With more than 100 different blends, this woman entrepreneur’s tea startup is clocking Rs 2 crore annually
Entrepreneur Payal Mittal Agarwal’s quest to start a tea company led her to move from her hometown Siliguri to Gurugram, the city she now calls home.
An active entrepreneur, Payal had earlier started a play school and Cuppa Java restaurant in Siliguri.
Her third venture Tranquilitea, which led to the Chaiom brand, is making the best of India’s rich tea production, second only after China in the world. In fact, the tea industry in India is expected to reach $1 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 5.8 percent, according to Goldstein Research.
Understanding the tea market
Payal always carries Darjeeling tea for gifting when she travels. Interestingly, during a trip to Europe in 2015, she met a woman in Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia) who had never been to India but had a collection of more than 200 varieties of Indian teas.
She recalls, “I saw the love and affection that foreigners had for Indian tea not just as a regular beverage but for its medicinal benefits. I started researching and saw how the Chinese and Japanese people too value tea for its health benefits.”
Payal says Indians drink a lot of tea and still suffer from acidity and various problems “because tea is not being consumed the right way.”
After returning to India, Payal joined a tea factory owner who was looking to start a chain of tea boutique in India. The entrepreneur says it was a good opportunity for her to learn various aspects of tea and the market as well.
“I was running my restaurant business simultaneously at the time, and was also business head for the boutique. Within 10 months in 2016, we were exhibiting at an international tea fair in China,” she says.
That is when Payal made it her mission to popularise “tea for healing purposes” in India by starting Tranquilitea. Today, the startup offers 100 different blends of tea, in addition offers customised teas as well.
Operating on a B2B model, the startup has sold 15 million cups of tea (in terms of serving capacity) since starting on April 29, 2017. The Gurugram-based entrepreneur sources raw material either directly from tea gardens in Darjeeling or middlemen who sell in bulk.
The move to start up
Payal says that a new venture demands all the time and energy at an entrepreneur’s disposal. After living in Siliguri for 35 years, she sold off shares of the restaurant business in Siliguri and moved to Gurugram to start up as well as provide better education for her son. The entrepreneur continues to get royalty from the restaurant business.
After paying off her son’s school fees for the year, Payal invested Rs 7,52,000 in the startup in 2017. Today, Tranquilitea clocks a revenue of Rs 2 crore annually.
Payal is most grateful that an entrepreneur’s life paved the way to fill a void left by her early marriage at the age of 19. “I never had the chance to go to college. But my tea startup has fulfilled my dream. As part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 women entrepreneur programme, I am now an IIM alumnus.”
IIM-Bangalore, Procter and Gamble, Vestige, CG group in Nepal, and Farm Native Group, feature among her top clients.
Facing the odds
Payal is one who maps her own path and is no stranger to challenges. She had to shut down the playschool she had built on her husband’s property after he left her for another woman.
She returned to her maternal home and soon built a successful restaurant from scratch. Despite being an entrepreneur twice over, Payal says she was not taken seriously while starting Tranquilitea. “People told me it is the age of AI and technology and an ordinary commodity like tea has no place in the startup ecosystem,” she adds.
However, six months into starting up, the venture was recognised by Walmart and included in the Women Entrepreneurship Development Program (WEDP) in 2017. At the same time, finding the right resources from suppliers, packaging and raising capital were the challenges she faced in the beginning.
The nationwide lockdown following the spread of coronavirus has come at a heavy price for the startup. With only few labourers allowed to work, production in the garden and supply chain has been disrupted.
Moving ahead, the entrepreneur aims to delve in to the health and wellness space by starting another venture called Yogflix, a platform to teach yoga.