Meet ‘chaiwala’ who dropped out of MBA to sell tea, built Rs 4 Cr turnover business
“Karna tha sangharsh toh road pe chai banaya (As part of my struggles, I made roadside tea),” says Prafull Billore, famously known as ‘MBA Chaiwala’.
Neither is Prafull a foodie nor is he very fond of cooking, but he still built a multi-million business of selling chai (tea) across India. Sounds weird, right?
But for Prafull it isn’t weird at all.
“I wanted to be a big man. Bachpan se bahut tang samay dekha tha (Have seen tough times since childhood), and so my only passion was to make more money and live a comfortable life. My parents thought if I did MBA, I’ll get a high paying job and life would be settled. But that didn’t happen. I failed thrice in the CAT entrance exam despite my hard efforts,” Prafull tells SMBStory.
Hailing from Dhar, a small town in Madhya Pradesh, Prafull had lost his passion for MBA, which he had been pursuing from Ahmedabad University since 2017. However, what kept him motivated was reading books, and imbibing the quotes of famous business leaders.
Fast forward five years, the 25-year-old is now a multi-millionaire entrepreneur who has built, a Rs 4 crore turnover business with 50 outlets pan India.
In a conversation with SMBStory, Prafull gives us the answer to ‘why chai’, and how he overcame obstacles not just from his peers but from his family too.
Early days of Prafull Billore aka MBA Chaiwala
Where there is a will, there is a way
In 2016, when Prafull was 21, he used up his savings to travel places by train, bus, rickshaw – wherever and however the money allowed. He feels that meeting and talking to new people gave him many insights. But there was always pressure from his parents to enter a full-time college so that he could complete his education and earn a living.
So, he decided to make use of his stopover at Ahmedabad and enrolled in a college for the sake of his parents.
“But I also took a part-time job at McDonald’s to see how it feels to work. The salary was not much and it made me think “aise bada aadmi kaise banunga, MBA ke baad bhi aise he kaam karta rahunga (how will I become a big man if even after MBA I’d work like this}?” he says.
Realising that not everybody is lucky enough to get high paying jobs, Prafull decided to quit studies midway and start a chai thela (tea cart) on SG Highway in Ahmedabad.
“No food or beverage other than chai is consumed throughout India. I didn’t know how to make one but I knew everyone would drink. If I wanted to start another business, it would need an investment of a minimum of Rs 1 lakh, and I didn’t have that kind of money. With Rs 8,000 in my pocket, I started selling chai roadside,” he recalls.
But Prafull didn’t see starting MBA Chaiwala, which stands for Mr Billore Ahmedabad (MBA), as anything bad. “You see, where there is a will, there is a way,” he adds.
However, his parents were furious and relatives taunted him every day, but Prafull was smart enough to ignore everyone and focus on scaling his business.
Seeing an English-speaking man selling tea, many people were intrigued by his cart which had started to become popular. However, Prafull didn’t know how to make tea and on the very first day, he messed up by adding too much sugar. But gradually, he acquired tea-making skills.
“If anyone asks me to make chai today, I won’t. I don’t like it. I was struggling when I was making tea on the street but now I am focusing on expanding my business,” he quips.
Prafull tried various things to keep customers flocking to his cart. He used to organise cricket matches, ludo games, and also put up a whiteboard where people could leave messages for their dear ones; this gave people something new to look forward to every time they visited his tea stall.
MBA Chaiwala cafe
Serving the masses
One thing led to another and MBA Chaiwala started expanding. After operating from the SG Highway outlet for two years, Prafull then expanded into a franchisee cafe in Bhopal. What started with a cart, MBA Chaiwala now runs 50 cafes.
Prafull noted that a chai business in India will always succeed, taking the example of premium tea cafes like Chaayos and Chai Point that started way earlier. However, the goal of MBA Chaiwala is to serve the masses who would like to have a cup of tea at Rs 40-50, sitting comfortably in a cafe.
“My business became bootstrapped but there were certain limitations for expanding like how big brands do. Like many people hailing from small towns, ‘funding’ was the word alien to me when I entered the business,” he notes.
According to expert market research, the tea market in India is being driven by healthy production and consumption. In 2020, nearly 1.10 million tons of tea was consumed in the country.
The market in the country is projected to witness further growth in the forecast period of 2022-2027, growing at a CAGR of 4.2 percent. In 2026, the tea industry in India is expected to attain 1.40 million tonnes.
Prafull Billore with his family
A millionaire from every small town
Besides the tea business, Prafull has also started an MBA Chaiwala academy. His inspiring journey and being social media friendly garnered him many followers that he says also played a pivotal role in brand recognition.
As a business coach on social media, Prafull talks about entrepreneurship and how sky's the limit for everyone who wants to pursue their dreams.
“I want to make a millionaire from every small town,” Prafull says, adding that he is also planning to open around 100 MBA Chaiwala outlets by the end of 2022.
Talking about how his parents reacted when he successfully built a successful business, Prafull smiles and says that Indian parents are hard to convince, unless you give them results, they won’t trust you, likewise, he had to prove himself and now the things have gotten better in terms of their concern for his future.