Ratan Tata-backed Teabox raises $7 mn in Series B round
Kaushal Dugar, Founder, Teabox

Speciality tea e-tailer Teabox.com, operated by Bengaluru- and Singapore-based AsianTeaxpress Pte. Ltd, has raised $7 million (Rs 45 crore) in a Series B round from Singapore-headquartered investment firm RB Investments and existing investors.

Southeast Asian banking and financial services company DBS Bank Ltd has also participated in this round through venture debt.

The company will use the fresh capital to expand its back-end infrastructure, including cold chain processing centres, besides investing in growth initiatives across key markets, Teabox said in a press note.

Founded in 2012 by Kaushal Dugar, Teabox runs an online portal to ship fresh Indian tea directly to customers across 112 countries, including the US and Russia, besides catering to the domestic market. It has partnered with over 150 tea plantations to procure tea leaves directly from the growers and runs a value-addition process before selling its products.

“We are perhaps the only global tea brand to have an extremely strong digital presence. It has not only helped us fuel our growth, but has also helped further our multi-channel approach to create a 360-degree experience for the customer through offline formats. We do not want to miss out on this huge potential. This investment is going to help us push the levers in the right direction,” said Dugar.

In June 2016, the company had raised an undisclosed amount from Singapore-based angel investor and tea connoisseur Cameron Jones and DBS Bank (venture debt). In January the same year, it had raised an undisclosed sum from Tata Sons’ chairman emeritus Ratan Tata. In 2015, the company had raised $6 million in a Series A round led by Singapore-based VC firm JAFCO Asia and existing investor Accel Partners, along with Keystone Group LP and Dragoneer Investment Group.

The five-year-old consumer tea brand claims to have sold over 40 million cups of premium Indian tea so far. Its technology platform has enabled Teabox to cut down on the delivery time from four-six months to under a week. It procures tea leaves from Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiris and Nepal. It offers a range of over 250 varieties of teas and provides a subscription option for consumers.

RB Investments is a pan-Asia venture capital firm that specialises in seed- and growth-stage rounds. It is managed by Singapore-based entrepreneur Rajesh Bothra and has backed several consumer internet companies in India, including Swiggy, FabHotels, Bluestone, Travel Triangle, Faaso’s, Beer Café and Tapzo.

Teabox is one among many tea startups in India that have raised funding over the past few years.

Earlier this week, Delhi-based tea e-tailer Vahdam Teas Pvt. Ltd had raised $1.4 million (Rs 9 crore) in a Series A round led by existing investor Fireside Ventures. It is a direct-to-consumer tea brand that generates 100% of its sales online, primarily through its website.

Delhi-based tea café operator Chaayos and Bengaluru-headquartered Chai Point had also attracted investors, including Fidelity’s proprietary investment arm, Eight Roads Ventures, and Tiger Global.

The new-age tea retailing startups are aiming to change the way the popular beverage is consumed in India, the world’s second-largest grower and biggest consumer of tea.

Chai Point, operated by Mountain Trail Foods Pvt. Ltd, had raised $10 million led by Eight Roads Ventures in September 2015.

Chaayos, run by Sunshine Tea House Pvt. Ltd, had secured $5 million in its Series A round of investment led by Tiger Global in 2015.

In November 2016, tea retail startup Chai Thela raised Rs 1.5 crore in seed funding from early-stage investment firm Quarizon.

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