Turning her awesome 'Chai' making skill into a business, Prerna Kumar has come a long way with her brand ChaiVeda
In the critically acclaimed Hindi film, English Vinglish, late actor Sridevi’s character Shashi is a homemaker well known among her friends and family for her laddoo making prowess. Adverse life events prompt her to consider turning her passion into a business.
Not quite Shashi but the life of Delhi-based Prerna Kumar (45) has many parallels. Proud owner of the tea brand ChaiVeda, Prerna’s entrepreneurial journey started in 2017 after she broke her leg in a freak accident and was bedridden for some time. Talk about a double whammy, she also lost her job around the same time becoming jobless for the first time in her life. In those difficult times, her friends and family encouraged her to spring back to her feet (literally) by constantly reminding her that they are waiting to have her tea once again.
Prerna says that she has no idea when it all begun but she was always known for her tea making abilities for as long as she remembers.
Even when I was working for various companies, I would make tea and take it to the office where everyone appreciated it.
Once she got married, it became even more apparent that chai could be her ticket to fame. “I’ve never paid much attention to what made my tea so popular until the idea ChaiVeda sprouted in my mind,” she says.
Hailing from a Haryanvi family deeply rooted in Ayurvedic tradition, blending the traditional knowledge of Ayurveda in the spice mixture of the masala tea came naturally to her.
My grandmother Thakri Bai who passed away at 86 was a famous Ayurveda practitioner who had a home remedy for every ailment. I grew up not going to a doctor even once as a child, turning, instead, to Ayurveda to live healthy.
So, it was no-brainer that when she starts her entrepreneurial venture, it will be to share the knowledge of Ayurveda and tie it up with a daily habit of drinking chai to get maximum benefits from nature, in a responsible and sustainable manner.
As ChaiVeda is a passion project, says Prerna, she launched it on her birth date, July 7. The year was 2017. “For me, the beginning of the year 2017 brought with it so many lows and yet the mental strength was not diminished (to start this project),” Prerna says.
With her home in Delhi as the base, each ChaiVeda blend is tasted and approved by her husband who Prerna says “has an evolved sense of taste”. His love for tea also played a crucial part in raising the initial investment for the business. “I raised investment by offering tea to my husband and sharing the vision over tea time,” she says. While the business is yet to make a substantial profit, Prerna says she swelled with pride when ChaiVeda generated an invoice in six figures in the first three months.
It helped her business that chai is an integral part of most people’s daily routine. India is the second largest producer of tea and one of the finest teas,`Champagne of teas’ is produced in Darjeeling. An undying love for tea has also helped ChaiVeda become a preferred gifting choice for many, says Prerna and adds that “the ethnic, handcrafted packaging ensures that it becomes a part of luxury gifting as well”.
With such a huge market size, a good tea blend simply couldn’t go unnoticed. Even then, social media played a crucial role in making the tea brand popular and accessible. “The various platforms, with the ease of access and usage, ensure that you are able to reach the target clients and people are also able to reach you,” Prerna says. To substantiate, she recalls an incident where a Jammu resident who was gifted with a ChaiVeda gift hamper was able to easily access her through social media when he visited Delhi and wanted to get the Vedic Masala Chai from the brand.
ChaiVeda with its awesome range of flavours has had many milestones along its wonderful journey.
The first SIP session was conducted for the management team of ITC WelcomHotel Dwarka, wherein the chefs complimented me on the art of perfectly blending mango flavour with tea.
Roseate House created a cocktail called ‘Tea Sour’ with the Hibiscus Mint-o Tea for their guests was another milestone, not to mention the thrill when ChaiVeda got the certification from Tea Board of India and FSSAI, says Prerna. She says that equally satisfying is when regular clients call again and again to reorder.
ChaiVeda had its share of challenges before establishing itself as a preferred tea brand in the country. First and foremost was the funding, says Prerna. “From January to July 2017, our savings were depleted as most of our family members were hospitalised for one or the other reason,” she says. Prerna took up various part-time projects to support the day-to-day expenses of the business which she continues even now. Some other challenges include time management since she is a mother and a wife apart from being an entrepreneur; to be able to say “no” to certain things; learning the commercial side of selling tea, explains Prerna.
As for the future, Prerna says her short term goal is to continue learning more about Ayurveda and applying that knowledge to curate newer blends. And of course, have a more retail presence for ChaiVeda.