SupportBiz spoke with Abhinandan, co-founder and present director of Brown Tree. Edited excerpts:
How many retail outlets do you have in India?
We have 12 retail outlets, totally. Eight of them are in Chennai and four in Bangalore.
What products do you offer?
We offer quality dry fruits, healthy beverages, spices, roasted snacks, organic food as well as different varieties of health food.
In addition, we also have imported chocolates and biscuits, varieties of fine cheese and a wide range of ice creams. We also have gift hampers of quality chocolates, spices and chocolates.
In the organic segment, we offer cereals, cookies and chocolates, among other products.
Tell us about the background of the founders...
I am a management graduate, with three years of experience in the retail segment. Dinesh also has a vast experience in this field, and has worked with several companies in the retail space before co-founding Brown Tree.
How did you come up with the idea of starting Brown Tree?
I was considering starting a new venture after my management studies, and decided to make use of Dinesh’s significant exposure in the retail field to start Brown Tree. Dinesh was into the food business prior to this, and so, this seemed like the right choice to begin with. We wanted to open a health food store that caters to consumers looking for products that are unavailable in the local grocery stores.
How big is your team, presently?
We are currently a team of 110.
Who are your target customers?
Our target customers are largely office-goers, mothers / housewives or anyone who is looking for healthy products and variety in food categories.
What are the major challenges that you face?
Challenges are plenty in the retail segment, particularly in food. First and foremost, there is the issue of damages due to the perishable nature of the products. Then, there is the challenge of finding and retaining efficient staff; as well as logistics.
What sets you apart from other food retailers?
Our line of products is certainly different from other food retailers. We offer a wide range of dry fruits and spices, roasted snacks, chocolates which other retailers do not. Competition does exist in certain categories, but we are not affected by that. The sheer variety of in-house, labelled products that we offer and their quality sets us apart from our competitors.
Tell us about your major milestones in the course of your entrepreneurial journey...
We have been scaling up at an impressive pace. Our biggest milestone is that we have opened 12 stores in less than three years. In addition, we have recently launched an e-commerce portal and a loyalty card for privileged customers. Our e-commerce store is different from other online stores, in the sense that we also have a prominent physical presence and not purely into e-tailing.
Overall, it has been a fast-paced journey, and quite an exciting one.
What are your expansion plans?
We plan to expand to other cities in the next year, but these plans are not finalized as yet.
Tell us about the tie-ups you have...
We have tie-ups with distributors for the supply of our products in various stores, in places where we do not have outlets.
What are the major trends that you note in the Indian organic food industry?
The intake of organic food is on the rise, but it is not a steep one. It is, in fact, a steady growth year-on-year. People are getting more and more aware of the benefits of having organic food in their daily lives, and I am sure it will become a substantial market in future.