TeaBox gets Ratan Tata on board with fresh round fund raising

Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, has made his fourth start-up funding this year, investing an undisclosed amount in global speciality tea company TeaBox. Tata will pick up a small stake in the company and also join the company as an advisor.

The company, which in March closed a round of $5 million in Series A investment in March led by Accel Partners, said it will use the additional capital to fuel TeaBox's growth as it expands to other major markets around the world.

TeaBox founder Kaushal Duggar says his venture has shipped over 30 million cups of tea over the last year.

This is the fourth start-up in 2016 to receive Ratan Tata's attention and this round of TeaBox capital raising was meant to get Tata on board.

This is also for the first time that Ratan Tata has invested in a tea company.

The Tata Group chairman emeritus had at the start of 2016 invested in Dogspot – an online pet care platform (See: Ratan Tata funds 20th start-up with investment in DogSpot.in)

followed within  a week by an investment in Tracxn, a startup intelligence and market research platform (Ratan Tata makes New Year's second venture funding, invests in intelligence platform Tracxn).

Last week Tata invested in cashback and coupon site Cashkaro (Ratan Tata makes third funding of 2016, invests in CashKaro).

Kaushal Duggar, 32, a financial analyst, founded Teabox in 2012 with personal savings of around Rs40 lakh.

''It is unique that Ratan Tata, who is the architect of the Tetley acquisition, has invested in TeaBox,'' says Dugar. ''For Mr Tata to invest in a 200 year-old industry that is seeing a change with TeaBox means a lot to us. It validates not just TeaBox but also innovation in an industry that continues to follows archaic ways of functioning.''

While money for investment itself is hard to come, it is even more difficult to get Tata's endorsement, pointed out Dugar, adding that Tata's advice to Dugar was to `make TeaBox a global brand.'

"Mr 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,'' he says confidently.

TeaBox is backed by Singapore-based JAFCO Asia, Accel Partners, Keystone Group LP and Dragoneer Investment Group.

Dugar has always been a part of the tea business as he comes from a family which has been into tea garden supplies – machinery, irrigation equipment etc.

Besides being a natural entrepreneur as he hails from a Marwari family – he had also worked with his brother Prateek who was into tea exports, where Dugar picked up the finer nuances of tea and its inherent characteristics.

"He taught me what to look for in each of Darjeeling's tea gardens and that opened a whole world of tea and tea quality for me," says Dugar.