Best of both brews: Meet these lawyer-entrepreneurs who are now in the business of coffee and tea
From Chai Point and Chaayos for tea to CCD, Barista, and Starbucks for coffee, there’s been a battle of brands when it comes to our favourite beverages. But what if you could find someplace that is brewing both?
“For every group of friends at a tea place ordering from a variety of flavours, there is one person missing their espresso, cappuccino, or classic cold coffee. We started Roastea to serve this space,” say brothers and lawyer-turned-entrepreneurs Anurag and Chaitanya Bhamidipaty, who co-foundedin 2019.
The Ahmedabad-based business operates on both the B2C and B2B models, setting up cafes and kiosks to cater directly to consumers and manufacturing automatic dispensing machines for corporates.
During their corporate life, the duo realised that working professionals, who are in the office for 10-12 hours a day, need their tea or coffee, but traditional dispensing machines available in most office pantries aren’t enough. This leads to crowds around chai tapris and coffee shops near office areas.
Anurag says, “Why the tapri wala? Because they were getting freshly brewed chai. So, both of us decided to start a business where we could make dispensing machines for home-style chai or coffee. We were working as lawyers for companies, helping them get listed on the stock exchange. We thought: why not build our own company and get listed ourselves?”
The brothers claim the company has been profitable since day one and has recorded an ARR of approximately Rs 17 crore in FY22.
Masterstroke: Home-style brews
In 2018, Anurag and Chaitanya began the groundwork for launching tea and coffee vending machines. Initially, they tried importing machines from China and other countries.
However, Chaitanya says they decided to make the machines in-house as the availability of spare parts was a challenge for imported ones.
“Besides the challenge in after-sales service, we weren’t getting the kind of quality of tea and coffee we were expecting. Thus, we spent almost six months doing R&D and developed a ‘Superior Brewing Technology’ that would give freshly-brewed tea and coffee to consumers,” Anurag says.
He explains that the technology stands out from the competitors in the market with two key features—ensuring temperature control and not using heat plates.
“The machine is completely IoT-enabled. Many companies do not control water temperature and brewing is not done regularly. We ensure that brewing happens in spurts, just like we do it at home. Some machines in the market also use heat plates that keep the beverage warm for hours but we realised that it alters the taste. This is why we developed technology in-house to beat all these challenges and stand out with a dispensing time of 6.5 seconds per cup.”
The company sources tea and coffee from gardens in Assam to ensure that the best quality ingredients make it to every cup.
The first product was launched in May 2019, and the company signed a contract with Ahmedabad-based IT firm Einfochips Pvt Ltd for six machines. The second big contract was bagged in September. Since then, there has been no looking back.
In 2021 the first Roastea kiosk was set up at Ahmedabad airport, followed by an outlet at One42, one of Ahmedabad’s most premium corporate parks.
Anurag says customers labelled the brand as very accommodating, with a patron commenting: “We can come here with family, friends or even business associates…you have a beverage for everyone.”
The founders say another reason for Roastea’s success is the fact that they are able to sell tea in Gujarat, which is recognised as a tea-drinking state with people very particular about the taste.
“A Gujju chai is something very strong flavoured with adrak (ginger), one that has more milk and is kadak (strongly brewed). The taste is different, which is why I think many leading chains couldn’t meet expectations and are not present in the state. We knew that if we were able to sell our tea and coffee in Gujarat, we could sell it anywhere,” Chaitanya says.
One of the major challenges the brothers face is serving all kinds of tastes through their machines—and they are working to “perfect the process”.
Something for everyone
When the brothers started out, many companies were making beverage vending machines. To stand out, Anurag and Chaitanya introduced a machine with a capacity of seven litres, one that would brew ‘ghar wali chai’.
“Our USP is ‘ghar wali chai’ and we know that automation is the only way to scale up. Hence, in our vending machine, consumers get to choose from over 30 options of tea and coffee, all IoT-enabled,” they say.
Roastea has developed three types of vending machines. The first, a filter coffee and tea machine, is the company’s bestselling product. The second one brews speciality coffee while the third offers all types of tea and coffee.
While Roastea’s freshly brewed filter coffee is the go-to beverage for the brothers, Anurag says they suggest their customers try the many available variants. Their bestsellers so far? Elaichi (cardamom) tea and Belgian mocha java when it comes to coffee.
According to Global Data, India's hot drinks market size was valued at $10.7 billion in 2021. The market is projected to grow at a CAGR of more than 9% during the forecast period between 2021-2026.
Anurag says the cafe market is pegged at Rs 3,500 crore in India, with huge potential for growth, adding that the company is geared up to capitalise on the opportunity.
The brothers have invested Rs 7 crore in the business, from their personal funds and through loans from friends and family. The company has placed around 500 machines in 140+ corporate offices of Adani Group, Zydus Group, ENY, EInfochips etc across India. Here, Roastea doesn’t sell the machine but charges a maintenance fee of Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500, depending upon the consumption per machine.
Roastea plans to set up 2,500 machines by the end of 2023. The brothers are also looking at opening 35-40 cafes and kiosks across the country.
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta and Teja Lele