This article is brought to you by Vodafone Business Services
Thousands of years of history and culture contained in a cuppa – the story of tea is something most of us are familiar with. Today, the beverage with which millions around the world start their day is, like almost everything else, getting a touch of technology. Smart machines that use ultrasonic waves and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to brew the perfect cup of tea are in the works and could soon become de riguer.
“Chai drinking is a ritual in India and our vision is to be a part of this ritual for smart citizens,” says Amuleek Singh, CEO and founder of Chai Point.
Blend of tradition and technology
Chai Point first began operations in in 2010 through retail outlets, primarily in tech parks, which housed their target audience that was looking for alternatives to the tepid tea available at the office vending machine. “We realised that we need to provide quality and consistency, along with convenience and accessibility, to remain relevant. Our omni-channel business is powered by technology, which is used to efficiently manage our supply chain, as well as our customer experience,” says Amuleek.
He explains how they do this. With their proprietary Shark point of sale (PoS) system, they manage everything – from placing orders, collecting payments, capturing customer information, managing the supply chain, collecting actionable insights, and viewing reports. They began the Chai-on-Call service to address the gap for those not in the purview of the retail stores. Orders from the web/app as well as aggregators flow into the Shark PoS system, are processed and delivered using the in-house delivery app, Shuttle, which optimises delivery time. Shark also acts as a platform to capture customer information, such as their spending capacity, and create individual strategies for each customer.
Brewing on the Cloud
In 2016, they started their Internet of Things (IoT) enabled business called boxC.in. Under this, the tea and coffee dispensers from Chai Point are equipped with smart devices, which are connected to the Cloud. These devices capture signals from the vending machines and send real- time data to the Cloud which, in turn, is directed to the clients through a customer relationship management (CRM) dashboard. All of this is powered at the backend through their proprietary Shark platform.
“We process these signals into viewable formats and provide critical insights to our clients. These signals contain information such as the units of beverages dispensed, consumption patterns and customer preferences. Using this data, we also suggest optimum brewing and flushing cycles, thus ensuring that the quality of beverages is maintained consistently,” says Amuleek.
Another proprietary technology developed by Chai Point is a machine learning engine, Shark ML, which predicts demand at retail stores as well as in the boxC.in business. This helps in inventory planning and management at warehouses, stores, and client locations. It also helps them predict and prevent loss of revenue. According to Amuleek, “The biggest problem that the food and beverage industry faces today is repair and maintenance, which hampers customer experience and causes revenue loss. We want to eliminate this problem even before it occurs. We have configured predictive as well as real-time error codes into our machines. In case of a problem, these error codes are communicated to our Central Command Centre Team and a service engineer is assigned to the facility at the earliest, thereby reducing the downtime, if not eliminating it completely.”
Over-stocking and pilferage are other problems that are prevalent in their line of work. To remedy this, the boxC machines are equipped with an app through which facility managers can order raw materials from Chai Point as and when needed. “In turn, we analyse all data points captured and give our clients insights into whether they are consuming the correct amount of raw materials. Alternatively, they can use the Shark ML platform to compute the optimal ordering value based on factors such as their previous consumption, holidays, and changes in weather,” he says, and goes on to add, “This intelligence is what, we believe, differentiates our business from the competition.”
The future of the beverages market
Amuleek attributes a 50 percent year on year growth to their intensive technology-based practices. “With machine learning powering our supply chain, we have been able to reduce wastage by half and increase our revenue. Also, with automation driving most of our internal processes, we save man hours in every function and department. All of this is important for a company to grow and flourish in the long run,” he says.
In fact, he goes as far as to say that technologies such as boxC.in are the future of beverage dispensing, which will take up a big chunk of the Rs 1 lakh crore plus market. While admitting that technology is their key differentiator, Amuleek also stresses on the importance of the human factor: “Ours is a service-oriented industry. Engaging with customers is essential for any business to remain relevant in the space they are operating in. Everyone, from our Chai Partners and our Delivery Partners, recognises this. But this does not undermine the fact that we want to become a more technology and process-heavy company and less people dependent.”
“Technology is no longer an add-on, or fancy feature above the core offering; rather it is an enabler to smoothly deliver the core offering to the customer. More people are moving away from brick-and-mortar stores, every smart phone is a PoS system, the revenue share of e-wallets is higher than ever and customers no longer shying away from sharing their information or feedback. At Chai Point, we weave all this into a single offering and provide a seamless experience. We can confidently say that chai won’t be the same without technology powering it,” he signs off.
How Vodafone Business Services can help businesses such as Chai Point
- Vodafone’s Digital Engagement Platform, a proprietary analytics tool, can help filter target customers into relevant groups and create tailored messages with offers for each customer segment for improved ROI
- Using IoT sims, robust connectivity and portable card swipe machines, payments at customer’s premises can be enabled
- Reliable connectivity for PoS terminals
- Customised mobility solution for smooth order processing and delivery for food and beverage outlets, both online and via the phone
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