Big Idea

Cupshup is brewing a storm in a teacup

This Mumbai-based start-up has found an effective way to convey an advertiser’s message — serve it with hot tea or coffee

Faisal Magray

Sidharth Singh had his eureka moment in 2014. Just like some of the founders of the biggest companies today, he was struck with the idea in college, working on a cup-branding project for an assignment. The idea seemed ingenious. For most of us Indians, our day doesn’t start without a hot cup of chai or coffee. Even a workday is incomplete without a trip to the nearby tapri and sipping away our misery. Chai and coffee are everywhere, so why not monetise the cups they are served in?

That’s how Singh started out. Now, his start-up, named CupShup after our love to gossip over a warm cuppa, will hit revenue of Rs.120 million in FY20. In less than five years, the start-up has worked in 30 cities for over 160 brands, and has run several campaigns for top start-ups and corporates, including 25 for Ola, five for Kotak Mahindra Bank and 15 for Swiggy. Raise that paper cup for a toast!

But, as those prissy bookmarks say, nothing has come easy. The first trouble Singh faced was during that college assignment. A paper cup manufacturing company informed him that the minimum order quantity was 100,000 cups for a buck each, but his requirement was only 100 cups. Singh had no alternative but to design the cups using stickers and distribute them at nearby tea stalls. He gathered feedback from customers, asking them if they noticed the design, and he gauged the impact of the message and tested the recall value. “The response was encouraging,” he says. Later, when he showed the results to his professor, he, too, was impressed. 

In the early days, Singh tested waters in various ways. Recalling one such experiment, he says that he half-jokingly mailed the producers of Kangana Ranaut’s Revolver Rani with his idea of promoting their film through paper cups. “And I got an affirmative response from them! The mail said it was a good idea,” Singh laughs, adding, “I never replied back to them. I didn’t even have my strategy in place at that point.” But the incident gave him confidence that his idea would work.

It didn’t take long for Singh to convince the start-up’s co-founder Sanil Jain, who he had met years ago, while

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