Amuleek Singh Bijral started Chai Point as a retail business. Over time, the company expanded into serving corporate clients with its ‘Chai @ Work’ business unit. In late 2016, the company launched Boxc.in, a fresh take on the chai and coffee vending machine at work.
An Indian afternoon is incomplete without the ubiquitous cup of chai; drunk in the comfort of one’s home or enjoyed on a break from work. On his return from the U.S., Amuleek Singh Bijral sensed a business opportunity to do with chai, what Starbucks did with coffee. He established Chai Point (a division of Mountain Trail Foods Pvt. Ltd.) in 2010 and, today, the company sells over 300,000 cups of chai, every single day.
At present, it runs two verticals, its corporate sales (Chai @ Work) and its in-store sales and delivery (Chai Point Retail). In September 2015, it raised US$ 10 million in a round led by Fidelity’s proprietary investment arm, Eight Roads Ventures, with participation from Saama Capital and DSG Consumer Partners and a fair portion of this was allocated towards strengthening its technology platform.
The machine’s magic
In November 2016, Chai Point did a take on the old coffee vending machine by launching Boxc.in, an authentic chai and filter coffee dispenser, in an effort to gain a stronghold over the corporate market.
By the end of this fiscal, Boxc.in will account for nearly 40 per cent of our total revenue.
Boxc.in took over a year-and-a-half to develop and is an IoT enabled automatic dispenser. “The reception has been fantastic and while we worked with manufacturing partners, the software was created in-house,” shares Bijral. While the prototype and the initial set of Boxc.in dispensers were semi-automatic, post iteration, the machines are now fully automatic. For the corporate consumer, you pay for what you drink as there is a monthly fee based on consumption. For Chai Point, the consumption data is available digitally and is integrated with technology platform, Shark, enabling the company to sharpen its supply chain efficiencies to corporate locations. Bijral credits ‘Shark’ for being the backbone of Chai Point’s omni-channel business and the technology team that runs it has grown to nearly 20 developers. “By the end of this fiscal, Boxc.in will account for nearly 40 per cent of our total revenue,” says Bijral while adding that this vertical has seen a positive response from small, medium and large business clients. Not just that, Chai Point has taken Boxc.in to institutions such as colleges and hospitals and will pursue these associations with greater intent.
On a delivery drive
Chai on Call or Chai Point’s delivery arm is linked to its retail locations of which it has 90, spread over seven cities in India. “Our in-store is just as important as our other verticals as we want to curate a better experience which involves chai and food,” says Bijral while adding that there are certain contextual elements to each geography that the company is keen to absorb and showcase as part of its brand building. It also looks to maximise on its investment at each store location, relying on ‘Shark’ to integrate data with its delivery personnel and third party aggregators at top speed. Even as Chai on Call has been growing at annual rate of nearly 300 per cent, Bijral notices an interesting trend emerging. “Previously, Friday used to be our peak delivery day but these days, we see that this peak has moved to the weekends. We see this as an extension of the Chai Point brand from work to home, where it has gained acceptance,” he says.
Another catalyst for growth at Chai Point has been the mobile application and over a span of the next three months, it will launch new versions for both Android and Apple. Bijral states that the company spends conservatively on customer acquisition and one of its mainstays in customer retention apart from experience is its loyalty programme – ‘Prioritea’. “There are over 4,00,000 people involved in this programme and we add anywhere between 25,000 to 35,000 per month through walk-ins or delivery,” he adds.
As Bijral talks about the future, he is clear that building the right team and setting the correct tone in terms of operations will help Chai Point realise its potential as a business. “We are not far away from the Rs. 100 crore mark,” he says, with the same care and caution he has taken to nurture his company thus far.
Insights from Chai Point
Technology Approach: Shark, Chai Point’s technology platform is the back-bone of its omni channel business as it seamlessly integrates data from the corporate, store and delivery divisions onto one platform for maximum operational efficiency.
Design Approach: Chai Point is very conscious about design and consciously tries to incorporate elements that are unique to a geography in its in-store look and feel to create a connect with its target audience.
Digital Marketing Approach: Stories over chai is the company’s social media initiative where it looks to amplify customer interaction at its stores on the digital medium. From the couple that started dating at Chai Point to the office goer who’s there on his daily work break, everybody gets a mention.