Online Tea Seller Teabox Raises Investment From Ratan Tata

Teabox, a Darjeeling-based online tea retailer, has received an undisclosed amount of funding from Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons Ltd, the company said. The latest round follows an earlier investment, estimated to be around $6 million, from 67-year old billionaire and Texas-based investor Robert M Bass last month. Other investors in that round had included JAFCO Asia, Accel Partners, Keystone Group LP and Dragoneer Investment Group.
This is Tata’s first investment in a specialty tea startup and fifth disclosed investment in the new year. Last week, he had backed baby care products retailer and prior to that, put in money into analytics firm Tracxn Technologies, pet care portal DogSpot and cashback and coupon website CashKaro.
Teabox says it is the largest online tea seller globally. It delivers the tea from Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri and Nepal to destinations across the globe. Founded in 2012 by Kaushal Dugar, a former corporate finance analyst in Singapore, Teabox claims to have delivered more than 30 million cups’ worth of tea to customers in 93 countries.
“Tata’s direct guidance and experience in the tea industry, will surely help us grow Teabox to be the first global premium tea brand from India,” said Dugar. In early 2014, Teabox had raised $1 million in seed funding from Palo Alto, California-based venture capital firm Accel Partner and Horizen Ventures. It was Accel Partners who introduced Dugar to Bass.
Currently, the startup employs 65 people in Siliguri and Bangalore, Teabox works with 150 plantations in Darjeeling, Assam and Nepal. Interestingly, the Tata Group has its own tea brand – Tata Global Beverages – the world’s second largest tea company.
It is not known if the Tata Group, and specifically Tata Global Beverages, will look at Teabox, as look at an online platform for the former’s sales. Tata Beverages manufactures and distributes tea and a major producer of coffee. It sells its products under the brand name Tata Tea, Tetley, Good Earth Teas, JEMČA and others.
At an event recently, when asked why was investing in startups, Tata had said: “After I retired, it seemed to me that there was a whole new world out there which was a digital world driven by a market place, basically which had a huge potential driven by handheld devices which would one day become the virtual retail store of India and I didn’t know the companies in the business. It was and still is a learning experience for me to learn of this world which is like a virtual world of a business that I have been in for 20 years. The virtual part is replaced or overshadowed by my impression of the founders. It was a start of a journey that I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of.”  
Tata further added: “I was always intrigued and enthusiastic about meeting younger people because they are the future of the country. New start-ups embody the creativity, the innovation of young people and for me it was and is a very worthwhile experience to interact with them. i have learnt a lot, probably more than you believe. I am intrigued by a start-up which has an interesting concept. That excites me.”
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