Chai Point was born in 2010.Amuleek Singh Bijral is a tea fanatic, like most of his countrymen. He likes his breakfast tea in a big beer mug and drinks five glasses on a typical day. The Harvard Business School graduate was often perplexed that in a tea country, several coffee chains had built a strong presence, but not a single tea venture. Bijral had long wanted to create a brand of his own, and when he decided finally to take the plunge, he had no second thoughts about what he should build.

Chai Point was born in 2010. Bijral, then 33, sunk his savings around Rs 30 lakh and his angel investors’ money into launching a few outlets in crowded areas of Bengaluru. He priced a glass of tea at Rs 7 and competed with traditional roadside vendors on the basis primarily of a better ambience. But within a year, he had to shut down most outlets and go back to the drawing board.

When he returned, he did so with better quality tea, a significantly higher price of Rs 30 a glass on an average -and outlets in upmarket locations. Today, he sells 1.5 lakh glasses a day across five big cities. The number of outlets will touch 100 in a couple of months. Bijral thanks his cofounder, Tarun Khanna, for the turnaround. Khanna was his mentor and professor at Harvard, and had studied entrepreneurship in emerging markets for two decades.

“I learnt from him that a brand has to be aspirational.It should be priced at a premium,” says Bijral. “The market could be there, the execution could be right, but you could fail if you position it wrong.”

Chai Point today has a host of high-profile angel investors -US confectionery major Hershey’s CEO John Bilbrey , Pramod Bhasin, Sanjay Mirchandani, and D S Brar. It also has institutional investors including Fidelity Partners, DSG Consumer Partners and Saama Capital. The company has so far raised $12.5 million.

Bijral grew up in Jammu & Kashmir, and makes it a point to go to Kashmir and Ladakh every year. He was born to an academically-oriented family. His father was an IPS officer. Bijral did engineering, and then worked at Microsoft for several years. He went to Harvard for a full time MBA and then returned as country head at computer network security firm RSA.

 His family supported his move to leave his tech job to sell chai; they were confident that Bijral could any day get back to a salaried job.

“A supporting family provides a sense of security. But in entrepreneurship, you also need a supportive founding team,” Bijral says, adding, “An entrepreneur is not god. He is just a spark that can light the fire, he is not the fire.” He says consistency of quality makes consumers come back again and again.

Bijral also walks the talk when it comes to his love for mountains and nature. Tea deliveries are done using electric scooters. The tea cups are made of 100% biodegradable bagasse material. “Rather than burning money in marketing, I would rather make Chai Point a responsible company,” says Bijral.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *