Matt Chitharanjan and Namrata Asthana are successful entrepreneurs and self-confessed coffee lovers. They never realized how soon enough, their hobby turned into a full-fledged business. Today, their company Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters sells freshly roasted coffee to consumers residing anywhere in India. Matt Chittaranjan is a former economist and the co-founder of Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters. His wife and Co-Founder, Namrata Asthana has worked as Communications Manager and Director for Pepsico and IMFR respectively. The company was established in 2013 with the aim of providing coffee lovers with the best aroma, body, flavor, aftertaste, and has taken upon itself to bring freshly roasted coffee to the tables of Indian houses. Here is the success story below of Matt Chitharanjan, Namrata Asthana, and their company Blue Tokai.
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This Blog Includes:
Matt Chitharanjan: Education & Early Career
Matt Chitharanjan is a graduate of NYU’s Stern Business School, New York, USA with a BSc in Finance degree in 2003. He has industry experience in the area of Economic Research and Real Estate Investing for a boutique consulting firm and hedge fund in Berkeley, California before pursuing an M.A in Economics from The University of British Columbia. After his graduation, Matt spent a few years working on impact evaluation in international development in Jordan and the USA before moving to India to work on SME access to finance research with the Institute of Finance Management and Research (IMFR).
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Namrata Asthana: Education & Early Career
Namrata Asthana is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a major in Psychology and a minor in Anthropology. After working in design in Chicago, she moved to Delhi to work with the American India Foundation where she managed the Service Corps Fellowship for three years. Later, she worked with Pepsico India as a Communication Manager for four years and later moved onto working as Communications Director for the Centre of Development Finance at the Institute of Finance Management and Research (IMFR).
The Ignition of the Idea of ‘Blue Tokai’
Matt Chitharanjan met Namrata Asthana when he had to come to Chennai for work purposes. Later, the couple moved to Delhi but missed their local coffee, like the fresh and strongly brewed filter coffee they were so used to having back in Chennai. In the North, the coffee that was on offer was the mass-produced coffee beans, sold to a crowd that had grown up to drink instant coffee. They wanted to bring the authentic coffee experience to the Indian consumer. Thus. The idea of giving birth to Blue Tokai came from the lack of availability of good quality coffee in the northern regions of India. The brand today has gained a respectable name for its quality beans and has 10+ cafes across Delhi, Mumbai, and Goa. The two more were added to the list by the year 2019.
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The Etymology of ‘Blue Tokai’
Matt Chitharanjan and Namrata Asthana started the company on a small-scale basis. With their savings, they invested in a roaster and began to take online orders for freshly roasted coffee. Initially, most of their consumers comprised NRIs and ex-pats. Later, they started receiving orders from across the country. Soon after, they opened their first cafe in the Saidulajab area of Saket, New Delhi and there was no looking back after that. With 12 branches running successfully across the country, their sales have doubled the year. Matt Chittaranjan describes, “Namrata and I are happy to see that our name is out there and we are getting credit and recognition for the coffee that we grow.”
The main idea was to showcase the brand identity that reflected the coffee’s origin. Namrata Asthana is the driver of all creative aspects behind the brand. She created the logo herself a few years back and it was good to go for the new bean company. ‘Tokai’ is an old Malabar word for the plume of the peacock, and apart from being the national bird of India, you’ll frequently see peacocks around the coffee estates.
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The Story Behind the USP of Blue Tokai
Before starting, Matt Chitharanjan & Namrata Asthana did very little market analysis and felt that there would be so many people out there looking for the same idea. What helped them, is their financial background. All the models, analysis of margins, and financial reports are managed by Matt, whereas aesthetics comes from Namrata. Their packaging was too expensive earlier, luckily Namrata prevailed and had a design focus that they embraced which became part of their brand.
They mostly had their focus on Arabica beans due to the better flavor profile. They are also looking for Robusta coffee which is going to be the future coffee whose flavors would meet their requirements. One thing with Arabica is that there are dozens of varieties available in India and each estate has its own climate change conditions, growing practices, and post-harvest practices creating a wide variety.
What Makes Blue Tokai Stand Out from Generic Coffee?
“If there was no difference then definitely our company would have no reason to exist.” – Matt Chithranjan.
There is a niche set of customers who are already aware of the difference between specialty coffee and commodity coffee and while their initial focus was on targeting the same people. As they have grown, their focus has shifted to try to widen the appeal and awareness of what makes good coffee. For many people, the only coffee they know is instant coffee and their focus was overcoming the perception that all coffee dissolves in water, and from there, it was about changing the idea that it’s difficult or expensive to brew coffee at home.
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What merely began as a passion or a hobby has bloomed into a flourishing online coffee business, popularly known as Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters. For more success stories, keep following Leverage Edu and put your comments below & tell us how inspired you are by their idea of becoming the next big coffee entrepreneurs of India.