“India is still predominantly a CTC market for teas since most of the premium teas get exported. But Indians are beginning to develop finer taste and appreciate better teas. We may explore the kiosk model across high streets this year and go offline at some point of time,’’ said Kushal Dugar, Founder, Tea Box. With its teas range from ?600 to ?1.5 lakh, Tea Box which sources its teas from Siliguri, Nepal, and the southern States, is planning to build its tea business based on high-end teas leaves which have hitherto been exported.

Having worked for a tea export company, Dugar understands the nuances of supply chain and reaching the end consumer when it comes to selling tea online. Besides his background in corporate finance since the time he worked for KPMG in Singapore would also come in handy when it comes to funding requirements to take his start-up to the next level. “Today, we are well capitalised but once we decide to go offline, more funds would be required and there would be a desired pay back period,’’ he says. Taking the initiative to approach Ratan Tata for funds was a decision Dugar took on his own. “We just took an appointment with him and flew down to Mumbai and made him realise the potential of our business as we sat across a sofa. He was humble and down to earth and shared the same vision in terms of approaching the business with the kind of high end technology that we have in Tea Box,’’ added Dugar. Funded by Jafco Partners, Horizon Ventures and Accel Partners, Tea Box is already backed by billionaires from these firms who are connoisseurs of tea with Ratan Tata being the latest addition to its list of investors. “Ratan Tata understands the global tea business since he was around when Tetley was bought by his group company and has a penchant for high-end teas,’’ states Dugar. But creating demand for high-end teas may take a while in India since the bulk of its online sales comes from the US with no strong contender in the Indian market so far. As Dugar observes, “More than the rest of the Indian tea start-ups, our main competition will come from Teavana once it comes to India as it also has a thriving online business. Today, the US is our largest market followed by the UK, but India is still a small market"..

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