A Micro-Class in Magnetic Branding: Chai Point

Ashutosh Wakankar Magnetic Brands

Chai Point seems to have cracked the formula that several Indian cafes have struggled with.

Tea in cutting-chai glasses, with a side of bun maska and perhaps even a slice of scrumptious banana cake; all served in an almost utilitarian set-up somewhat reminiscent of your college canteen. Think Chai Point and these are the images that come to mind.

Chai Point taps into the Indian obsession with chai. It embraces the home-grown, almost nostalgic quality associated with a kadak cup of chai; shuns the pretentiousness associated with paper-cup holding coffee drinkers in India and the insipidness of lightly brewed tea.

The almost-frugal menu offers customers a variety of tea options, a standard set of easy-to-make Indian snacks and the crowd favourite: Maggi, made available in an assortment of flavours. The brand’s price point across offerings makes it accessible to its target audience of tea lovers who cut across age, class and profession.

Unlike cafes synonymous with coffee drinkers, Chai Point outlets are not designed as places where customers can lounge for hours together. Instead, like darshinis, they have a smattering of functional tables, and chairs bordering on uncomfortable that push one to grab a hot drink and a bite, and get on with their day.

From the straightforward décor and quick-to-eat offerings, to the simply designed, handy flask used for home-deliveries, every aspect of Chai Point’s operations and offerings display a refreshing authenticity and an almost severe disregard for tried-and-tested conventions. Even its communication does an excellent job of re-enforcing the cultural significance of chai in India, with its ‘India Runs on Chai’ campaign.

Set up in Bangalore in 2010, the tea retailer today has a formidable presence in over 8 cities and boasts of serving 300,000 cups of chai everyday.

Back in 2012, the arrival of Starbucks in India brought with it inevitable comparisons between the iconic global brand and Indian café chains. The latter, who until then had been getting by by mimicking international brands, were dismissed for lacking a strong, differentiating perspective. Yet, perhaps the real competition to the Western, coffee-touting Starbucks culture is Chai Point, a brand that wholeheartedly embraces the Indian love for chai; counters the excesses of Starbucks with minimalism; appeals to the classes without alienating the masses and replaces the all-Western approach of the global brand with all things Indian.

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