Tea and company

 Taslima Khan        Print Edition: June 26, 2011

Indians love tea. The country consumed 802 million kg of tea in 2008, the Tea Board's latest figures show. Amuleek Singh Bijral, 34 - a Harvard Business School graduate who has worked with TCS and Microsoft - saw in this a business opportunity.

Chai Point

Founded in: 2010
Founder: Amuleek Singh Bijral
What makes it cool: Its novelty. Unlike coffee shops, upscale tea shops are almost unknown
Rating: 5.5
Mirchandani's take: Interesting segment. It tries to cater to a gap in the market. What needs to be seen is how the entrepreneur manages the retail side of the business as entry barriers are low
Unfazed by the failure of a similar endeavour - Chai Unchai by Tata Tea in 2008 - he started Chai Point in Bangalore in April 2010 to serve tea in clean and congenial surroundings.

The single outlet has grown to nine. Sourcing high quality Assam and Darjeeling tea, Chai Point serves seven flavours, with varieties such as Chai Latte - a cappuccino substitute for tea - and sugar-free tea for diabetics. Chai Point outlets are small but cosy, about 250 to 300 sq ft, with seating space for just 10. Each location is carefully chosen. "Our outlets are at some distance from malls and plush retail areas, but located on busy streets," says Bijral.

The outlets have yet to break even, but Bijral remains confident. He is not even worried about competition. "Competitors will only give credibility to the liquid tea space, and provide it a share of marketing cover which has been the privilege of only the coffee shops so far," he says.

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