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A strong support system can make women push the boundaries! That’s what happened with TeaFit founder Jyoti Bharadwaj, a mother of two who recently won hearts and an investment, on Shark Tank India Season 2. Her brand TeaFit offers drinks which have “no sugar, no funny chemicals” and are said to be safe for diabetics. She says coming up with a homegrown brand that offers “real brewed ice tea” is a personal story. Read on to find out how the mother-of-two, inspired by her diabetic parents, and with the moral and financial support of her mother-in-law, launched her own brand of healthy drinks in 2021. She even took home an investment of Rs 50 lakh for 8 percent equity from four ‘sharks’ on the show which supports India’s growing startup ecosystem.
According to Jyoti Bharadwaj, there are two types of brands. One which is developed by looking at the market opportunities. For instance, if home décor items are selling like hot cakes, you think of getting into the home and décor space and make a lot of money.
The second type of startups comes from a personal space. No guesses here, Bharadwaj belongs to the second category. “It’s like something is bothering you or you are looking for something and you are not getting it. Then you think, ‘let me just make it’. So in my case, even though it resonates with a large population, it came from a personal space,” Jyoti Bharadwaj tells HealthShots.
Her parents were diabetics and while growing up, they never had any sugary beverages. “There was this one time when I went to Japan where I was exposed to flavoursome and refreshing light drinks. They don’t leave a thick coat on your tongue. All of them were made from tea leaves and Japanese herbs,” says the entrepreneur, who was born and raised in Patna, Bihar. That’s when she thought of coming up with her own brand of healthy drinks. “So many people in India are diabetic. I used to often wonder what drink do they have,” she adds.
India is on often called the diabetes capital of the world. According to Indian Journal Of Ophthalmology, the estimates in 2019 showed that 77 million people had diabetes in India. What’s more alarming is that the number is expected to rise to over 134 million by 2045.
Apart from the diabetics, Bharadwaj also wanted to cater to the growing number of people who have become health-conscious after Covid-19. That’s when TeaFit was born – offering the benefits of 15 unique Ayurvedic herbs with an unsweetened drink. The brand’s tight portfolio includes black tea, green tea, barley tea and premixes.
Also read: Are you a diabetic? Quench your thirst with these drinks guilt-free
The business aspect is one thing. What’s truly moving is how Jyoti Bharadwaj has managed to set up her entrepreneurial venture with the support of her mother-in-law. Being a mother itself is full-time work, but with the passion, right support system and will, women can move mountains and strike the right work-life balance. Jyoti Bharadwaj’s appearance on Shark Tank India season 2 itself was heart-warming with her two sons standing on either side and supporting her pitch.
Her family has played a key role in helping her set up and grow the business. Interestingly, Bharadwaj’s mother-in-law, Dr Urmila Pandey was the first person who invested in TeaFit and her daughter-in-law’s dreams. She handed over a cheque of Rs 10 lakh to Bharadwaj. “I didn’t have to convince my mother-in-law at all as she has always been very supportive. She wrote me my first cheque for TeaFit,” says Bharadwaj. Her mother-in-law is not involved in day-to-day business much, but provides moral support and acts as the guiding light. She feels that had her mother-in-law had a different birth year, she would have been a game-changer! “She drives me like she would drive her own ambition. That’s what I get from her…unbridled ambition to chase my dreams,” says the entrepreneur.
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When you are starting out, nobody believes you in you, especially if you are starting out in an industry you know nothing about. That’s exactly what Bharadwaj had to face when she decided to launch her own business. “Nobody believed that such a drink was even possible to make in India. I was dismissed and they didn’t believe me to be the right person to execute this,” says Bharadwaj, who had no background in making beverages. She says went to almost every big product development house in and around Mumbai. “Most of them said that no one would drink this in India,” she recalls.
She also noticed that not a lot of women are in the manufacturing industry, so most men wouldn’t look her in the eyes while talking to her. “I would be the only woman in a manufacturing plant full of men. If I brought along a junior, they would address him as if he was the person they should be talking to,” she says. But she didn’t take this to heart. “That’s the conditioning… They had not seen a woman in this position, and now that has changed with time.”
She feels that after marriage and kids, if you want to start something, eventually it is you who has to do it. She believes that if you are fiercely ambitious, then the support that you need could be as “little as people not coming in your way”. For her, that’s also a huge support. In her case, her parents or her in-laws don’t stay with her, but she knows that she has their blessings. She knows that they want her to excel, and at no point, they are judging her for chasing her ambition.
Other times, women may need financial support or taking care of their kids. Even if there is no support, in the end “it is your dream, it is your ambition and life.” According to her, living in regret when you are 50 is not nice. It all comes down to you and how badly you want it. You would either convince everybody, or others will make space for you to move, or you will break things and move forward. The choice is yours after all.
The entrepreneur feels that she was destined to get into Shark Tank India. After the show, people come up to her and say that they loved her pitch. “I wanted the brand to be on a national platform and I wanted to make it sell in those 10 to 15 minutes,” she says. According to her, products under her brand are perfect for health conscious people and she wants to reach them. “This funding (from the judges) will help to get closer to my dream goal,” says Bharadwaj.
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