Engineering Couple Quit High-Paying Jobs Only to Start a Tea Shop

This is one couple who decided to give up their comfort zone of fat-pay packets, Rs 30 lakh annually between them to venture into an unknown realm – starting a tea shop.

The duo – Nitin V Biyani, 36 and wife Pooja, 34 – embarked on their journey after considerable thought and intellectual inputs from their elders, especially Pooja’s father.

One fine day, the Biyanis finally dumped their cushy software engineering jobs with top multi-nationals in Pune to throw open their ‘Chai Villa’ in Nagpur's centrally-located Darodkar Square.

"Pooja and I worked in the highly-taxing IT industry. Often, like other professionals, we used to drink a cup of tea (chai) to relax and destress. We always craved for healthy and tasty chai, but what we got was really terrible chai made at tea-stalls in grossly unhygienic conditions and poor in taste." - Nitin V Biyani

That’s when the idea struck the couple. “We both thought of changing all this and replace with hot, tasty, fresh handmade chai at nominal rates. Then, we just kick-started the idea in Nagpur, the Orange City of India in November 2017,” Pooja added.

Pooja and Nitin kickstarted chai Villa in Nagpur. 

Earlier, they carried out detailed market research for nearly four months to learn that true to its reputation, India is indeed a tea-drinking country, where 75 crore people drink at least two cups of chai daily, or a whopping 150 crore cups.

“Calculate that in terms of revenue per cup, the amount of milk, tea-dust, tea-masalas, sugar or other ingredients – and the simple act of consuming chai builds up to a massive tea-industry,” Nitin explained.

Though the Biyanis started Chai Villa in a rented shop on CA Road (at Darodkar Square), they introduced a host of innovations, a clean and pleasing ambience, courteous service, and of course, a selection of around 20 varieties of hot piping or cold chais that are sipped (lapped) up hungrily by the patrons.

"In the past five months, we have poured out over 1,75,000 cups of chai from the ‘kitli’ (kettle) and netted around Rs 15 lakh in the ‘galla’ (collection box), including around 30 percent profits." - Nitin V Biyani

The innovations and business models introduced by the Biyani, and the show managed with the help of a 10-strong team, seem to have struck a chord among the people of Nagpur, and they are now being eyed by a couple of top investors.

“We give free delivery of hot tea over certain distances for a minimum order of five cups or Rs 100 value, so consumers can always enjoy their refreshing hot cuppa. Plus, we have tied up with small local business folks to sell tea on our behalf at a 10 percent margin, or ‘anytime chai’ model, which has elicited a huge response,” Nitin said.

Then, there are local network deliveries, on the lines of pizza delivery, that ensures customers can get fresh, hot chai within the shortest possible time, and a unique monthly subscription plan for corporates who can order tea in bulk quantities for their staffers or guests and pay the bill at month-end, he added.

Explaining the runaway success for the tiny start-up, Nitin says that the pricing played a major factor – between Rs 8 and Rs 20, which is quite competitive with the rates of the traditional tea-stalls.

"We score in terms of using only distilled water, clean preparations, using our secret herbs and the best of tea-dust and sulphur-free sugar, serving in eco-friendly paper cups or clay-cups (kulhads, as was done on the railways once), prompt service in a pleasant ambience, plus service at the customers’ doorstep at affordable rates." - Nitin V Biyani

There are other higher priced offerings on the menu card, depending on the customers' choice, with ice-cream-chocolate coffee occupying the top slot at Rs 45, and accompaniments of light snacks and sandwiches for that truly refreshing feeling.

However, the Biyanis are not resting on their current laurels or the past 1,75,000 cups served – and have mega-expansion plans lined up.

“We plan to start franchise operations shortly and are already flooded with potential franchisees, launch at least 10 independent Chai Villas in Nagpur city by December 2019. Altogether, we hope to sell around two million cups of tea and expect revenues of upto Rs 3 crores,” Nitin said.

Chai Villa would hire around 150 youngsters, preferring the poor and the semi-literate or even physically-challenged, who are the most needy, for these upcoming ventures, he assured.

Presently, Nagpur citizens love to visit Chai Villa anytime from 10 am to 11 pm, sip leisurely on the chai of their choice, and leave with a smile on their lips, "which we consider the biggest compliment", according to Nitin

(This article was published in arrangement with IANS.)

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