Tea is a business which is there to stay, especially in India. Pankaj Judge grabbed on this opportunity, especially amongst great competition and has slayed the market with the fresh tea offered by his entrepreneurial venture – Chai Thela. Here are excerpts from an interview with him:
1. Tell us about your background beforeChai Thela. Share with us briefly about your entrepreneurial journey and inception of Chai Thela.
Prior to Chai Thela I was running another food start up in healthy food space which failed (but then who cares).
After I got married, I had two choices. Either I start something of my own or I go back to job. My wife Shweta supported me with her belief that I am an Entrepreneur at heart and I must pursue this again. That’s when I conceptualized Chai Thela.
2. Tell us in detail about your product offering.
Anything which you get on a road side thela, be it bun maska , bun omelette, vada pav, etc. We offer you same thing in more hygienic form along with freshly brewed chai.
There are very limited options when it comes to freshly brewed Chai. In offices generally you have machine tea or tea bags, which taste awful. People go to road side thelas for freshly brewed Chai but then it is not hygienically prepared.
We make our Chai from purified mineral water, Sulphur-free Sugar and served in ITC food graded cups.
3. What is your competition in the market? What is it that sets you apart from your competition?
Many players are jumping into chai business now. However Chai point is one of the oldest player and our biggest competitor. What sets us apart from our competitor is we serve freshly brewed chai on order while on Chai Point you are served from Tea Containers having chai with shelf life of 2 to 3 hours. Also our food menu is different and more desi in style as compared to Chai Point.
4. What is the business model of Chai Thela? Can you briefly summarize the growth achieved in both volume and value from the day1 till now?
We have retail outlets from 100sq ft to 400 sq ft. We have kiosk formats, Chai Parlor formats and Chai Bar formats. Very soon we would be launching online ordering system.
In a span of a year we scaled up to 10 stores and 5 more in pipeline. We are currently serving more than 5000 cups of chai a day.
5. How has been your beginner’s journey? What were the challenges you faced in setting up and scaling up your enterprise? Any hurdle that you faced or still facing?
The journey so far is great. Every day you have new set of challenges. Managing supply chain and skilled man power is one of the biggest challenges in our kind of business.
6. Can you tell us about your other founders/core team, their background and rich experience?
I am the sole founder of the brand. I am an Engineer turned MBA guy who worked in IT industry before landing here.
We are in process of building team now. Recently we hired Maninder Singh as our operations head. A hard core retail professional, he earlier established Chai point in Delhi NCR Region.
7. How are you funded? Any early stage money/seed stage experience that you would like to share with us?
So far we have bootstrapped. I borrowed a few bucks from old college friends for starting up. Bootstrapping taught us wonderful lessons :
Money saved is money earned.
Money is not the solution to all the problems.
Lack of money is the mother of jugaad.
8. Any other areas or initiatives that you plan to venture in future?
In near future we want to penetrate more into Delhi NCR Region.
9. What will Chai Thela look like in 5 years from now? All perspectives – people, business, revenues, team, size or anything you foresee for the venture.
In next five years we have plans to open 100 outlets in 3 metro cities.
10. Any experience or advice you would like to share with soon to be start-up founders out there?
3 Important lessons :
Execution is the key.
People are your biggest strength.
Innovation keeps you ahead in the race.
We thank Pankaj Judge to share his encouraging story with us. You are a self-built man and we look up to you for your confidence and commitment to your work. We also wish you best of luck for the future!