Coffee is a beloved beverage across the globe. Be it a warm cup of latte with a cutesy doodle atop to start your day or a cold brew like an iced coffee as you simply chillax with your gang. Either way, coffee is that drink that you just can't say no to.
Tapping into this very insight is Bhupinder Madaan, an entrepreneur based in Ahmedabad who wasn't satisfied with the way coffee was presented to people. After all, a drink that great, deserves an equally top notch presentation, right? He started his own venture, Theka Coffee, back in 2017 and saw instant success. The premium quality and might I add affordable single-estate coffee, which came packaged in eccentric beer bottles with unconventional names seemed to be just the kind of product that everyone was waiting for, but didn't know they needed. Sadly, in 2020 came the pandemic and this unique product suffered just like many other products in the food and beverage industry. But Madaan was not one to lose hope in his product. Once the looming threat of the pandemic started lifting, he restarted the product, but didn't see the same success. Enter Shark Tank India in 2022, where Madaan was selected to pitch his product to the six sharks who loved the product for its innovation, creativity and quality. And the rest is just history.
We got in touch with Bhupinder Madaan, the brains behind the delight that is Theka Coffee, to traverse the journey of the now popularly favoured brand and tried to get a sneak peak into some cool news like the introduction of newer brews to his existing collection and what his go-to coffee choice from Theka Coffee.
Edited excerpts from the interview.
1. What is your story that led you to start Theka Coffee, and bring it to where it is right now? The reason I started Theka Coffee is because somewhere it felt that many brands which focused on specially brewed coffees, or single-estate premium coffees fell into an expensive range. And this was not an accessible choice for the average middle class man, atleast not for daily consumption. Thay had to rely on instant coffee powders, which honestly speaking is not that great, if you were to compare it with a special brew. The main reason for starting Theka Coffee was to reach this market. We did our research and started out in 2017 and the product received so much love and appreciation. Yes, during the pandemic we did end up losing business. we lost nearly 14 outlets. But every cloud has a silver lining, I guess. We pitched the product to Shark Tank India in 2022 and the platform really helped boost the product. Today, Theka Coffee has about 40 stores present in 20 cities across India.
2. Coffee has always been a favourite among the majority of the population. But what made you think 'nahi yaar isme maza nahi aa raha' before you gave the already loved beverage a whole new creative angle? That's true. Coffee is a great product. You'll hardly find someone who'll refuse a great cup of coffee. But to me, the same old cappuccinos and lattes were getting boring. Most, if not all were selling the same product, they were marketed in a similar fashion and the product range was always more or less the same. So this was a great opportunity for me to introduce something exotic and original to the market and yes, we have received a great amount of admiration for the same.
3. What prompted you to, or rather gave you the idea, to present Theka Coffee at Shark Tank? Did you expect the magnitude of love and appreciation the product received? Like I said, the COVID-19 pandemic hardly spared any business in its wake, and Theka Coffee was no different. I have always believed that the product was and still is absolutely flawless. And that's when Shark Tank India came into the picture. I pitched my product and even though we may not have received funding, those 10 or so minutes on air definitely bolstered the brand and the product. Even if it wasn't for Shark Tank India, the plan was always to spread out pan-India, but this one instance definitely gave the whole plan some impetus, just as I had anticipated, and I am nothing but grateful for how things have turned out.
4. What's the story behind the unique names of your products? How were such funky and unique names like 'Palang Tod' or even 'Coffee Ki Jawani' inspired? Haha! So these are just some words and adjectives borrowed from my younger self. Back in those days this just used to be my way of talking, or describing things. Not anymore though. The reason I chose to go with such names is because I wanted the brand to reflect my personality, which is inherently Indian. That's why names like Palang Tod or Pataka. Apart from being quirky and eccentric, they also describe the roast profile of each brew. Like Palang Tod is a strong and dark roasted brew, Next Level Coffee is just a grade above the normal roast and Coffee Ki Jawani is a light roasted coffee. So yeah, that's how it is, that's how the names came to be!
5. What has been your formula for success as an entrepreneur? As an entrepreneur my only mantra to success is never ever give up and always believe in your brand or product. It does not need to be perfect but you need to focus on what needs to be done and have a bigger goal to aim for. It will take time, but your dedication, determination and passion will get you there.
6. Do you plan on introducing any cool new drinks to your existing menu, or even start a new project side by side? Yes, I think evolving is very important and we keep on evolving, but we'll not be changing our course of action, which is fresh coffee, brewed coffee. You can definitely expect more exciting flavours and fresh brews being added to our current menu. You'll just have to stay tuned to know more!
7. What is your secret to stay creative and innovative in the competitive world of the food and beverage industry? I think it's all about making sure that your brand is visible and being active in terms of marketing is crucial as well. I love looking at and studying branding and marketing as done with other brands as it helps me stay relevant or at the least know what the current trend is. We've changed the branding for Theka a couple of times before, all in the process of research and development, trial and error. While now we have a set brand personality for Theka, we'll still be on the lookout for marketing trends, to always stay relevant and evolving.
8. If you had to drink only one flavour of Theka Coffee for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? Palang Tod! Without a doubt! In fact, it would be yours too. It's a beautiful product. Suitable for the Indian palette since we tend to have a very strong palette, which is why Palang Tod is a popular favourite.
9. If Theka Coffee was not in the picture, what would you be doing? Nothing else. It was always Theka Coffee. I have always believed in the product so I just did not give myself the option of having a plan B and focused all my energy on this!
10.What's that one piece of advice you have for budding and aspiring entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry? My advice to any budding entrepreneur would be to first think, learn and then act. It's not important that you know what you're doing inside the kitchen, but it's very important that you should know what you're doing as a business. You should have a clear vision about what you're starting and penetrate into the right market. And this will come only if your initial research and market insights are strong and impenetrable. Always be open to learning and have faith in your product.
Natasha Kittur is an aspiring writer. Her love for anything with cheese and spice is profound, but a white sauce pasta always tops her list. In her free time you will catch her reading or watching crime books and shows or go on and on about psychological experiments and theories. She aims to write a book in the fictional genre someday.