Maithree Venkatesan 23 May, 2022
Chaika is an instant tea cultural enterprise founded in 2020 that offers the new generation of chai drinkers that instant first sip feeling. Offering their consumers a wide range of masala chais and iced teas to choose from, Chaika makes sure every drink is your cup of tea.
Chaika participated in the first NICE Angels Investor Meet concluded recently. Follow the journey of the founders of Chaika, Devanshi Kanoi Chitlangia and Aradhita Agarwal to understand how your cultural enterprise in the food and beverage sector can grow.
The First Steep – How Chaika was born
The idea for Chaika came to us when we were working in the financial sector in Singapore. Growing up on our family’s tea estates, we began to crave masala chai after moving abroad. However, no matter how hard we tried, we failed to find and make the perfect chai. The process often took too long, and we didn’t have the time to do so before work.
Once we moved back to India, we began working on an instant version of masala chai. We worked with our family businesses to get a first-hand experience of the industry and learn the behind-the-scenes of tea production and manufacturing. Aradhita became a certified tea tester as well now.
We first launched our instant chai samples in a farmer’s market in one of the clubs in Calcutta. It was a soft launch, and we made a small quantity of the product to gauge the response. Our product received an overwhelming positive response. We then decided to take the plunge and launch Chaika. In March 2020, we listed our Chaika products on Amazon, and that was our first significant selling space.
Not Your Average Cup of Joe – Our Product Range
Chaika currently has a range of hot tea premixes and a few iced tea premixes. They all find their roots in traditional Indian flavors and elements. The premixes come in tea sachets containing milk, tea powder, spices, and sugar. All one needs to do is open the packet, empty it into a cup and add hot or cold water.
We realized that no two Indians take their masala chai the exact same way. Thus, we decided to do away with the concept of one standard masala chai and created a range of masala chais to evoke childhood nostalgia, including the Bombay cutting, Kolkata Kadak, Dhaba style, and more. We have a lemon tea called platform chai inspired by the tea you get on railway platforms and a masala chai with lemongrass and ginger, which is inspired by the orient. We also offer a sugar-free version of chai called Diet tea.
We drew on traditional Indian flavors for our collection of iced teas. We have a Mahabaleshwar Mixed Berry flavor, a Kashmiri Green Apple, and a Pondicherry Peach and Passion Fruit. These variants help us cater to a wider proportion of the population.
The Ones who Crave Quali-tea – Finding our Target Demographic
Our consumer base consists of students, travelers, corporate office staff, people living in a nuclear family, people who may not have house help permanently, and more. We see a lot of engagement from the youth because of our packaging and brand appeal. We have also received a lot of interest from Indians living abroad, who miss their daily cup of masala chai.
During the pandemic, we saw an increase in corporate orders. Many offices did not want to call for tea from an external vendor in order to minimize contact. By utilizing our sachets, the employees could make their tea themselves.
Outside the Teapot – Designing our Packaging
Since neither of us comes from a branding or marketing background, we first started by spending a lot of time exploring designs and zeroing in on what we wanted. We wanted the idea of growing up with chai to be represented from each of our neighborhoods. It is the Share Market chai for some of us, and for some in Bombay, it is the Chowpatty Cutting chai they grew up with. We decided to go old-school, retro, and brought out the core motifs of Indian culture in our packaging.
With the quirky and fun packaging, our products were a natural fit as gifting solutions. This helped us get a large number of samples across. We saw a spike in business with our various themed boxes for the festive seasons.
Letting the Kettle Brew – Routes Chaika uses for Marketing
The two channels that have worked best for us are the export route and institutional partnerships. We have tie-ups with Taj, Hyatt Regency, The Kenilworth Hotel, Royal Calcutta Golf Club, and many corporate offices. We are also looking to collaborate with some restaurants to put our iced tea premixes on their cocktail menu.
We began exporting to Singapore at the end of 2020 and to Dubai in 2021. In Dubai, we had our T20 and IPL stall, and it was a big milestone for us!
Social media has been a bit of trial and error and to see what kind of content works well. We have noticed that posts with a human connection, or people talking about their story with chai, perform better than a simple photo of a Chaika box.
Tiding over Reali-tea – How Chaika faced the Pandemic
We have been go-getters from the start, and this has been reflecting in our growth. Chaika’s journey has not been easy, especially because we started during the pandemic and were stuck with a lot of stock. Furthermore, the printers were closed and we couldn’t get the boxes printed. To prevent wastage, we decided to start selling the stock as corporate bundles with packets of 100 sachets without the boxes at a subsidized price. This makeshift idea helped us grow and caused a significant spike in our sales.
We aim to make Chaika a global household name and your go-to brand for an instant cup of chai.
NICEorg wishes them best of luck in their journey ahead.
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