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Mista Barista on Brewing Freshness Shivam Shahi, 32, Co-Founder and COO, Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters

By Punita Sabharwal

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Blue Toaki

Shivam Shahi completed his schooling in a small town, Padrauna, in eastern Uttar Pradesh. After completing his senior school education, he joined the National Institute of Technology, Surathkal to pursue B.Tech and graduated as a Gold medalist. He then moved to pursue M.Sc. in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Alberta, Canada, on a full scholarship from the University.

Talking about his tryst with entrepreneurship, Shahi shares, "Hailing from an agricultural family with limited resources, I was always told that excelling at academics was the only way to success. While I was pursuing my post-graduate degree, I wanted to continue with academia and start a Ph.D. and become a professor. But as my interaction with my friends and peers increased, I recognized the power of doing something of my own. Most of my friends at the time were part of the booming Indian startup circuit and that's when I decided to quit my job and return to India to embark on my entrepreneurial journey - this gradual realization led me to where I am today."

When Blue Tokai was started in 2013, specialty coffee was a segment unheard of and the trio (Shivam Shahi, Matt Chitharanjan, and Namrata Asthana) introduced the third wave of coffee that was spreading throughout the world, to India. Since its inception, the brand showcased and highlighted where the coffee they were roasting came from, which went on to become a standard norm in the specialty industry in India.

"Our mission when we started was to highlight Indian specialty coffee producers and make high-quality Indian coffee more accessible, and 10 years later, that continues to be at the core of our offerings, says Shahi. The company has a presence across the entire value chain – from farm to cup. A deep vertical integration at the back end and broader sales channels (own stores, website, e-commerce, modern trade, and B2B) at the front end make them unique. So far, they have roasted 1 million kgs of coffee (translating to over 50 million cups of brewed coffee) and served over 4 million cups at their cafes. Currently, they have 4 roasteries (one each in Gurugram, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Togachi, Japan) and over 60 physical outlets across Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Mohali & Pune, as well as international operations in Japan. They are also a trusted partner for several marquee retail outlets, luxury hotels & restaurants, top corporates, and co-working spaces in India such as Soho House, St. Regis, The Leela Palace, JW Marriott, Meta (Facebook), McKinsey & Company, BCG, Adidas India, Honda Motors, Ola, US Embassy and Ather Energy amongst several others.

Sharing his belief system, Shahi mentions, "For me, entrepreneurship is very similar to test cricket - you have to strategize and perform consistently. I lead my professional life with 3 major pillars - be willing to face challenges, learn from your mistakes, and always be realistic with your business numbers. For me, stability and consistency are important for the bottom line, customers, employees, and industry to flourish alike."

In December 2022, they surpassed the break-even point and are now looking forward to generating profits this calendar year.

Shahi's inspiration and mentor at every stage of life have been his father. As he states, "Ever since I was a kid, I've seen him hustle to ensure that we get the best education, and even though he may have not created a corporate unicorn, his perseverance is what I take along. The unpredictability of agriculture and yet the skill to remain unfazed and agile is an attribute that is applicable to businesses as well - one that goes a long way! I've learned the art of being prudent while taking key decisions from his experiences, and it has helped us in creating a sustainable business, even through the pandemic."

FACTSHEET

  • No. of Co-Founders: 3
  • Number of employees: 900+
  • Year of inception of the company: 2012
  • Backed by: A91 Partners, 8i Venture, Grand Anicut Fund, White Whale Ventures, Snow Leopard Ventures, Negen Capital, Mauryan Capital
Punita Sabharwal

Entrepreneur Staff

Managing Editor, Entrepreneur India

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