Beyond the brimming cup

Beyond the brimming cup

Consumer Retail Startup50

While establishing chaipoint, amuleek singh bijral and his team, realised the vast potential of india’s favourite beverage and the strong emotions associated with drinking it

DIVYA M. CHANDRAMOULI

Amuleek Singh Bijral earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 2006 and worked for half a decade in IT before pursuing a business in chai (tea). In his own words, his venture, ChaiPoint, has succeeded in roping in young, ambitious talent as the tea market in India is huge. Estimated at nearly Rs. 30,000 crore, there’s a vast demand that few players are meeting. “Nobody has paid attention to it in India whereas it is getting the right kind of attention globally,” says Bijral. Today, his company has  presence in Bengaluru, Gurgaon and Pune and serves about 1.2 lakh glasses of chai a day and has verticals that cater to corporate subscriptions and home delivery. Bijral sees this number as only a fraction of the potential in India which is closer to one crore glasses a day.

Nobody has paid attention to tea in India whereas it is getting the right kind of attention globally

Learning on the job

In his address to the audience at Startup50, Bijral spoke of seizing unexpected challenges and opportunities that have come his way while growing Chai Point. To begin with, the sheer intensity in terms of operations, while looking to scale this business is something that the team has grappled with. “Our operations evolve on a month-on-month basis and we are not yet present in the main markets in India such as Maharashtra, NCR and more,” says Bijral. Interestingly, he states that one of the most surprising discoveries is the emotion attached to chai,as it is a very personal beverage to most people in India. “When we began our business, we never really appreciated the social context of chai in India,” admits Bijral. And this dictated the tone of brand building for Chai Point; it draws from the deep emotion chai elicits.

Bijral goes on to explain how if a business is built on small ticket, large volume transactions such as Chai Point, technology plays a big role in it achieving scale. The company built its own end-to-end technology platform called Shark, which controls supply chain, point of sales system, delivery management and distribution. “This has given us a different vision of what our business should aspire to be as a food and beverage brand,” shares Bijral. As he draws his talk to a close, he speaks of how the international interest in chai has sparked a lot of excitement in him and his team. “When we began we thought we were dealing with a very local product, but we have been pleasantly surprised by how international our product is,” he states. He highlights a few examples of Starbucks’ investing in chai and why that is significant in terms of growing the market in regions such as North America. “Today, when you walk into a parlour and mention the word chai, everybody thinks you are well-heeled and perceive a sense of class and that really excites us,” he concludes.

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