A young entrepreneur inspired by PM Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign, gave up his green card and wrapped up his 20 years old hospitality business in New Zealand and decided to return back to India in 2018.
Jagdish Kumar popularly known “NRI Chaiwala” came back to India with a dream of having a cup of tea with PM Modi. After coming back, he tried to take a sense of what India wants. He said that he chose chai because “back in his college days he realised that tea points in every place are the most affordable and attractive destination by every section of the society. Also, India is one of the largest producers of tea and the largest consumer without any doubt.” But he observed that this business is not explored by anyone yet. So he decided to start from the scratches by selling chai.
He then started a brand named Chotu Chaiwalah serving 35 variants of tea and their most popular varieties with quirky names like, Mardo Wali Chai, Corporate Wali Chai, Mummy Ke Hath Wali Chai and Dosto Wali Chai are what makes it a unique point of attraction. He also added different flavours to Chai for which he did proper research and development.
After earning lots of applaud for his innovative work in this field, he decided to start his own company which he named as Corpbite under which he opened multiple food brands like Chotu Chaiwalah, Chaat House, Unlimited 24, Motulal Bhaturewala and more.
What Makes NRI Chaiwala different from others?
Jagdish said, “Tea is consumed in India like no other beverage in the world. Yet it is not very popular in the international markets.”
He feels that to have a mass appeal; the idea should reach the people on the ground. Since the majority of the people won’t like to have an expensive tea, his outlets offered chai starting from Rs 10, which is the ‘Cutting chai.’ This is his way of securing people at the bottom of the pyramid as well.
Also, he ensured that there is tea for every situation. The ‘Mardo wali chai’ is for those who want a little more robust flavour of tea, the ‘Pyaar-Mohabbat wali chai’ is a mix of water and milk, and rose petals is the core ingredient, the ‘Mummy ke haath wali chai’ is a ginger tea for those suffering from cold or if it’s a weather’s demand and the ‘Doston wali chai’ is a tea you can enjoy with your friends over long chats.
He also brought up that after sourcing tea leaves from Assam, he has mastered the art of coming up with different combinations of tea leaves to provide additional flavours by researching it. This took him years to get such flavours. A chai masala developed by him also helps in enhancing the taste of the tea
In less than a year he managed to strike a turnover of Rs 1.2 crore with several outlets.
How did COVID19 pandemic impact the business?
Jagdish said that much before the lockdown started he had assumed the situation is not going to be easy. So he in February introduced the ‘Anti-corona Brahmastra chai’, a type that contains Haldi (turmeric) and is supposed to be an immunity booster.
He was also doing corporate vendoring from Nagpur, supplying tea to IT giants of the country such as Infosys and HCL. Currently, the business employs 35 people, and in less than a year it has managed to clock a turnover of Rs 1.2 crore, but with the nationwide shutdown followed by sections of the lockdown, the business is worst hit. If offices don’t work with the full workforce, few have adopted work from the home system to avoid contact, but this has affected the hospitality industry.
This sector has been one of the worst-affected due to Covid-19 and is expected to take longer than expected time to recover. People continue to avoid travel and crowded places even if the lockdown has been lifted, and the sector would see a slow recovery. We are carrying out sensitivity training across our different outlets.
Also how to maintain a safe distance which will also result in a reduction of numbers of the table, all the tables are cleaned with sanitisers and chlorinated water. Our entire cutlery is washed in dish-washers with effective soap solutions where the water temperature is as high as 80 degrees. When it comes to sanitisation and cleaning, we are taking the utmost care.
Also, in the lockdown, we tried to help the needy by providing packaged food. We tried to do whatever was possible on our part. This was such a period that without each other’s help, we can’t get out of the situation.
According to you, what will be the future of tea business in India?
We can see remarkable growth in the tea business, many new startups emerged, and they are doing pretty well. We Indian are emotionally attached with Chai as we start our day with it. Also, some people end there day with herbal tea or green tea.
This industry has massive potential to grown. Youths are appreciating the new variety in chai cafes and chai atmospheres. Investors are very keen and have shown their interest as funding these projects.
Also, it’s time to be “Vocal for Local” as stated by our PM. We are trying our best and using all local products so that will help boost the Indian economy. Chai leaves acquired from Assam to promote our local product. We do not import from China or Sri Lanka.
Also, Jagdish said “I wish to help youths who aim for any sought of a start-up. I want to promote the idea of Make in India because settling in abroad won’t help our country to grow. We pay all the taxes to their government, also we give employment to their people, but the same investment can be done in India, and we can generate employment.”
We wish NRI Chaiwala All The Best and May his dreams of having Chai with PM Modi becomes reality soon!
Interviewed and Written by – Shilpa Dey
Image Courtesy – NRI Chaiwala