What encouraged you to start a Chai business?
Pankaj: Chai is India’s national drink (unofficially). But 95 per cent of chai in India is sold on road side thelas in a very unhygienic form. I thought if we can sell chai in a more structured and in a hygienic form, then there is a huge potential
Nitin: Being a corporate guy, I could never find freshly brewed chai in my office. Generally offices have a tea dispenser machine, which gives you an awful taste. I thought to solve this with an entrepreneurial approach and started Chai thela.
We see many IITians venturing into fresh food and chai business. What has brought this trend in the engineers? Is it the food love or immense scope available in the Indian food industry?
Pankaj: I think it is both. People who are passionate about food and wish to start some thing of their own would look out in the same sector. However, for me it was a pure business preposition. I identified the problem – People don’t have access to hygienic tea and decided to do something about it.
What made you name it ‘Chai Thela’? What are the types of tea brewed at your outlets?
Pankaj: We wanted to create a brand which must have a quick connect with customers. Also 90 per cent of tea in India is sold through road side thelas only. Therefore, we thought to come up with modernised (Hygienic and branded) version of a thela and hence, we named it – Chai Thela. There are around 40 varieties of tea at our counter ranging from adrak chai, masala chai, dhaniya chai, green apple chai, mango chai, kashmiri kahwa etc.
You are presently based out of Noida. What are your expansion plans?
Nitin: We are planning to enter Gurgaon and Delhi in the next 4 months and later, we will expand our operations to different cities in India.
Who is your target customer as you are mostly present in IT parks and colleges? What is the range for tea?
Pankaj: Our Target customers are corporate, college campuses and hospitals. The price range of tea is from Rs 10 (Aam Aadmi chai) to Rs 25 (Mango Chai).
From where did you manage to get the funds? Are you looking for any external investments?
Pankaj: Initially, we bootstrapped the company. But now, we are looking for funds for expansion.
We see a lot of tea start-ups in metros. Why aren’t they targeting the tier-II market?
Nitin: There is a great potential in tier -2 cities. After Delhi NCR, we are focusing on tier 2 cities only for expansion.
Who do you see as your competitor in the market? How is your marketing strategy different from others?
Pankaj: There are a lot of players coming up in this sector. However, Chai Point is doing great. Recently, they have raised around Rs 10 crore in funding, but they keep chai in containers and we on the other hand, offer freshly brewed chai.