Ratan Tata invests in tea e-tailer Teabox

Tata Sons’ chairman emeritus Ratan Tata has invested an undisclosed amount in speciality tea e-tailer, the startup’s CEO Kaushal Dugar told VCCircle.

This is the fifth investment in 2016 for Tata, one of India’s most active angel investors last year. Recently, he put money in baby products e-commerce site He has also invested in animal lovers’ portal Dogspot, startup analytics firm Tracxn and coupons site CashKaro in 2016.

In all, Tata has backed nearly two dozen startups since retiring as the chief of the tea-to-steel Tata Group at the end of 2012. Tata had also led the Tata Group’s acquisition of the UK’s Tetley Tea in 2000 in what was then the biggest takeover by an Indian company.

Teabox said it will use the money mainly to expand its global footprint. The company currently exports tea to 93 countries and aims to cross 100 soon.

“Ratan Tata’s direct guidance and experience in the tea industry will surely help us grow as the first global premium tea brand from India,” Dugar said.

Founded in 2012 by Dugar, Teabox provides an online platform through which it ships fresh Indian tea to customers globally. The company, run by Bangalore- and Singapore-based AsianTeaxpress Pte Ltd, has fulfilment centres in Darjeeling and it sources premium tea directly from the plantations.

Teabox works with about 200 plantations in Darjeeling, Assam and Nepal. It claims to vacuum-pack the tea within 24-48 hours of production and ship it within the next 24 hours to ensure freshness of the products. The buyers receive the packs in three to five business days.

The company last year raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Singapore-based VC firm JAFCO Asia and existing investor Accel Partners, along with Keystone Group LP and Dragoneer Investment Group.

Texas billionaire Robert M. Bass is also reported to have put money into the company in that round. The 67-year-old investor has also helped the company by providing inputs in terms of merchandising and marketing.

Teabox is among a number of tea startups that have raised funding. Tea café operators Chaayos and Chai Point attracted investors last year.

Bangalore-based Chai Point, run by Mountain Trail Foods Pvt Ltd, has raised $10 million led by Fidelity’s proprietary investment arm, Eight Roads Ventures (formerly Fidelity Growth Partners India).

Delhi-based Chaayos, operated by Sunshine Tea House Pvt Ltd, has raised $5 million in its Series A round of investment led by Tiger Global.

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