By Devika Singh
Homegrown tea makers are foraying into quick-service restaurants (QSRs) to tap into the 'eating out' culture in India and grow the business. But competition is aplenty - global brands have a formidable presence in India's QSR scene, even as start-up brands such as Chai Point and Chaayos are gaining traction. According to a report by CARE Ratings, the total market size of QSRs in India is approximately Rs 25,900 crore. The overall restaurant and food service industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.4% between 2018 and 2020.
Indian tea brands want a piece of this steaming hot business. Society Tea, a brand predominantly present in Maharashtra, recently opened its first tea café in Mumbai. Goodricke Group has tied up with the Tea Board of India to launch tea lounges in Mumbai and Kolkata on the latter's premises. Gujarat-based Wagh Bakri, which was among the first movers, plans to expand its tea lounge presence to 50 large and small format outlets, from the current 13, over the next four years.
When Wagh Bakri opened its first tea lounge in Ahmedabad in 2007, the company saw it only as another experiential marketing tool. "Initially, it was a place where people could explore different kinds of tea. But, over the years, we saw a demand for these lounges," says Parag Desai, executive director, Wagh Bakri Tea Group. The company claims to receive a footfall of 300-400 people per day on an average in stores present in high-street locations.
"We have deliberately stepped out of food courts to keep our offering premium," Desai adds. A Wagh Bakri tea lounge could entail an investment of Rs 50-75 lakh. The company now plans to expand to the North Indian cities of Gurugram, Chandigarh, Amritsar and Lucknow, among others.
Society Tea, meanwhile, plans to open 10 more stores - mid-size stores around corporate offices - in Maharashtra. Pricing will be its key differentiator. "We are not pricing the product at Rs 300 like other players, but offering a full glass of chai at Rs 50," says Karan Shah, director, Society Tea.
Goodricke Group has five operational tea lounges in the country, with plans to open one more, its second, in Darjeeling by the year end. The aim is to first foster brand awareness via its presence in locations of high tourist interest.
Is a QSR foray really their cup of tea?
According to Devangshu Dutta, chief executive, Third Eyesight, each player could be backed by a different motivation to enter this space. Some may want to use it purely as a marketing tool, while some others may look at it as an alternative source of revenue.
QSRs can be an effective marketing tool especially for brands that have limited access to customers through retail. "Such stores help increase visibility and offer insights about their customers, their spending patterns, etc," says Pinakiranjan Mishra, partner and leader, consumer products and retail, EY India.
However, expanding footprint in the market and eyeing revenue from the QSR chain could entail substantial investments for tea brands. "If tea companies look at QSRs as an additional business stream, then besides tea, there are food items and cold beverages to be served, which cannot be sourced just from the gardens," says Dutta.
Furthermore, it will be an uphill task in the presence of biggies Starbucks, Café Coffee Day and Costa Coffee, that are established names in the market, in addition to other upstarts like Chaayos, which has over 50 cafés across Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and Chandigarh, and Chai Point which has 100 cafés in eight cities.
To get an edge, Harsha Razdan, partner and head-life sciences and consumer markets, KPMG India, says that new entrants would have to go beyond metros "and should ensure competitive pricing as the market is price sensitive".