In a country where tea as a beverage is largely consumed in different forms, formats and consistencies, the business of cultivating, growing, harvesting and selling packaged tea is a lucrative industry. In a country where tea is sold by the gallons from numerous roadside tea shops and kiosks, retail branding of the brewed beverage is a recent phenomenon.
Roughly four years ago, Jahabar Sadique hit upon this idea while he and his friend Balaji Sadagopan were employed in the Information Technology (IT) industry. Jahabar Sadique, CEO of Chai Kings, recalls, “We wanted to be more than just working professionals. After 12 years in the IT industry, we teamed up and took up franchise for brands as varied as Subway, Green Trends and Toni & Guy. Along the way, we realised that our interest veered towards food and we put our heads together to find out what we could do different from the normal, something unique in the market.”
In a market like Chennai, where coffee is the predominant daily beverage, zeroing in on tea was a challenge which Jahabar and Balaji were excited about. Sadique stated, “Starting with three outlets, today Chai Kings is Chennai’s largest tea retail chain operating with 40 stores. We offer a sumptuous range of chai in exotic flavours, in the most hygienic ambience and at perfectly justifiable prices. We also deliver tea at your doorstep anywhere in Chennai by using food grade use-and-throw heat retaining flasks for safe consumption, also ensuring that the tea is piping hot for at least an hour. With the vision to be the favourite chai place across India, Chai Kings is expanding rapidly with the target of 100 stores in five years.”
Their success and dedicated concentration to build the brand has attracted the attention of angel investors. Sadique informed, “Initially we invested our own savings of roughly ` 1.4 crores in the start-up. We raised an angel funding of
` 2 crores in August 2018 and now, in the second round, we have another round of funding of around ` 7 crore.”
The Chennai Angels (TCA) announced an investment of $1 million in Chai Kings, along with Hyderabad Angels and TiE India Angels. “We are very excited to partner with Chai Kings. We believe the company has a strong leadership team with immense potential to grow and expand across India. The new investment reiterates our commitment towards building a sustainable and scalable Indian QSR”, said Piyush Bhandari, who led the investment from TCA. The Chennai Angels is one of India’s most active angel investing groups.
“We are happy with the success and progress of our brand Chai Kings in Chennai and this funding will help us expand into newer cities. We hope to enter Coimbatore, Bangalore and Hyderabad in this current year and get closer to our target of 100 stores in five years. Apart from expansions, bulk of this funding will be utilised to strengthen our operations and supply chain management,” says Sadique, who along with co-founder Balaji, insists that every outlet is run by them and manned by their own staff. He added, “We have strict and standard tea brewing procedures. We source our own blend of tea leaves and dust from a single supplier in Assam. All other ingredients like milk and sugar are from one source to ensure standard quality. All the water used is RO treated.” With timely funding coming, the Chai Kings will soon live up to their name in the national firmament.