it is laden with chicory and a lot of other ingredients to bring down the cost and filter coffee obviously because it has to have that bitterness, that little pungent smell to it is only there to drive down cost essentially. So now we are also catering, I personally know so many people who used to drink chai and now drink our coffee or people who were drinking earlier brands of coffee even above the age group of 35. Because now they are experiencing real coffee and they’re not spending a bomb every time they want to drink it.”
When asked to place Rage Coffee amongst its competitors in terms of costing and the price tag Sethi answered, “we are in the mass premium segment, we are not in the entry-level segment so we will not be comparable to any entry-level product in the market. But talking about our segment we compare veteran pricing with any product imported into India. We want to be more affordable to more people, we want to be more accessible. Having said that I would say that we are in the middle to premium at the moment.
Talking about the reason behind starting the company Bharat said, “It was a bit of frustration, a bit of not finding the right product for myself. Using caffeine as a functional product, that was something that I was doing as an energy drink. So we used the active ingredient caffeine so we call ourselves a caffeine company, we happen to be dealing with coffee right now but you’re innovating around caffeine. So there was nothing that exceptional quality that compared with high-end coffee experience. The options were very limited, all good products were being imported into India with very long supply chains and they just did not deliver on quality. We have six plant-based vitamins which work synergistically with caffeine giving a very distinctive caffeine kick. It is just not about the taste and the aroma but also about the distinctive caffeine kick that delivers on all of its promises”
Speaking about the learnings he had as an entrepreneur Bharat said, “My learnings have been mostly around “keep learning” I would say. That is my biggest learning you have to always keep learning. Manage cash really well I think that is one of the biggest things, building a team, managing a team is really important. Also, the ability to predict where the market is they’re operating in is going. Overall I would say you have to be in it for the long haul, you cannot have a micro 3-year 2-year vision regarding building companies you have a really long timeline.”
Lastly talking about the vision ahead for Rage Coffee Bharat said that “With Rage, we are building a globally recognizable brand. The idea with rage now, when we started we had certain milestones, we hit those milestones, at this point of time the love, affection and the acceptance we have seen for Rage Coffee products in Europe, in the US, in Middle East, South East, Russia we’ve started doing these trial runs with distributors in all of these countries. We’ve started exporting as well. So I think my personal motive and my personal agenda now is to put Rage Coffee on the global map and tell the world that a coffee brand can be built out of India. India is the seventh-largest producer of coffee and almost 80% of this is exported and comes back to India at a premium at a higher cost. So we are a market that is ready for quality products, we will not take anything you give to us. But beyond that, I think the idea and the 10-year vision would be to put Rage Coffee out there. We want to see it in New York, Melbourne and Moscow and all of these global cities.”