Because life is too short to have a cup without tea - the 'Tea Halt' story

2nd Jun 2015
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Take three former IITians, hand them a cuppa and what you have is Teahalt, a unique brand of tea kiosks and cafes based in the NCR. Teahalt is the brand name under which Tisane Beverages Private Limited operates.

Launched in 2009 by Ankur Agrawal, a former IIT Delhi alumnus and Amit Ahuja, another ex IITian from Guwahati, Teahalt soon attracted a third IITian, Jiten Rao. Teahalt is a unique café kiosk with an emphasis on freshly brewed teas and currently has 30 kiosks and 3 cafés operating in the NCR.

Tea-Halt
Tea Halt Founders

The idea behind Teahalt began brewing out of an urge to reach out to every tea lover and make their tea breaks happier. It was also to get that elusive flavour of ‘ghar ki chai’ which is inherently missing from the ones available in offices, colleges and retail. Teahalt believes in brewing all their tea variants (milk, green, black and herbals) in an authentic manner without using vending machines, premixes or dip tea bags.

Birth of Tea Halt and early days

For Ankur Agrawal, the decision to start something like Teahalt was borne of a daily need.

“The idea of coming up with Teahalt brewed in our mind during our PwC stint. We had to travel to the roadside to get a decent half cup of tea during our office hours. The journey to develop the concept of Teahalt started from there. In Delhi we met a lot of tea tasters to understand different blends and taste compatibility with the Indian taste pallet. We collected different blends and recipes to experiment with the taste at home. Making 50 to 60 cups of tea a day and tasting it with our friends and flat-mates to get feedback on taste for several weeks was a great experience which is now paying off in the form many satisfied customers. Lots of discussion over tea, about tea and the insomnia makes it much more memorable.”

According to Amit, the key is to understand the right blend for your customer. “An office employee during his break needs a strong cup of tea. But a customer relaxing in the café environment prefers a soothing note. And that’s where right blending makes the difference.” After a lot of idea generation with many tea tasters and experiments with blends, Tea Halt arrived at the final taste.

There are two distinct customer segments which Tea Halt focuses on - first, the office/college goer who is looking for a quick work or study break and a cup of tea offers just that. The other is the more casual tea drinker who has time to sit, have a cup of chai and something to eat along with it, in other words, a more relaxed and indulgent customer.

Tea-Halt

Teahalt targets the first segment with the kiosk model which is a take away concept designed for corporate and college cafeterias. “We have a smart and modular outlet which can be setup within two days at a very low capex. Our customers visit us multiple times in a day enjoying their favourite cuppa at affordable prices. We have zero fixed opex cost at these outlets, as we do not pay any rent, utility charges or security deposits.”

The second customer segment is targeted through cafes, which are situated in prime commercial-retail spaces. These are large format sit-in cafes where the customer gets to choose from a wider selection of tea and snacks in a relaxed friendly environment. The company opens cafes only via the franchised route and is very selective about the franchise partner and therefore has been growing this part of the business on a gradual and steady note.

“With low capex and no fixed opex cost for our take away kiosks and franchisee model for cafes, we have a very capital efficient and rapidly scalable business model. We follow an established hub and spokes model to maintain quality and consistency of products” adds Amit

Teahalt is one of the few chains using cloud technology to integrate their backend with outlets. Every single cup consumed at any of the outlets can be tracked real time which enables them to minimize the wastage and optimize the inventory on hand. Teahalt final procurement is straight from the tea gardens.

The chai space

Their direct competitors include players like Chai Point and Chaayos who are attempting to cater to the same need for good quality chai served conveniently, albeit through different execution models.

Regarding competition, Ankur says “The last few years have witnessed the growth of many startups in this domain. And everybody is working towards the goal of educating and cultivating a better tea drinking experience. I won’t call them competitors as we all are mutually benefiting from this increased awareness and the market is huge. Our uniqueness lies in the capital efficiency of our business model which makes it profitable and scalable in a sustainable fashion. The captive nature of our large corporate customer base is definitely an added advantage for us. These repeat customers play an active role in the evolution and betterment of our product offering everyday.”

Tea-Halt

The initial funding for Teahalt came from Mr. Amit Agarwal who was former Senior VP, Kingfisher Airlines. After that, Teahalt raised another angel round with Mr. Sujeet Kumar (President operations, Flipkart) leading along with few other angel rounds. The founders are currently looking to raise further funds for a pan-India expansion of Teahalt.

Teahalt has 12 more outlets in its pipeline which will take their count to 45 in the next three months. Alongside its current presence in the NCR, the company is hoping to expand in Mumbai and Bengaluru as well. So there’s much brewing at Teahalt.

Check out http://teahalt.com/ for more details

(Co-authored by Archish Agrawal)

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