The best jobs in the world are the ones you create for yourself. We speak with Jovita Mascarenhas from Bartisans, who turned her passion into a business and now shares her knowledge & experience with aspiring D2C entrepreneurs.
When pubs and restaurants were closed due to the lockdown, many people took it upon themselves to improve their drinking experience at home. Previously, there would only be the standard Gin & Tonic, Rum & Coke, or sugary sweet cocktails, but the cocktail scene in India has evolved in the last two years, and the days of sticky-sweet, chemical-filled add-ins are long gone. There are good and natural cocktail mixers in the market made with real fruits, spices, and herbs, ranging from smoked pineapple and basil to spiced rose.
Todays, whether its a weekend house party or a quiet get-together with friends, cocktail mixers make a very easy job in making you look like an expert mixologist. Simply add a spirit to the cocktail premix and you're done! A bar-quality cocktail is ready for consumption.
In an exclusive interview with D2C Entrepreneur Jovita Mascarenhas, we shake and strain to create a handy list of things to keep in mind before starting a D2C business.
1. What was the origin story of Bartisans and how was the journey so far?
Cocktails were always a favourite of ours as a family, and guests loved them when we hosted parties. Bartisans was created during the pandemic when my son Jordan returned from Dubai, where he worked as a mixologist. I had heard of cocktail mixers in the United States, but the market in India was very small. Despite the fact that &stirred and Jimmy's Cocktail entered the market in 2019, there was little noise in this market.
I founded Bartisans in 2020 with my son Jordan as a co-founder. From my kitchen, Jordan created 18 different types of cocktail kits in which we would make fresh juices, syrups, and ingredients for the perfect cocktail. We only began operations in Mumbai because the kit's shelf life was only 24 hours. We decided to scale our product and cater to a larger audience across the country by late 2020, after receiving so much praise, love, and definitely repeat customers.
As a serial entrepreneur, I used my previous experience and upskilled during the lockdown period to launch Bartisans as a D2C brand. We paused our service during the lockdown and spent time developing a proper bottled product with an extended shelf life (preservative, BPA, and chemical free) that can be shipped to various parts of the country. We were inspired by the ancient techniques of preserving pickles, jams, and sherbet, and we were determined to keep the product as natural as possible.
We then chose six of the best-sellers and sent them for testing, which they passed on the first try. So building the right product while focusing on quality has always been important to us, and this passing of the test proved our point.
We launched the new version of Bartisans in June 2021, and many Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities in India have expressed interest. We also raised our Seed Fund through an initiative by RPSG Capital Ventures through their D2C accelerator programme called BaseCamp, in collaboration with LBB (Little Black Book), and now we want to go all out on establishing a proper digital presence, educating our customers on how to make good cocktails, and enriching their experience with Bartisans.
2. Which are the first teams that should be formed when launching a D2C business? What was the first set of skills you brought to Bartisans?
As a start-up, we are frequently limited in resources, and our needs change as we learn and grow our business. As a result, many of our responsibilities regularly evolve, and we frequently end up filling multiple roles. We are a small team; Jordan handles product, I handle operations, and another colleague, Aastha, handles branding and marketing. However, in order to get started, a D2C entrepreneur must have someone in charge of Product, Operations, Sales, and Marketing.
3. How quickly should a brand experiment and create an MVP to release into the market as a digital-only brand? What was Bartisans' strategy?
We decided to focus on a single brand category. We didn't want to go broad; instead, we wanted to concentrate on one thing and do it well. We decided to limit ourselves to cocktail mixers. From June to September, we released six flavours, and then for special occasions such as Diwali, Christmas, and Valentine's Day, we released limited edition mixers. We will soon be releasing three more flavours in the market that are more familiar to consumers so that we can encourage them to try these classic flavours (Mojito, Margarita & Whiskey Sour) before attracting them to our special and unique mixers.
4. How do you ensure that your best-selling SKUs are always in stock? Do you go through your inventory on a daily basis? If yes, how?
Because we only have 9 SKUS, it is fairly simple to track. But we do have an inventory system in place for raw materials. Every time a batch is created, the inventory on the excel sheet is deducted for that specific batch.
On Shopify, we use apps like Freshly to keep a tab on our stocks.Our most popular flavours, according to Shopify, are Tamarind & Orange Cocktail Mixer, Blue Pea & Mint Cocktail Mixer, Ginger & Spice Cocktail Mixer, and Smoked Pineapple & Basil Cocktail Mixer. So we concentrate on making a full batch of that because we know the batch will run out in 15 days. We use a quarter-batch, half-batch system for our other products.
5. Do you believe that omni-channel distribution is critical for digital-only brands looking to scale? What do you intend to do with Bartisans?
I believe it is dependent on the product. In India, food and beverages are still purchased on the spur of the moment. So, if your D2C business is unable to help you reach your numbers, then you might want to adopt an omnichannel strategy
Bartisans intends to remain a direct-to-consumer company for the foreseeable future. We are considering converting one of our spaces into an experience centre, where we will hold workshops, conduct more flavour experiments, and provide people with a more positive experience with our brand.
6. Which social media channel do you constantly monitor for new ideas, trends, and insights to help you improve your marketing strategies?
Instagram is a great source of ideas and content for us. Jordan and I, despite our lack of social media experience, have jumped on Instagram to learn how to generate buzz for our brand. Aastha is always giving me advice and assisting me with my strategy. But these keep changing every month with the shift in consumer behaviour, purchasing patterns and what's trending in the digital space.
7. In your opinion, what are the five things future D2C entrepreneurs should keep in mind as they embark on their D2C business journey?
- Whatever business idea you come up with, it must be something that you are passionate about and that solves a real customer problem.
- To build trust and meaningful relationships with your customers, you must have a strong brand story.
- Begin by creating prototypes of your product and test the market acceptance
- Customers should be listened to, and you should always be a part of their experience with your product.
- In the early days of your company, you should be the star salesperson. Selling your product will teach you a lot.