In 2019, it seemed like a new Boba tea brand was popping up every week. A lot was already closed towards the beginning of 2020 when the hype subsided before the MCO.
We now have bigger brands that have proven to dominate the Malaysian boba market.
Partners Paula and King didn't just want to be another Boba shop in the Red Ocean, they wanted to offer a different experience to Boba tea. So they launched BOBABABA in the form of instant DIY kits.
Immediately like instant noodles
It is represented by an astronaut as you can make his drinks anywhere, even on Mars (figuratively) / Photo credit: BOBABABA
Now, Tealive has been selling its own version of the DIY bubble tea kits since MCO last year. Paula also said it was one of her inspirations.
However, Tealive's kits are sold in bulk, with 1 set making at least 10-15 servings of the same flavor for RM50. The tapioca pearls are also raw on delivery and require up to 30 minutes of constant cooking and stirring.
Pauline and King wanted to create one that would work as an instant drink, similar to Nescafé and Milo, which are often found in pantries because they are easy and quick to make.
Speaking to Vulcan Post, Pauline said, "We immediately thought, why aren't we making a Boba tea product that is similar to instant noodles? One that is convenient, easy to prepare and can be enjoyed anywhere, anytime."
Hence their tea comes in powder form, with each kit individually wrapped to make 1 serving.
The sets come with instant tapioca pearls, which take 40 seconds to make in the microwave or 4 minutes in boiling water. A single kit costs between RM 6.80 and RM 9.50, depending on your taste.
“Our products are ready in 2 minutes and can be prepared anywhere as long as you have access to a microwave and hot water,” said Paula.
You can taste every flavor they offer with their starter kit / Image Credit: BOBABABA
To further simplify the process, the main product, the Starter Kit (RM142.90), consists of 9 different variants of the BOBABABA kits. It also comes with reusable ice cubes, a cup and a straw.
This is to improve the convenience of the product so that consumers can grab it and enjoy the drink anywhere. Their stainless steel ice cubes also prevent the drinks from diluting.
Delays in the port
As mentioned above, the couple did not want to open their own Boba shop as the market was already saturated. However, being an online store – although less capital is required to operate – posed difficulty when it came to awareness.
“We initially found it difficult to market our product because as an online shop we don't have the same exposure as a physical bubble tea shop. Therefore, our options are limited to common social media, ”Paula explained.
Their biggest setback was importing their inventory from Taiwan. Since the 2 had no experience with it, they had to google everything where even information on the topic was scarce.
There have also been delays in shipping their inventory. There was great confusion in the ports about the way their business was conducted and some of their details also did not match the business address in the documents.
“Such delays put a huge strain on us financially. Thankfully, that was quickly resolved, but it delayed our initial schedule for launch by a few weeks, ”said Paula.
A good start for now
Since the start of BOBABABA in January 2021, the first month has so far generated sales of around 5,000 RM. Most of her customers in the first week of operation were family and friends.
"We don't really have promising numbers to show, but it's a pretty good number for me to begin with as we only really advertised two weeks ago," she said.
In doing so, they make it their short-term goal to build a larger target group by understanding the concept of their products.
In the long term, they hope to sell BOBABABA products not only in Malaysia but also on supermarket shelves around the world.
- You can find out more about BOBABABA here.
- Read more about other Malaysian startups we've written here.
Selected image source: Paula and King, co-founders of BOBABABA