The Indian startup modernising a 200-year-old industry

 

Teabox sends fresh tea leaves straight from estates to customers anywhere in the world within days

The British drink more than 60 billion cups of tea every year, and it is the second most-consumed drink in the world, after water. Yet the industry has seen little innovation in how the humble tea leaf makes it from the plant to the cup, sometimes many thousands of miles away. Kaushal Dugar, is changing all that.

“The process of getting it to the customer from the tea estate has not changed in nearly 200 years, going back to the days of the British,” says Dugar, who grew up in Darjeeling, a region known for producing India’s champagne of teas. After a corporate career in Singapore, he returned to his roots to help modernise an antiquated industry, steeped in colonial history and its archaic methods.

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Teabox, based in the West Bengal city of Siliguri, with a satellite office in Bangalore, fuses tea and tech. The sleek, modern, whitewashed walls of its Siliguri headquarters are more Silicon Valley, than colonial British. In this newly remodelled space, opened in 2016, Dugar and his 95 employees are putting the $7 million (£5.4 million) raised from investors such as Accel Partners, Ratan Tata, and Texan billionaire Robert Bass to work.

Read the full story at Wired.co.uk

 

 

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Three Friends Turn Plastic Waste Into A New Retail Brand

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Three friends started a company, Nomadix, based on one product — a towel made of recycled plastic. Three years in, they’re in REI, Urban Outfitters, and over 100 boutiques, surf shops, and yoga studios. And their approach to growth is, ironically, slow down.

Chace Petersen, Zack Helminiak, and Hunter Robinson are accidental business partners. After years of camping, surfing, and having an outdoor lifestyle together, the trio realized that there was increasing plastic waste in the ocean, and trash littered at their favorite surf spots. Eliminating all the waste would be too hard, so they decided to hone in on single-use plastic water bottles, Helminiak says.

“Plastic pollution is a major problem for oceans and wildlife, which Nomadix and our customers seek to protect.”

Nomadix was born out of necessity, he says. The founders travel regularly, having visited about three dozen countries collectively and towels, they realized were either too niche or made of rubbish quality. 

Read the full story on Forbes.com.

How This Mom Is Using Her Business To Transform The Food Culture in Alberta

Karen Anderson is changing the image of Calgary from “cowtown” to one of Canada’s finest food cities. The self-proclaimed “momtrepreneur” started Alberta Food Tours, after having established a friend circle of farmers, chefs, and foodies.  Last year, she organized 169 tours for more than 1000 guests. She’s found a niche and a business in promoting sustainable agriculture through tourism.

“I could see that more and more people were traveling with the intent of trying local cuisines, and exploring the food culture of a city,” she says, driving down one of Calgary’s main throughways, the Macleod Trail. “But Calgary never had a reputation as being a foodie city, like Vancouver. So how could we change that?”

Read the full story at Forbes.

This Finnish Entrepreneur And Chocolatier Wants Food Businesses To Be Accountable For Public Health

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Jukka Peltola worked in the gaming industry before launching a food brand. He was busy developing games at Rovio, the powerhouse that created Angry Birds. He had no experience in food nor a co-founder who was steeped in the food business. But he decided to switch gears, leaving behind his gaming days for a chocolate factory. Why such a dramatic career shift?

More companies need to focus on trust and quality ingredients that are good for consumers, not just bottom line economics, he says. Health, not disease is the premise of Goodio, which produces health-conscious snacks and treats, namely raw chocolate bars.

“I was looking at food labels and had a question: “What if there was a food brand you could trust?” he recalls in an phone interview from his Helsinki offices. “It felt a bit crazy, at least for the people around me, since I don’t have an entrepreneurship background in the food business.  But personally I didn’t care, I just had a passion and I thought it might be my advantage to see things outside the box to make the change I felt was so important.”

In 2011, he began tinkering with chocolate. “I rarely ate chocolate because I was interested in sports and keeping fit. I thought it wasn’t good for you. Turns out it can be.” 

As a health food enthusiast, Peltola researched the benefits of cacao — an ingredient that is often overlooked as being gluttonous, not nutritious. Though chocolate sales fetched $98 billion in 2015, they were primarily for the sugary candy type.

Read the full story at Forbes.com.

The New Crop of Bra Entrepreneurs Are Finally Women

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Bra entrepreneurs are finally women.

While that may seem obvious, the lingerie and underwear industry, a reportedly $13 billion market, has long been dominated by men, three entrepreneurs tell me. They’re all looking to transform what lingerie women buy, how they buy it, and for what purpose.

Portland-based Evelyn and Bobbie is the most recent addition to the mix. Founder and CEO Bree McKeen is not the average apparel entrepreneur: she worked in human-centered design and digital products before venturing down apparel. “I was in Silicon Valley, in the world of innovation, and I’m walking to work in this underwire and I’m just thinking, ‘What the heck is going on?’” she says, recalling her ‘aha’ moment. “It was so uncomfortable.”

Named after two independent-minded women from McKeen’s family, the company will launch its first line up of products this fall (but is taking pre-order in the spring).  While product images have yet to be released, underwire will certainly not be part of the collection, McKeen reassures.

Another company is also foregoing underwire as a response to customers, seeking comfort, not cleavage.

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Lively founder and a former Victoria’s Secret employee, Michelle Cordeiro Grant, stepped away from the retail giant in 2012 to redefine how bras were sold. While Victoria’s Secret had been championing sexier, sultrier images of women, Grant realized that vision no longer resonated with her: 

“I admired that Victoria’s Secret was able to capture so much of the market share with their message, but as a consumer, it just didn’t resonate. I had gotten married, had children.  The thought of my daughter fantasizing about contouring yourself into something that’s not achievable just didn’t sit well with me,” she says in an interview from her New York offices.

The ultimate problem that these women were getting at?  “This was an industry where men made the decisions, but women wore the product. It was just a big disconnect,” Grant explains.

Read the full story at Forbes.com.

Why Two Norwegian Entrepreneurs Put $1.5 Million Towards Slow Travel In Fjord Country

 

Set in Norway’s majestic fjord country, Flam is a town about 230 inhabitants. Yet in one year it will see about half a million visitors and nearly 200 cruise ships — ships so big they drown out the few small hotels situated on the waterfront. At the base of a UNESCO World Heritage site, Flam and its nearby residents are concerned about the number of tourists descending on the small, picturesque village.

Last year, Fjord Norway, the tourism office for the region, told the Telegraph that they were encouraging hotels to increase rates in the summer months, hoping that would push tourists to come in the off season.  What’s causing the increased interest?  Namely two factors: Disney’s animated film Frozen, which showcased Norway’s beauty and culture, and social media, particularly Instagram, where pictures of the stunning scenery are drawing thousands of ‘likes.’

Two Norwegians, however, have taken it upon themselves to offer tourists a different kind of experience in the fjords — one that builds on Norway’s love for slow TV, slow food, and all things Sakte (Norwegian for slow).  But will the rest of the world catch on as well?

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“We want to be a sustainable alternative to cruise tourism,” Tone Ronning says. “It’s a contradiction. Once you become a World Heritage site, you get more crowds, and it becomes a lost paradise. We don’t want that to happen here.”

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Read the full story at Forbes.com

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Why Ratan Tata Is Backing This New Brand That Fuses Tech And Tea Estates

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Kaushal Dugar left an office job to modernize a stagnant, colonial era industry. Tea growing regions in eastern India have conducted business in the same way for the last 200 years. While there are notable premium tea brands, such as Twinings, there isn’t a single Indian one. Dugar raised $6 million to change that.

His startup Teabox combines technology with tea to create India’s first global premium tea brand. Much like other subscription box enterprises, Dugar developed a monthly service that caters to a customer’s palate. Each month, customers are sent an assortment of teas. They provide feedback after each box. And after the first three boxes, the company has developed an understanding of what their customer prefers.

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“We use technology and algorithms in a smart way to solve the discovery journey,” he says from his Siliguri headquarters.  The online storefront sells over 250 varieties of teas — all sourced from different regions of India, several offered in organic varieties.

Read the full story at Forbes.com.