Two London Entrepreneurs bringing real Chai to the UK
Inspired by the rich, complex and spicy Chai they had during their travels to Kerala, Indian born Rupesh and his Parisian wife Alex wanted to bring Chai to the UK, where they live in London. After 2 years of recipe testing, they developed the UK’s first ever authentic ready-to-drink Chai, Tuk Tuk Chai, and got listed with Harvey Nichols in May 2017, less than 2 months after their launch. The drinks were then snapped up by Sainsbury's at the end of last year, marking a huge success for the startup.
Their journey to this however was not an easy one, and all began as a distant dream in 2002 when Rupesh first arrived from Kerala in the UK, aged 23, to complete an MBA with only £600 to his name.
His first job was at McDonald’s to pay for his living expenses, before finding a job as a door to door fundraiser where he discovered a natural talent for sales. This led him to working for 4 U Business (Phones 4 U) in corporate sales, where he became one of the top sales people nationally within the company.
From this he then moved on to set up a B2B sales channel in an existing B2C telecoms company, which he grew to £1.4m turnover within a year.
He then began making the aspiration of having his own business a reality, and set up a telecoms company which he still runs today, which has helped fund the dream project of Tuk Tuk Chai. Despite the financial success of his business, he always felt it lacked passion and was to an extent a greedy industry.
Being a man of passion and determination, he always dreamt of creating a great product people would love. After his travels to Kerala with his wife Alex, he realised that the UK was missing out on the delicious Chai that is an everyday staple in India, especially given that the UK is a nation of tea drinkers!
This drove him to create Tuk Tuk Chai, a ready-to-drink Chai, which is simply brewed black tea with milk and optional spices, using the authentic recipes from the Chaiwallah’s, the famous tea makers of India This is completely different to the current Chai offerings in the UK, such as tea bags, powders and existing ready-to-drink Chai products that are made from concentrate.
Rupesh’s wife Alex never intended to develop a business, instead working in the charity sector, until Rupesh inspired her to join him with his idea for Tuk Tuk Chai, and now runs the business alongside him.
To add to their accolades with a stellar stockist listing, Rupesh and Alex won the Most Innovative Product Award at the Lunch! trade show in September for Tuk Tuk Chai, and were finalists at Virgin StartUp’s Foodpreneur competition in July. They beat almost 200 other entrepreneurs to the finalist spot in the nationwide competition, which shines a light on the best food and drink businesses in Britain.
The drinks can be enjoyed warmed up or chilled straight from the fridge, and are particularly good over ice. This also makes Tuk Tuk Chai the first ready-to-drink iced milk tea in the UK.
They can even be used as a cocktail ingredient and in cooking, with recipes such as a chai, Bailey’s and vodka Backwater Ripple, and a spiced tiramisu which can be found on their website.