How tea chains are using chai bots to make the cuppa of your choice

Chaayos
How many times have you taken a sip of your favourite cuppa and been disappointed because it’s not the way you like it? There is, of course, no universal standard for a “perfect” cup of tea. Most of us have our own particular likes and dislikes regarding colour, strength, sweetness, flavour, aroma and so on. To cater to those individual tastes, and to make sure that you get your “meri wali chai”, Delhi-based tea cafe chain Chaayos is offering 80,000 permutations and combinations of tea to customers.

And the company is doing this with the help of its stack of in-house technological advances, wherein the tea is made not by humans, but by tea bots called “Chai Monks”.

Created by Chaayos’s R&D team, “it is the first technology globally to make a cup of freshly brewed tea”, says Nitin Saluja, founder, Chaayos, which is backed by Tiger Global and SAIF Partners. “It follows the traditional process of making tea without any decoction or premixes,” adds Saluja.

Chai Monk, which is a patented technology, gives consistency to the taste of tea served in all the café chain’s 65-odd stores across seven cities. Once an order is placed at the point of sale, it is transmitted to the Chai Monk via cloud and the tea automatically starts getting made. Metered milk and water as per selected customisation flow into the pan along with tea leaves, and add-ons are infused as per the recipe. The duration of boiling is also controlled by the bot and the person at the counter gets a notification when the tea is ready to be served, in about three minutes.

If the tea has not been made as per the recipe,  Chai Monk, which is IoT-enabled, identifies the flaw at once and raises a red flag. This ensures that every cup of tea is consistent in taste.

Chaayos sells about 25,000 cups of tea per day, all of which are made by Chai Monks. It claims they are different from regular tea vending machines as they make a fresh cup of personalised tea every time a customer places an order.

Chaayos also boasts a seamless customer experience via technology. Once you walk into a Chaayos café, you can go to the counter and stand in front of the facial recognition android tablet. The module recognises the customer’s face within four seconds, matches it to his or her tea preference already saved in the app and sends out the order for the customised cup of the beverage.

Chaayos says its facial recognition technology is currently in the beta phase at select cafés. "Our facial recognition feature aims to deliver a great customer experience by eliminating the hassle of OTPs and reducing the overall customer purchase time,” says Saluja. The ordering process takes less than 15 seconds via the facial recognition module. 

The company is also facilitating pre-orders through its dine-in app, which means that one can walk into a cafe once the tea is ready. Moreover, it is offering the option of paying via its own wallet.

Another leading tea café player, Chai Point, is also getting its technology mix right in order to deliver the perfect cup of tea. It has  developed “BoxC”, a cloud-based platform, to provide freshly-brewed tea in corporate houses.

In this system, the recipes of brewing such as water quantity, boiling temperature and boiling time are configured into the BoxC. A pre-measured packet of tea is put into the tea-brewing chamber of the machine. Once the brewing button is pressed, BoxC gets the desired quantity of water into the tea boiling chamber and then starts boiling it for the pre-configured time. The machine indicates when the tea is ready and flows it into the storage chamber from where it keeps dispensing cup by cup whenever the customer presses the dispense button.

Since BoxC is IoT-enabled and connected with Chai Point’s central server, the health of the machine, as well as the level of the consumables, are continuously monitored by the backend team to ensure refilling and uninterrupted supply.

Backed by Saama Capital and DSG Consumer Partners, Chai Point’s over 4,000 BoxC machines at various corporate offices dispense about four lakh cup of tea daily. This accounts for around 40 per cent of its overall revenues.

“Fountain”, the company’s in-house tech platform, provides a seamless integration of data from online orders via food delivery apps and walk-ins. It also has a kitchen display screen to organise the kitchen process by showing pending orders and orders ready for delivery.

The Bengaluru-based firm has also rolled out facial recognition technology as a pilot in a few of its cafés to streamline its loyalty programme. “It’s optional for the customer if he wants to be recognised by punching in his number or be recognised by his face,” says Amuleek Singh Bijral, co-founder and CEO, Chai Point. 

Fracas over facial recognition

Chaayos has recently come under fire for allegedly using facial recognition technology without the consent of customers. However, the company claims that it is completely up to the customers to decide whether to opt for this feature or not. They can choose to permanently opt out of the process, thereby deleting all their data captured on its systems.

It asserts, moreover, that data from the facial recognition feature is encrypted and cannot be accessed by any party, including Chaayos, except for the purpose of logging in customers. Chaayos claims that it does not use or process this information for any other purpose.

Salman Waris, managing partner at specialist technology law firm TechLegis Advocates and Solicitors, says that though the Information Technology Act does not have any provision under facial recognition, any unauthorised access to digital data, including facial recognition data, is prohibited under Section 43 and Section 43A of the Act. “So from that perspective, they could fall foul of the law,” he says.

The use of facial recognition technology for customer verification and participation in loyalty programmes is becoming popular in the hospitality sector. Hotels in Singapore have started using the technology on a pilot basis to quicken check-in times and boost productivity. Experts say the move can reduce check-in time by up to 70 per cent.

Fast food companies in the US are also adopting the technology to make their service faster. KFC, for example, has set up a booth at one of its restaurants in Beijing, which predicts what customers might order on the basis of factors such as their facial expression, gender and age group.

Te(a)chnology

  • Tea at Chaayos is made by tea bots called Chai Monks
  •  Chai Monk gives consistency to the taste of tea across outlets
  • Chaayos offers 80,000 variations of tea via in-house tech advances
  • ‘BoxC’, a cloud-based platform, provides freshly-brewed tea in offices
  • 4,000 BoxC machines have been installed so far 
  • 400,000 cups of tea is dispensed daily



Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel