Back in 2019, it seemed like there was a new boba tea brand popping up every week. Towards the beginning of 2020, plenty were already closing down as the hype dwindled even before the MCO.
We’re now left with bigger name brands who’ve proven that they dominate the Malaysian boba market.
Not wanting to be just another boba shop in the red ocean, partners Paula and King wanted to bring a different experience to boba tea. So, they launched BOBABABA in the form of instant DIY kits.
As Instant As Instant Noodles
Now, Tealive has been selling their own version of DIY Bubble Tea Kits since MCO last year. Paula, too, said it was one of their inspirations.
But Tealive’s kits are sold in bulk, where 1 set makes at least 10-15 servings of the same flavour for RM50. The tapioca pearls are also raw when delivered and take up to 30 minutes of constant cooking and stirring.
Pauline and King wanted to create one to work as an instant beverage, much like Nescafé and Milo, which are often found in office pantries as they’re simple and quick to make.
Speaking to Vulcan Post, Pauline shared, “We instantly thought, why don’t we make a boba tea product that is similar to instant noodles? One that’s convenient, easily prepared, and can be enjoyed anywhere and anytime.”
Hence, their tea comes in powder form where each kit is individually packaged to make 1 serving.
The sets come with instant tapioca pearls which take 40 seconds to make in a microwave or 4 minutes in boiling water. A single kit costs between RM6.80-RM9.50 depending on the flavour.
“Our products can be ready in 2 minutes and are suitable to be prepared anywhere as long as you have access to a microwave and hot water,” said Paula.
To further simplify the process, their main product, The Starter Kit (RM142.90) consists of 9 different flavours of BOBABABA’s kits. It also comes with reusable ice cubes, a cup, and a straw.
This is to enhance the product’s convenience so consumers can grab it and enjoy the drink anywhere. Their stainless steel ice cubes also prevent the drinks from diluting.
Delays At The Port
As mentioned above, the pair didn’t want to start their own boba shop as the market was already saturated. But being an online store—though requiring lower capital to run—meant struggles when it came to awareness.
“We initially found it challenging to market our product because as an online store, we don’t have the same exposure as a physical bubble tea shop does. So, our options are limited to mainstream social media,” Paula explained.
Their biggest setback came from importing their stocks from Taiwan. Having no experience with this, the 2 had to Google everything where even information was scarce for the topic.
There were also delays when it came to shipping their stocks. At the ports, there was much confusion with the way their business was being operated, and some of their details didn’t match the business address on the documents too.
“Such delays were causing us a lot of stress in terms of finances. That was thankfully solved quickly but it delayed our initial timeline for launching by a few weeks,” said Paula.
A Good Start For Now
Since BOBABABA’s launch in January 2021, its first month has raked in around RM5,000 in revenue thus far. Most of their customers for their first week of operations have been family and friends.
“We don’t really have promising numbers to show, but to me it’s a pretty good number to begin with as we didn’t start to properly advertise until 2 weeks ago,” she said.
With that, they are making it their short-term goal to build a larger audience base by getting them to understand the concept of their products.
In the long term, they hope to retail BOBABABA’s products on supermarket shelves, not only in Malaysia but globally too.
- You can learn more about BOBABABA here.
- You can read more about other Malaysian startups we’ve written here.
Featured Image Credit: Paula and King, co-founders of BOBABABA