After observing serious gaps in healthy foods industry, Raghav Gupta decided to try his hands and founded Oateo Oats in 2016. Oateo was born with a mission to strike a balance between quality, taste, sustainability, and value-for-money, the brand’s products have amassed a huge following in Sri Lanka and promises the same in other parts of the world.
Alumnus of the University of Toronto and with the experience of over 8 years in Finance, Mr. Raghav Gupta is a skilled professional in marketing, negotiation, budgeting, business planning and operations management. He considers oat as a third grain which is why he offers Oats products across categories through Oateo.
In an exclusive interaction with Motiverge, Raghav Gupta, Founder of Oateo Oats shares more insights about his venture, journey so far, motivation and future plans.
Below are the excerpts from the interview:
What is Oateo Oats all about?
As a food manufacturing brand, we’ve always believed that the food we create should be safe, affordable and premium quality – food that we ourselves enjoy eating. Oateo oats is a reflection of that belief. We are one of the few South Asian oats manufacturers that mill oats in our very own facility in Sri Lanka. We take a lot of pride in our product portfolio because we think we have something healthy and delicious to offer to everyone out there!
What factors influenced or motivated you to start this venture? What seeded the idea of a startup in food industry?
As I pointed out earlier, there aren’t too many brands dabbling in production when it comes to oats. We saw a gap in the demand and decided to bridge that gap with a range of oat-based product in the South Asian market. Our main aim remains – to establish oats as the third grain in countries we supply to.
What were the first few steps during and after the launch of Oateo Oats?
Oats is generally considered as a boring food to be consumed by folks who are old and we wanted to change that perception. We tried to arrange for sampling activities, usage information and continue to educate people about how much more potential oats has to offer. Apart from that, we are also aggressively trying to gain larger market share in the oats category in existing markets and capture newer territories to amplify the brand.
Have you raised funds so far?
We are a bootstrapped business – we are not funded.
Tell us about your motivation. In your view, what does it mean to be a businessman running a successful brand?
Customer appreciation definitely remains one of the most fulfilling sources for my motivation. Every time a customer notices how good the quality of our product is, or appreciates the thought put into a product – are times when I am encouraged to do better, and do more for the end consumer. Especially, comments or messages dropped in via Social Media! Of course other markers of growth like improved brand awareness, sales or even new store launches are things that keep us going.
How has your journey been so far?
We launched Oateo in 2016 and it has definitely been a great ride so far. In Sri Lanka, we’ve been overwhelmed with the reception our products have witnessed. Even as the pandemic hit, sales continued to soar. Even in other regions like India, Africa, Middle East, we continue to increase our foot-print with the help of our newest franchisee partners – Disney. Our Marvel-Avenger themed oats are especially a coveted range!
How big is your team? How did you manage your team & business during COVID -19 outbreak?
We are collectively a team of 150-200 members. Covid-19 definitely proved a challenge to us, especially since production was deemed an essential service and we had to keep the show going on! However I think we came together as a family to identify safety measures to safeguard both our staff and our customers. In fact, Covid-19 expedited the need for 100% automated, touch-free processing units in our mills drastically reducing contamination. We also undertook vaccination drives in collaboration with local authorities in Sri Lanka and India to assist our staff in getting both doses of the vaccines. We continue to closely monitor the situation at hand and proceed with caution.
What is the USP of your brand? What makes you different from your competition?
- Definitely the fact that we mill our own oats
- The milling guarantees freshness, since all the packs are sealed within 2 hours of being processed
- We are certified by the Wholegrain Council of USA, as well as USDA Organics approved
What kind of role is Oateo Oats playing in bridging the gap between healthy and affordable food options for consumers?
Unlike most nutrient dense foods like nuts, dry fruit, or dairy and meat – oats is a very low calorie, low cost and high nutrition food. 100 grams of Oateo oats may contain upto 13g of protein – that’s almost as much as 2 whole eggs. Right from toddlers to elders, oats is suitable for everyone and be a healthy meal alternative. The best part is that it can be easily incorporated into anyone’s diet because oats can be added to rice, dosa, roti or even be made into risottos, pizza bases, smoothies and so much more.
How is the Oats Industry impacted by COVID-19? How do you see growth and market response in a post COVID world?
The world is definitely turning towards healthy eating habits post Covid. Many are looking for “immunity boosting” foods and oats fits into this category of foods. There will definitely be an upward trend in the demand for oats worldwide. Oats is also big in the vegan community since it finds use in many vegan recipes – including oat milk. Additionally, oats is a sustainable grain because it has a lower carbon footprint which also interests today’s educated and aware masses.
Being a startup, what do you think is the biggest challenge in food business in India? Please share your views on how Indian Government is doing on supporting startups?
The food industry worldwide is highly competitive. Finding a niche for your brand in a cluttered market is definitely the biggest challenge. There’s also the notion that oats is not very versatile and cannot be used in “Indian” food, which is a mind-block that we are trying to overcome.
Where do you see yourself in the upcoming 3 to 5 years?
Entering more markets and creating a stronghold for Oateo in existing markets.
Awards and achievements, if any?
Our parent company Aussee Oats milling was awarded the Presidential award in the foodgrains category for exemplary performance.
What are your messages or leadership lessons for budding entrepreneurs/young generation?
Always be respectful towards everyone, don’t let go of passions and always find a balance between work and life!
Hope this interview will motivate all the aspiring entrepreneurs. It is a part of our startup profiling feature story/interview series. We are on a mission to bring forward the inspirational journey of successful entrepreneurs in order to spread some motivation during these tough times.
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