Sugandh Lok is making the case for incense sticks or agarbattis by making export quality products available to an Indian audience. It is the latest venture by Sapthagiri Boggaram, director of Sarathi International Inc, one of the largest producers of incense sticks that are sold in over 40 countries worldwide.
(November 12, 2023) Did you know that there are agarbattis that help you for stress relief or even meditation? At the Sugandh Lok store in Bengaluru, incense is an experience, not a mere product. Soothing spiritual music plays in the background when you enter, and an array of incense sticks are on display, with flavours ranging from the conventional to the unusual, including chocolate, green tea and pineapple. There are rooms where you can understand the process as well as get a feel of how the space feels when you light a specific kind of stick. The brainchild of Sapthagiri S Boggaram, Director, Sarathi International Inc., the store is a sensory delight but the real story lies in the product itself, and the people who make it.
Boggaram’s is a story of transformation, from a shy and reserved individual to a confident business leader. The Global Indian kept to himself as a child, studying at The East-West School in South Bengaluru. It was at St Joseph’s College that he began to break out of his shell and explore his potential. “The most significant chapter in my transformation unfolded when I decided to pursue a business degree at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Studying abroad was a game-changer. It exposed me to diverse cultures and perspectives, forcing me to expand my horizons and step out of my comfort zone. Interacting with a global student body broadened my worldview and pushed me beyond my limits,” Boggaram recollects.
After graduating from Monash, he entered the family business and soon found himself managing a sizable workforce. This transition marked the most crucial phase of his transformation from a quiet and introverted persona to an outgoing and confident leader. “I realised that I needed to actively work on my communication skills. To become a proficient communicator and leader, I engaged in various training programs, sought out mentors, and actively practiced public speaking. Over time, I learned how to articulate my ideas, motivate teams, and guide them effectively,” Boggaram says.
Sapthagiri Boggaram is a third generation entrepreneur and his family runs Sarathi International, one of the biggest manufacturers of aggarbatis. With a 75-year-old legacy of making high-quality incense sticks, Sarathi’s market is spread out across 43 countries around the globe. Boggaram knew his future lay in the family business – 2024 will mark his 25th year and he says it has been a truly enriching experience. “The family business culture instilled a deep sense of pride and purpose in me. From my childhood, I have vivid memories of witnessing the skills, artistry, the creation of innovative products, and the joy of serving a loyal customer base. What struck me most was the knowledge that we were contributing something truly ethical and divine to society. It is this sense of purpose that motivated me to set clear goals for myself,” says Boggaram.
Being an entrepreneur allows him to blend tradition with innovation, quality with sustainability, and to share their rich cultural heritage with a broader audience. “It is not just a business for me; it’s a calling, a way of life that brings joy and a profound sense of purpose,” he adds. Fortunately, this stems from the fact that his family never put any kind of pressure on Boggaram to join the family business. “In fact, I was encouraged and supported from the very beginning. My father, who has been a pillar of strength in our family business, always gave me a free hand and allowed me to pursue my interests. From the day I entered the business, it was a rather open and collaborative environment. I was the one who sought his advice, and he never imposed his ideas on me or tried to control my decisions. This freedom and trust within the family made it relatively easy for me to convince them about my vision and the direction I wanted to take the business,” he reminisces.
A Ride to Remember
His journey has been a rollercoaster, marked by both exhilarating moments and daunting challenges that mostly started with his decision to initiate a venture within the family business. “Sugandh Lok reflects my values, my vision for the business, and the essence of our products. The experience has been incredibly exciting, and it has also come with its share of stress, primarily due to the steep learning curve and the uncharted territory I have ventured into,” he says. It was a steeper learning curve than he anticipated. The agarbatti industry is a “unique realm,” and Boggaram approach to it is just as distinct. “Nobody has ventured into this industry with this kind of model.” If every day brings new possibilities, there is also the challenge of navigating mostly uncharted territory.
For one, Boggaram’s market is more global than Indian and Sugandh Lok products adhere to European safety norms and meet rigorous quality standards. The parent brand, Sarathi International, comes with a rich legacy of 75 years in producing ethically-made, high quality agarbattis and has an extensive international presence with customers in over 43 countries worldwide.
In the world of business, he has learnt many lessons and the most important, more or less universal truth is that customers expect value above everything else. “While the initial response to our concept has been nothing short of excellent, it is abundantly clear that our customers desire more than just a transaction. They expect a daily interaction, continuous education, and a tangible demonstration of the value we bring to their lives. This expectation has led to a transformative change in our approach to customer engagement, one that necessitates a dynamic and ever-evolving connection,” Boggaram explains.
Boggaram, has ambitious plans for the business as he embarks on an ambitious expansion plan as he hopes to roll out approximately four more stores in Bengaluru and soon extend their reach pan-India. “We have already taken significant steps in this direction by signing up with a franchise in the vibrant Karol Bagh area in Delhi and are in discussions with potential franchise partners in Delhi, Mathura, and Brindavan. Our overarching vision is to establish a network of approximately 100 stores within the next two years,” he says. The e-commerce website is currently in place to ensure a broader audience and seamless shopping experience. “Ultimately, our vision at Sugandh Lok is to revolutionise the way people perceive agarbattis and how they incorporate them into their lives. We aim to introduce a fresh perspective, and in doing so, enrich the way people experience and use agarbattis,” signs off Boggaram.