For centuries, this herbal brew made from the dried tropical flower was little known outside of Southeast Asia. It is now the flagship offer of an Emirati start-up trying to tap into the rapidly growing Gulf beverage market.
The so-called blue tea, known for its intense color – it turns purple when a drop of lemon is added – is extracted from the butterfly pea flower. Dubai-based start-up Feel Good Tea sources in China for sale in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries and is sold in bulk. It can also be personalized by adding more flavors on demand – a key differentiator for the start-up in a market dominated by packaged tea.
“It’s all really about quality and experience,” says Mohammad Al Hawari, founder of Feel Good Tea. “Handling loose tea allows customers to touch, see and smell the leaves… the ritual of brewing the perfect cup can be both relaxing and contemplative,” he adds.
Founded in 2019, Feel Good Tea operates a growing beverage market in the region. The Middle East tea market is expected to reach around $ 8.2 billion in retail prices by 2025, up from $ 3.33 billion in 2015, according to a recent report by analyst firm Research and Markets.
The tea market has evolved dramatically in recent years, along with changing consumer behavior, according to the Research and Markets report. Today’s tea drinkers are more interested in high-quality products and beverages that provide them with specific health benefits, which has driven the demand for healthy and functional botanical teas and herbal blends, he added.
“Consumers are increasingly looking for organized choices and experiences,” says Sandeep Ganediwalla, managing partner of Indian research firm Redseer in the region.
“We expect to see many local brands creating offerings to meet regional tastes. The emergence of online channels has allowed them to test these products with agility and reach consumers directly. “
At Feel Good Tea, Mr. Al Hawari says he personally selects each of the company’s blends from seasonal rotations before they’re squeezed into what he describes as tea pods – glass tubes. that keep the tea fresh. He chooses them for their unique flavors and health benefits.
Along with the tea selection, which includes the more traditional options, the company – which now has more than 80 items in its product line – also sells accessories such as teapots, infusers, cups and mugs.
The brand was born on social media, says Al Hawari, and has grown exponentially as people began to shop more and more online early last year due to the Covid pandemic. 19. Feel Good Tea generated 4.6 million Dh ($ 1.25 million) in revenue between February 2020 and January 2021, according to Mr. Al Hawari.
He looks forward to another great year as the company expands its product line and reaches more customers.
For this, Mr. Al Hawari says the company will need more cash. He started Feel Good Tea with around Dh 1.5million of his own money, but now plans to raise around Dh 3.3million in the first quarter of next year through crowdfunding. The founder finally wants to list the company on the stock market.
“Of course, we have plans for the listing of the company, this is the ultimate goal for the future,” Mr. Al Hawari said. “In the meantime, we are focusing on crowdfunding and venture capital.”
But the risks, as with any start-up, remain high. For every success story, there are dozens of ideas that fail for multiple reasons: from getting the wrong product and price to not having the right people to help grow the business. . Finding financing remains a constant challenge, especially as the company grows.
Mr. Al Hawari understands the risks of any new business. He started Feel Good Tea after losing a high paying corporate job. The incident left him depressed and he spent months in therapy. Meanwhile, he found solace in watching Netflix while sipping hot cups of tea – a joy that he said led him to dig deeper into the tea business and create one.
“When I drink tea, I always feel good. I didn’t want to complicate things so I named my company Feel Good Tea – pure, simple and straight to the point, ”he says.
The executive-turned-entrepreneur says Feel Good Tea aims to fill a market gap for an Emirati e-commerce company selling branded specialty tea. He spends long hours researching products and has traveled the world for top quality ingredients.
Having started Feel Good Tea from the basement of his home, Mr. Al Hawari continues to lead the operations of the company from there, with 22 employees.
He says he was inspired by the founder of Australian company SkinnyMe Tea, which Mr. Al Hawari notes primarily focuses on detox tea. He relies on his more than 18 years of experience in investment management, banking and insurance to grow his business.
“The tea is so wide. There are thousands and thousands of varieties of tea – black, green, oolong, herbal. The list is endless. We want to focus not only on flavored teas, but also on functional teas, ”he says, adding that the company has already started testing various types of functional teas such as detox, soothing, sleep and health. beauty.
To drive that growth, the company is now looking beyond just online sales, Al Hawari said. “We have to develop quickly. You have to be online and offline to be successful.
As people return to malls and restaurants, online sales have fallen from their peak, Al Hawari said. The business can no longer depend solely on online sales, he adds.
“We intend to open physical stores, but we want to go the extra mile. We don’t just want to have a tea room. We also wish to have a tea bar, where you can taste different types of teas, for a price.
Feel Good Tea is currently working on the design of its first store, which it plans to open in one of Dubai’s malls next year, Al Hawari said, without disclosing details.
Meanwhile, he is also in talks to display his tea products in cafes and restaurants in Dubai to raise awareness of his brand.
Feel Good Tea has developed a corporate gift package, a side of the business that has seen strong growth by delivering personalized boxes to businesses across industries, the founder said.
Mr. Al Hawari says his company is trying to position itself as the Patchi or Bateel of the tea market. Both of these brands are very popular in the region and Feel Good Tea follows a similar strategy: putting a variety of teas in a nice package that you can personalize and personalize.
The company sells its loose tea in test tubes, packaged in a box. His offer starts at Dh52 for a box of five types of tea at Dh269 for a box of 18 tubes of tea. Its most exotic offering, blue tea – called Blue Ocean – sells for Dh130 per 100 grams.
Mr. Al Hawari’s personal favorite is: “Mango Cranberry Fruit Punch Tea Infused Using Feel Good Tea Monroe Glass Cup Infuser.”
Q&A with Mohammad Al Hawari, Managing Director and Founder of The Feel Good Tea
How has the pandemic impacted your business?
A: We started online sales in December 2019 and once the pandemic hit in March 2020 we had extremely strong sales due to the increase in online shopping around the world. Since we are purely an online business, we have had huge success during the pandemic.
If you had the option to start all over again, what would you do differently?
A: Rather than relying on my own source of funds, I would have grown the business much faster by raising funds from angel investors or venture capitalists. This should be the only factor to revise in my initial plan.
Where do you see the business in five years?
We consider ourselves to be one of the most successful tea brands in the CCG, offering a variety of tea flavors, blends and tea accessories.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned from creating Feel Good Tea?
A: Once the plans are defined, just start. There is no need to dwell too much on the planning phase as this will only slow down your business. Taking the first step gets the ball rolling. And then you can adjust as the business progresses.
If you could go back and change one thing in your business, what would it be?
A: I wouldn’t change anything. Maybe we can work on improving and improving the product line, but without testing our products in the market, we wouldn’t have the knowledge we now have about our customers and their demands.
Society: Feel good tea
The meeting has started: Creation date September 2019 (Site launch date December 2019)
Founder: Mohamed al hawari
Sector: E-commerce, Catering
Cut: 22 employees
Initial investment: 1.5 million dirhams ($ 400,000)
To organise: Seed
Update: October 24, 2021, 4:14 a.m.