Tea or chai – as it is commonly known in India – is probably the most popular drink in the country, estimated to be consumed in 90 per cent of houses. Indian cities and the countryside are dotted with thousands of small tea roadside shops, drawing millions of customers every day. Yet, branded tea cafés selling tea have not yet made their presence felt in a big way like their coffee counterparts like Starbucks, Cafe Coffee Day. But there’s a need waiting to be fulfilled. And there are several players who are eyeing this space.
Among them and hoping to make it big is Tea Trails, which has eight outlets in Mumbai. It is aiming for 500 outlets in five years, with a mix of company owned and franchisee-owned outlets. Initial focus would be on markets such as Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Vishakhapatnam, Delhi NCR and Ahmedabad. The chain offers around 80 teas at its outlets, from popular favourites such as adrak chai and masala chai to the White tea, Green tea, Oolongs, Herbal and Black tea. Prices start at Rs 70. Also on offer are Bubble teas like the Taiwanese Bubble Tea and the Tapioca Bubble variant.
The chain, founded by Uday Mathur – who was partner in EuroKids International pre-school chain – and others three years ago primarily targets young office-goers. In September last, the venture received $ 1 million (Rs 6.6 crore) in a first round funding from a group of high net-worth individuals.
In North India, two IITians Nitin Saluja and Raghav Verma have set up Chaayos, an affordable tea café in the National Capital Region (NCR). It is projected as a place where you can chill out with friends over a cup of chai. Its first outlet opened in Gurgaon in November 2012 and now operates from 12 locations across the NCR and two in Mumbai. It serves over 25 varieties of teas, with prices starting at Rs 40. Apart from the usual ones, on offer are interesting options like hari mirch chai and aam papad chai.
Chaayos received a $ 5 million (Rs 33 crore) funding from Tiger Global and others in May 2015 and plans to move into Pune and Bangalore shortly.
Chai Point is another player in this space. Started by Harvard-educated Amuleek Singh Bijral, it opened its first outlet in Bangalore five years ago. It now operates from over 70 locations in NCR, Bangalore and Pune. On its radar in the months to come are Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad. Chai Point offers regular flavours starting at Rs 20 and innovative flavours like apple ice tea and a cold caramel ginger latte from Rs 60 upwards. It has also recently introduced ‘Chai on Call’ which allows customers to enjoy chai in their offices and homes using a specially developed use and throw heat retaining chai flask.
In September last, the company secured $10 million (Rs 66 crore) funding in a new round led by Fidelity’s proprietary investment arm, Eight Roads Ventures and others. Earlier, it had received about $2 million (Rs 13 crore) from Saama Capital.
Clearly, there is enough action brewing in the tea café space with entrepreneurs vying with one another to entice tea lovers. The competition is bound to create a possible storm in the tea cup in the years to come.