No sugar, no spiceFor Tsewang Dhoenkyi Sadutshang, a self-professed health nut, homemade fruit smoothies had long been an essential part of her diet. As a student in the US, she had realised early the dangers of processed foods and drinks.
For Tsewang Dhoenkyi Sadutshang, a self-professed health nut, homemade fruit smoothies had long been an essential part of her diet. As a student in the US, she had realised early the dangers of processed foods and drinks. So when she moved back to Nepal after completing her studies in 2017, she saw a big new opportunity.
Along with a rising middle-class, Nepal has also seen a rise in the health and environment conscious people. This is the case all over the world. Prompted by an awareness of the dangers of processed foods, many are looking towards healthier alternatives.
Tsewang saw an opportunity and had an idea, but she needed a partner. And when she coincidentally ran into a long-lost friend, Sonam Shrestha, she found that too.
“If you want to start an enterprise, it’s important not to limit yourself to paper,” says Sonam, who is now partners with Tsewang in NoChini, a start-up that specialises in healthy beverages. They currently serve four combinations of cold-pressed, aesthetically bottled juices.
“Our products are not only pretty, but are natural and ensure your daily nutrient count,” says Tsewang.
NoChini products are currently available at QFX Cinemas and Himalayan Java. The company also caters to events where there is an order for over 50 heads.
A serendipitous meet
Tsewang and Sonam went to kindergarten together but didn’t meet again until they both graduated college. Both went to college in the US—Tsewang majoring in Neuroscience while Sonam in Chemistry—but had decided to return to Nepal to pursue something more personal.
Tsewang knew in her heart that she wanted to turn her love for natural smoothies into a business while Sonam found himself inclined towards entrepreneurship.
The two ran into each other at a gym and at first, “she didn’t recognise me,” says Sonam.
But once they reconnected, they realised they had a few things in common—they were both young, energetic health-enthusiasts ready to pursue entrepreneurship. At that time, Sonam was trying to start up a college portal with another friend while Tsewang was already asking her friends if they wanted to start a smoothie company with her.
After spending some time together and exchanging ideas, they realised they were a good fit and could definitely start a company together. Tsewang had the skills and ideas while Sonam brought the confidence they needed to push forth.
In the summer of 2018, NoChini officially started. Today, the company provides an accessible, go-to drink for those who want to steer clear of carbonated sodas and junk food.
New category in beverage
What sets NoChini apart is how it is “innovating in a space that needs innovation,” says Sonam. “Pasteurised juices and carbonated drinks have been around in the Nepali market for the longest time now, but how many companies can you name that serve fresh, all-natural cold-pressed juices here?” he asks.
NoChini uses Tsewang’s tried-and-tested home recipes, which are prepared in their workshop at Chhauni every morning. “We use a high-end cold press juicer (which uses hydraulic press to extract juice from fruits and vegetables) to make these juices. The fruits and vegetables are all natural and use no preservatives whatsoever,” says Sonam.
So why would people choose NoChini over a local fruit shop for fresh juices?
“For starters, hygiene is not a priority at these local shops,” says Tsewang. “And then the fruits they use to extract juice from are often already cut and hence oxidising. So even when they are freshly served in front of your eyes, they are not really fresh. You aren’t really getting all the nutrients the particular fruit could provide.”
Besides, NoChini can make any number of fruit-fruit, vegetable-vegetable, and fruit-vegetable combinations their customers might demand, says Sonam.
The NoChini duo realise that they have to compete and make space for themselves in a market that thrives on cheap beverages, but they haven’t lost sight of what the end goal is.
“For health-conscious folks exploring healthy eating and drinking habits, we are probably the freshest, healthiest juice you can find in the market right now,” claims Sonam.
True to form for an all-natural company, the shelf-life of their juices is only three days, and fresh bottles are replaced at outlets every other day.
Working in tandem
Every business has its own set of challenges. For NoChini, their manufacturing resources are still limited, as a result of which the production costs are high. It might also be a long way before a majority of the population is able to make an informed choice to naturally reach out to their products. But so far, so good, they say.
“For a company to function well, the team has to be in synergy. We have a solid team. And it helps that Tsewang and I work in tandem. We compliment each other very well,” says Sonam.
Tsewang, in the duo’s words, handles the front end. The recipe, the product, the brand image, they’re all her. Sonam, on the other hand, works in the background. He takes care of the business development, sourcing, supply, and legal and financial aspects.
“I make sure everything runs smoothly.
I am hands on while Sonam’s managing style is more hands off,” says Tsewang.
At NoChini, the co-founders believe that one needs to completely trust their business partner. Their business thrives on a bond where Tsewang and Sonam can agree to disagree and be completely honest with each other as long as they are on the same team at the end of the day.
The end goal
Today, just over a year later, NoChini broke even.
“We are still cash hungry. That’s the thing about a young company, you have to keep injecting capital,” says Sonam. “But in five years’ time, we will hopefully have enough traction to be an export company that taps into global markets that are opening up to health beverages.”
- Dhital is the co-founder of Little Things, Jhamsikhel