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BW Businessworld

Revolutionising Coffee Culture

Blue Tokai aspires to take India’s finest quality coffee to the world and popularise the speciality coffee segment

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Shivam Shahi

In 2015, speciality coffee as a segment was just introduced in India, and there was a lack of knowledge and awareness around socialising over a good cup of coffee. Moreover, the coffee market in India was primarily dominated by commodity coffee, even in the retail space, making it more difficult for speciality coffee players to make a mark. However, these challenges didn’t stop Shivam Shahi from popularising the speciality coffee segment through his venture Blue Tokai and taking Indian consumers’ experience a notch higher.

Launched in 2013 as a roastery, Blue Tokai’s vision is to make great quality Indian coffee more accessible across formats. It has become India’s largest speciality coffee brand with a presence across the entire value chain, right from farm interventions and scoring to profile roasting, packaging, and selling directly to consumers through different D2C and B2B channels, including cafés and retail, online and modern trade, amongst others.

Brewing Success

In the initial years, it was self-funded, but later it received seed funding from Snow Leopard Technology Ventures and Bold Ventures in 2016, which helped the team led by Shahi to scale the business. At present, Blue Tokai has an annual run rate (ARR) of Rs 100 crore and a positive EBITDA, with the business growing at ~85 per cent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) in the last six years. It has also stepped into the international market, with Japan as its first international home.

Shahi believes that every hurdle can be cracked with deep analysis, and with the correct numbers, one can always arrive at logical conclusions, especially while working on strategic growth plans. “With this approach, I started devising expansion strategies with a vision to make speciality coffee more accessible and convenient. All our cafes are unit economics positive and achieving operational efficiency with operational expenditures well under control,” says Shahi.

In the past year, Blue Tokai opened 21 new cafés taking the overall cafe count to more than 50 and entered newer markets beyond the Tier-1 cities. It also forayed in the FMGC segment and projects presence in 20 new cities and more than 2,000 retail stores by the end of the year.

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magazine 12 March 2022 Coffee Culture