Chai Point, the chain of tea stores owned by Mountain Trails Foods, opened its 100th store in Bengaluru on Friday. With this store, the homegrown startup has gone digital, embedding artificial intelligence capability as a backbone to offer a seamless omnichannel experience.
The AI capability will help Chai Point run its loyalty program with a facial recognition software, which will store and analyse user preferences for quick check-out. The data collected will also help the company improve its supply chain management and demand forecasting. Chai Point currently has over 14 lakh registered users under its loyalty program.
“Face recognition is our way to improve our loyalty program. Usually, customers are asked to give phone numbers each time they order. Some don’t want to share. All-in-all, it’s a cumbersome process. Facial recognition will smoothen out the process,” Amuleek Singh Bijral, co-founder and CEO of Chai Point said.
The company’s 100th store is not just different in how it uses technology but also a step away from its usual format of 600-800 sq. ft. stores. However, Bijral said the company will be selective in large format stores, even though “600-800 sq. ft. is our sweet spot". Apart from stores, delivery has also shown tremendous growth for the company. It accounts for over 20 percent of the company’s overall revenue.
The company is now gearing up to open another large-format store in Church Street, close in the vicinity of metro station. Chai Point has stores in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, and Delhi. The company, which started operations in 2010, is primarily present in tech parks, office spaces to cater to white-collar working professionals. It also has a presence in institutions and large format retail spaces.
Chai Point plans to open 40 more stores by the end of FY19. But Bijral said it will never go for unnecessary expansion. “We will open stores only if our infrastructure and resources grow with it. Stores remain core to our brand. Delivery and Boxc.in are faster-growing segments, which supports the store format,” he added.
The company is also looking at promoting its automated hot beverage dispensing segment - boxC.in – in office spaces to broaden the market from working professionals. Boxc.in has grown to contribute 40 percent to Chai Point’s overall business, from just 8-9 percent there years ago. “Boxc.in is growing at 100 percent growth year-on-year (YoY). The idea is to cater to the need of white-collar professionals and a dispenser for Indian brewed tea is a perfect offering. They can just walk up to the pantry and get chai,” Bijral said.
In April this year, Chai Point raised USD 20 million in Series C funding led by Paragon Partners. A substantial portion of the funding raised in April is being deployed in strengthening the technology backbone.