Looking over a busy Koramangala street, Chaipatty is a modest 500 sq. ft. outlet but with an exquisite décor. Koramangala not being their main outlet, founder Chirag especially came down from the more bustling Indiranagar outlet to have a chat with me. Chirag Yadav, the entrepreneur behind Chaipatty Teafe (now has 3 outlets in an year of its existence), has the energy of a college boy with the spring in his step which you usually see flickering away after a stint in the corporate world. High on tea, here we bring to you a tete a tete with Chirag on his startup Chaipatty.
How it began
Having changed 6 jobs in two years after graduating as an Electronics Engineer from Delhi, Chirag knew that he was not cutout for the 9 to 5 job. Looking over the furniture which has specially been brought in from Rajasthan, Manipal and Mizoram, Chirag reminisces about the move he made, “After having quit the job, I went into Salsa dancing. I was always involved in Salsa (and one of the best things i could do at that point), I turned into an instructor with Furor – a salsa school in Bangalore, which still has a decent reputation. After having worked as a partner with the founder for a year, things got a bit muddled and there was a clash in ideologies and I called it a day. From there, I couldn’t go back to the corporate world and after some mulling, I came up with Projexionz, a brand management company and Chaipatty is an outshoot of Projexionz.”
What is Chaipatty all about?
Chirag puts it, “Chaipatty is much more than a teafe. It started out as a place where people came together and participated in pottery workshops, photography meets and the likes. Turning it into a teafe was only a natural progression as people would obviously like to munch on something and have a sip of some beverage in between these sessions.”
What makes Chaipatty so inviting is this touch of imperfection which they’re unabashed about. Sure there’s some noise when you have an open ‘teafe’ like at Indiranagar, sure there’s some dust when you can see the bustle of the street but this is what in itself makes it all the more alluring. “Initially, I had my doubts as to whether people will take up to this idea but an year down the line, it has been all worth it. People come to me and say that Chaipatty reminds them of their childhood, or the times like in the movie ‘Pyar ka punchnama’ when you crib about chotu’s tea but you always come back to it.”, says Chirag with glee. Apart from the desi food and beverages, Chaipatty also showcases artwork, jewelry and special Salsa shoes which sell by the label ‘Tweedledumz’.
The money game
Quitting his job; with a little more than a lakh rupees in savings, Chirag definitely had to ask for money to start up. Convincing his father, the army man, was a tough ask but he finally managed to do it. Being a beginner, the world is there to loot you, but with his astute marketing and sales acumen, Chirag managed a few decent deals and he managed to start the Indiranagar outlet with an upfront pay of 6 lakh rupees. The total cost would come up to 11 lakhs. So has Chaipatty broken even? Yes! In 8 months after its launch on December 27, 2010, Chaipatti broke even. The smaller Koramangala outlet broke even in 3 months and Chirag expects the more delicately done Whitefield outlet to break even soon.
Chaipatty has served more than 30,000 customers till date and on any given weekday; the three outlets serves more than 150 customers. The number becomes 4 times on weekends as Chaipatty is an apt retreat for the young at heart.
“A chai at 50 bucks! That’s way too much”, one might proclaim but “When one can shell out 100 rupees for a coffee, why not half that amount for a chai and also, when you’re getting much more apart from the chai, it’s definitely worth it”, says Chirag. He has an interesting stand on the competition in this segment. There are three other major players, Inifini-tea, The green theory and Chai Point apart from Chaipatty. “Infini-tea caters to a totally different audience who wants a plush surrounding and is willing to shell out more than 100 rupees for their tea. Infini-tea will never be a direct clash for Chaipatty. ChaiPoint is the antithesis of Inifini-tea and they believe in fast service, good cheap tea and expanding at a monstrous pace. And then there is The Green Theory which is dabbling into alot of stuff. So, I’d like to believe that we’re in a space where we can all survive and as far as a direct competition is considered, I see none as it’d be difficult to replicate the experience that Chaipatty manages to offer.”
The road ahead and the obstacles
Moving ahead from the three outlets, rapid expansion is not on the cards. Chaipatti doesn’t have any hard and fast rules about the number of outlets it wants in x months from now. “I might go ahead with an outlet every 6 months and have a maximum of 25 outlets in India. I’d also be interested in having an international footprint in countries like Turkey where you can see a direct connection with the kind of offering we have.”
“The major obstacle I foresee is standardization as it’d be difficult for someone to replicate what currently my mother and I do with the three outlets.” Chaipatty plans to come up with a standard brand of tea which would be used across all the outlets. The other hurdle Chirag believes is the constant rejuvenation that needs to be brought in so that customers keep coming back.
With the kind of charm the place possesses, the journey from here on seems exciting and we at Yourstory.in would wish Chirag and Chaipatty all the very best. You definitely should try out one of their teafes and visit their website for more here, while i go on to sip my next cup of tea!
– Jubin Mehta