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INTERVIEW

"Like a doctor making his own concoctions"
Monday, 04 February, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Dr Bubbles is a chain that serves, among other things, its trademark Bubble Tea, which finds its genesis in Taiwan where the drink was invented in the early 1980s. It comprises a range of fruit teas and milk teas, served with chewy tapioca balls, which are sucked up through a big fat straw that became a rage in several Asian countries.

Yet, when Bubble Tea debuted in India, it confused the palates of Indians, who did not respond too well to the drink.

In an e-mail interaction with Ranjana Sharma, Adnan Sarkar, founder, Dr Bubbles, highlighted that it is available in as many as 20 different and exclusive flavours, including cranberry and kala khatta, adding that it is topped with inimitable additions. Excerpts:

What was the idea behind launching Dr Bubbles in India?
I have travelled to numerous places, including the United States, Australia, parts of Europe (including Germany, Amsterdam and London), parts of Asia (including China, Thailand, Hong Kong, etc.) and observed that people liked to experiment with their drinks and were happy to consume fusion drinks. I witnessed that bubble tea was a futuristic trend.

So, we did our research, and found out why bubble tea players failed in India earlier. We learned from their mistakes, made a lot of changes, identified our audience, and then launched the product.
In 2015, we opened our first outlet in Mumbai, selling bubble tea on an experimental basis.

Considering this was a healthy option over the unhealthy ones around, we decided to introduce Dr Bubbles to the masses in an exciting way, serving health as well.

What is the reason for adding Dr to the brand name?
There are two meanings to it. Firstly, every product we have offers some or the other health benefits. And secondly, as the whole menu is a do-it-yourself (DIY) menu, the customer feels like a doctor making his own concoctions.

What challenges did you face when you launched Dr Bubbles in India?
Getting an international concept will not guarantee success in India, as the taste of people are very vast and traditional. So our challenge was to make a product which was new, but not so new that the customer starts having doubts. There had to be a connect point between customers and the product.

Education was another challenge, so we had a very good team of servers who could explain the product with a marketing campaign to support them.

What steps did you take to overcome the challenges?
Authentically, bubble tea is made only with black tea. During the course of our research, we observed that black tea is not widely accepted in India. It is considered a mature product, so it was totally rejected by our target audience and we learnt that green tea was very widely accepted by the younger audience for its health benefits, so we were the first brand to make bubble teas out of green tea. That fact made a connection with our customers.

Even authentic milk teas are very thin and watery. We made them thick and rich, as Indians love rich textures.

The bubble topping was traditionally tapioca pearls, which are very bland and an acquired taste. So we added popping juice bubbles and juice jellies with about 24 flavours to go with them. These added a sense of excitement to the product and we could then position it properly.

In a predominantly tea-drinking market like India, do you foresee a market for bubble tea?
Yes! The best thing about bubble tea is, there is a surprise in every sip you take, irrespective of the new flavours you choose every time. We initially were into just one product (bubble tea), but now we have forayed into nine other product lines, having 15 varieties each. We are receiving good response.

Are the products offered by Dr Bubbles in India the same as those offered in other countries?
No. We have customised the taste as per Indian palates.

What makes green coffee different from normal coffee?
Bubble coffee is an amalgamation of beautiful flavours with the base of a green coffee rather than black coffee. Green coffee, the newest addition to weight loss regimes, is known to help in boosting metabolism and is also good for skin and hair. For people who enjoy their coffee as a fun drink, green coffee works best, because it is not roasted, contains no caffeine and is not at all bitter.

Dr Bubbles came up with the idea of adding green coffee to its array of brews because it is entirely safe and can be consumed not just by youngsters, but even children. Green coffee is also believed to reduce sugar cravings, contain antioxidants, boosts energy, is a natural detoxifier and an appetite suppressant. What makes green coffee so desirable is the fact that it comes with all the perks of regular coffee (i.e., it is complete with the full flavour, taste and aroma), but has zero bitterness and zero caffeine.

Are your products customised to suit Indian tastes?
Yes, and that is one of the reason we are growing. The refreshing flavoured fruit teas and milk teas we serve at Dr Bubbles are with chewy tapioca balls, which are sucked up through a big fat straw. And especially to cater to Indian taste buds, a makeover of sorts was given by adding fruit jelly and fruit-flavoured poppers to the milk and fruit teas. For ardent tea lovers, we also introduced a special chai-flavoured variety. With a base of green or black tea, Dr Bubbles’ fruit teas came infused with natural fruit flavourings. Today, we are the biggest player in the market and are known in the Indian market because of these unique bubble teas and coffees.

Apart from these, we also serve iced teas, iced coffees, yoghurt shakes, milkshakes, waffles and mini-pancakes, besides regular hot teas and coffee.

Tell us about your expansion plans.
We are open for franchising. As of now, Dr Bubbles has over 10 outlets in Mumbai and 35-plus outlets across India. The number will go up to 100 outlets by next year. 

Any plans to launch new products in India?
Yes. We are coming up with new products every six months and are also planning to enter the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) line by launching pre-prepared bubble teas and distributing them in various retail outlets across India.
 
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