An expert in all matters tea-related, INK Fellow Kaushal Dugar talks to us about how the 200-year old tea industry in India is being disrupted through his start-up ‘Teabox‘. He also his journey taking the brand to different parts of the world. A short and sweet interview, just like a nice cup of tea!
1. What has it meant to you to be an INK Fellow?
For me, INK has offered a great community to be a part of. I find inspiration, ideas, feedback and much more from this community. But what has also been significant is that I find myself among others who have had similar journeys and who have experienced success despite failures.
2. Your company Teabox has been described as “a startup that is disrupting the $40 bn global tea industry”. What has Teabox been doing that is considered as being disruptive?
We just took the 200-year old tea industry in India and decided to shake it’s very roots. By upending the way things were done by introducing technology to benefit the end consumer, we changed the way the system was perceived. Some of the incredible innovations include the world’s first natural nitrogen flush teabags, the world’s first machine-learning based tea subscription and establishing India’s first cold storage for tea and others.
3. You get order requests from all over the world for your tea products! Tell us some interesting experiences you’ve had with overseas customers.
One of our British customers, Peter, was posted in Iraq and wrote to tell us about it. He loved his Assam and Darjeeling black tea. And he wanted them in Kalar in the Kurdistan province. There was a lot of political unrest so it was a complicated undertaking. But we managed to get the requisite government clearances and paperwork and finally sent the order. Peter wasn’t expecting his tea to reach him, but it did and he was very happy. Some of our orders have been mini-geography lessons for us – Kiribati and islands like Micronesia, Moldova or Malta are small so finding a courier service and ensuring minimal roadblocks is no easy task. Interesting, but not easy!
4. What or who was your inspiration to start this brand?
I have grown up in Darjeeling and have always enjoyed tea as it should be – fresh! Having traveled all over, and having also seen that gap between what the consumer deserves and what is offered as tea, I was keen to bridge this gap. It meant a huge change in how things had been done for too long, but as a consequence, we have been able to democratize the system and make great tea accessible to a global market.
5. Going ahead, is there anything exciting planned for ‘Teabox’?
We began at Siliguri, at the foothills of Darjeeling. Assam, Kangra, boutique estates in Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, estates in the Nilgiris were all added. Tea from Nepal too has become part of our portfolio. This year, we are expanding within the South Asian region and are looking at Sri Lanka.
Follow Kaushal and his work on the Teabox website (they have their own blog featuring interesting stories of their tea travels!). Don’t forget to check out their ingenious ‘Teapacs’ and ‘Teawares’.