Tamil Nadu

Tea business brewing amid pandemic

Booming venture: Experts say over 100 tea and coffee outlets have come up in the last three months.  

At a time when thousands of restaurants are folding because of poor patronage and margins, the number of tea shop brands has been increasing not just in Chennai but also in Tier-2 towns of Tamil Nadu. Experts who have been tracking the tea and coffee market say over 100 such outlets have come up in the last three months. Interestingly, many women are foraying into the tea business.

“After lockdown, some restaurants in the Old Mahabalipuram Road belt closed; a few of them started selling tea in a smaller space. Some have closed shops because of rental constraints, and are now using bikes and even autorickshaws to sell tea. And I also wanted to experiment,” says Raja Shanmugam, who has started a cloud kitchen and is selling tea on bikes, along with a few of his friends.

Another team of boys is selling tea on two-wheelers under the brand Your Chai Stop. “We call ourselves tea-wheelers, and we are targeting busy shopping spots,” says one of them.

“Because of COVID-19, some people lost their jobs and many got their salaries cut. People were looking at small business [on an investment of less than ₹5 lakh] that can fetch them anywhere from ₹50,000 to ₹1 lakh a month. A tea shop fits the bill. That is the reason for the spurt in the number of shops,” says Suresh Radhakrishnan, founder of Chai Kanth. Mr. Radhakrishnan, who is also mentoring people in opening tea business, reckons that this is one of the very few businesses that have survived the pandemic (except outlets near or in IT parks).

Dhamyanthi Kumaravel is the co-founder of Namma Cafe, which was launched after the lockdown was partially lifted. She feels this is a herd mentality.

“When a business venture has potential, everyone wants to get into that space — just like how kulfi and lassi shops opened everywhere a couple of years ago.” She aims to roll out 1,000 Namma Cafe units (direct and franchise) over the next three years.

Another woman who forayed into this space a month ago is Nandhini Kumari K, who heads Chai Castle. She says women and families prefer having tea at a place where there is no smoking, and that’s where brands like hers click. Asked about the sales, because this locality at Perumbakkam has several other tea outlets, Ms. Nandhini Kumari says that every business has its competitors, and she is confident of selling 3,000 cups in the coming days (she now sells over 300 cups).

According to Chai Kings founders Jahabar Sadique and Balaji Sadagopan, the demand for tea is three times that of coffee, even in a market like Chennai. On any given day, they have more repeat customers for Chai than for coffee.

Muthu Kumaran, a co-founder of Coffee Shastra, says that though the primary focus of his brand is coffee, his team want to give the best tea drinking experience to customers. “The demand for tea is increasing in metro, urban and sub-urban locations,” he says.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 6:03:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tea-business-brewing-amid-pandemic/article34315101.ece

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