Over a cup of chai Chaika, an instant tea premix firm, part of the Launchpad program at NSRCEL, has used the lockdown to successfully pivot their business model

“The idea for Chaika started when we were working in Singapore, where we craved masala chai but didn’t know how to make it. Even when we tried, we failed! Moreover, the process took 15-20 minutes – we just didn’t have the time in the mornings. This craving made us quit our finance jobs to take the entrepreneurship route,” chuckles Aradhita Agarwal, Co-founder and graduate of Economics from the National University of Singapore.

“We also realised that people were switching over, from masala chai, the beverage they grew up with, to green tea or coffee, merely for the sake of convenience! Chai was also perceived as an uncool beverage, one that was only meant for the older generations. Our solution makes chai, instant. It makes chai, convenient. It makes chai cool again,” declares Co-founder Devanshi Kanoi Chitlangia, who was born brought up in a tea family in Kolkata. She went on to Singapore (Singapore Management University) and the US (Babson College) to study Economics and Finance until her entrepreneurial spirit coupled with her love for tea made her quit her finance job to move back to India to launch Chaika.

Arguing that tea is not a beverage but “a sentiment”, the founders insist that their flavours, named Bombay Cutting, Dhaba chai, Kolkata Karak, Firangi chai and Platform chai, infuse the Indian tea drinker with nostalgia.

“We planned our launch to coincide with Diwali 2019, to capitalize on festive gifting. Being a new product with quirky packaging, we garnered good sales. That enabled our tea to reach a wider audience, without us distributing it for free,” explains Aradhita.

“When Covid-19 hit, it was initially very hard as a bulk of our sales were from wedding planners, travellers, hotels and clubs. We held on, we pivoted, we started marketing our chai as an effective solution during COVID times, and got the ‘essential service’ tag.  We started selling bulk packs of 100 sachets and 1 kilogram packs for vending machines to corporates. We realised that offices were short staffed and would no longer be comfortable with calling the dhaba wala to give tea to their employees. We even sold a lot to households. This enabled Chaika survive the lockdown months,” says Devanshi.

The founders believe that Chaika is the next step in the evolution of tea. The journey from tea leaves to tea bags, they point out, was the first step that made tea drinking more convenient. The journey to instant tea in sachets with all ingredients included in the mix, is the final step -that makes making tea even easier, they add.

The Launchpad Experience at NSRCEL  

Aradhita and Devanshi believe that their best takeaway from NSRCEL, IIMB’s start-up hub, is the opportunity to network with fellow entrepreneurs. “It’s inspiring and it’s a great learning experience to hear about the journeys of other entrepreneurs at NSRCEL. From the faculty and the mentors, we learnt how to structure our pitch and this learning came in handy when we started looking for funding.  The sessions on digital marketing helped us create and market our brand. A special shout out to the team at NSRCEL for organizing insightful sessions even in the midst of the lockdown,” says Devanshi.

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