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FOOD & BEVERAGE | Alpha Bierneza, Singapore

Teabox changes the century-old game for tea fans

Teas are immediately available to consumers after production.

When Kaushal Dugar said that he'll sell tea from the garden direct to online consumers, people thought he was crazy. They said it will not work because it demanded change and will upset the way tea is being sold for over a century. Tea usually takes about 3-6 months for a tea to reach the end consumer and there were too many intermediaries in the value chain.

As a result the price increases x times and there is also a deterioration in quality due to lack of good quality infrastructure as the freshness goes away with time. But Dugar was convinced. He started running a daily blog and soon, customers are engaged.

He then started Teabox. Teabox is founded on the idea that if he can make teas available to customers immediately after production while preserving the freshness/aroma, it could form the basis for a brand that would be known for its freshness.

Direct, first access to teas almost as soon as they are produced gives Teabox a unique advantage over any other tea retailer.

This challenges the ways of a 200 year old industry, which has always relied on a large value chain consisting of multiple middlemen and has hardly changed since the earliest British & Scottish planters first set up the estates.

Tea estates send over their tea samples, which are then evaluated by our expert tea tasting team. Only the teas which match our stringent standards are selected to be listed on the website. We have also invested heavily in setting up a rigorous, quality checking environment which ensures that only the best quality leaves are selected and are stored in temperature and humidity controlled facilities.

The orders which ship within 24 hours of order are packaged in opaque, vacuum packaging protecting them from sunlight & the environment outside during the transit. Regardless of the location, buyers receive their tea packs within just 3-5 business days. The rest of the teas are stored in a cold storage environment - again India’s first cold storage of tea.

"I knew that if I could deliver what I was promising – incredibly fresh teas, delivered within a week of procurement, direct from the gardens, at a good price, I was in a good place. Most of our customers return and love what we are offering. Word of mouth has been the best way to get new customers," Dugar said.

Two of its investors, Robert Bass of Keystone Group LP, and Cameron Jones, first discovered Teabox as tea drinkers. They loved the product so much that they went on to participate in the round of investment.

"We visit the tea gardens, taste and select the teas we want to sell. The teas are vacuum packed to retain freshness. We source our teas from some of the best tea gardens in Darjeeling, Assam, the Nilgiri, Kangra, Sikkim and now even Nepal. Details of the teas we sell are extremely comprehensive. We want our customers to know where we are sourcing the teas from, the date of plucking, tasting notes, garden details, etc. We are making the search for premium teas easy, accessible and a very pleasant one," Dugar added.

Teabox received seed funding by Accel Partners and Horizen Ventures (Singapore-based early stage fund) participating in this investment round of $1million. It also received seed funding by Accel Partners and Horizen Ventures (Singapore-based early stage fund) participating in this investment round of $1m. Prashant Prakash from Accel joined the board as an advisor.

The company later raised $6m in Series A round of funding led by JAFCO Asia, with participation from Accel Partners, Keystone Group LP and Dragoneer Investment Group. "We also raised an undisclosed funding from Mr. Ratan Tata and Cameron Jones," Dugar said. 

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