Inspired by PM Modi, this NRI gave up his green card to become a ‘chaiwala’ in India
Inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ‘Make in India’ campaign, a non-resident Indian (NRI) gave up his green card and wrapped up his hospitality business in New Zealand and returned to India in December 2018.
Jagdish Kumar graduated in Hotel Management from the National Council of Hotel Management. He has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, has worked with elite hotel chains of India, and has experience in running hotel chains and beverage outlets in New Zealand and in some countries in the Middle-East.
Jagdish Kumar, Founder of NRI Chaiwala
Decoding India’s relationship with tea
Tea in India is much more than just a beverage. If you want a break from work, you go to have tea. On a rainy day, hot ginger tea with pakoras are the ultimate refreshment. Also, tea is most Indian households’ go-to-therapy for cough and cold.
According to a report by Statista, India is the second-largest producer of tea in the Asia Pacific region after China as of 2018, and also the largest consumer of the beverage, using nearly 30 percent of the world’s tea output. Despite this, the country exported the highest tea globally after China and Kenya.
Little wonder why Jagdish saw immense potential in the tea market in India. When he landed in India in 2018, his first task was to travel across the country to understand tea business. Nagpur and Assam proved to be important stopovers for him. Nagpur, because it provided him a platform to kickstart his operations, and Assam, for being India’s hub for tea plantations.
“Tea is consumed in India like no other beverage is consumed in the world. Yet it is not very popular in the international markets,” Jagdish says. Sri Lankan tea is popular in the international domain.
Jagdish also highlights that within India people consume beverages like lassi and buttermilk in North India and filter coffee in south India.
Jagdish founded a tea selling chain under the name 'Corpbite Unit of MGJ Restaurant India Pvt Limited’ in May 2019 which sells different types of tea. He started with corporate vendoring from Nagpur, supplying tea to IT giants of the country such as Infosys and HCL.
The Delhi-based business has three models - corporate catering for IT companies, BPOs and MNCs, four multi-brand outlets (MBOs present across Delhi-NCR) and wedding or event catering which is yet to start.
Currently, the business employs 35 people and in less than a year it has managed to clock a turnover of Rs 1.2 crore.
Furthermore, Jagdish’s background and his profession got him the title ‘NRI Chaiwala’.
A Multi-brand Outlet of NRI Chaiwala
What makes this chaiwala unique?
Jagdish says that pricing of the product determines the success of the business in many ways. He says, “Some outlets are offering tea for Rs 90. It is very difficult for people earning Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 every month to shell out Rs 90 every day for tea. These businesses are successful in capturing the elite market but not the entire domain.”
Tea offered by Jagdish’s business starts from Rs 10 which is the ‘Cutting chai.' This is his way of ensuring that he reaches out to the people at the bottom of the pyramid as well. He also points out that after sourcing tea leaves from Assam, over the years, he has mastered the art of coming up with different combinations of tea leaves to provide different flavours. A chai masala (powder) developed by him also helps in enhancing the flavour of the tea.
Moreover, there is tea for every situation. The ‘Mardo wali chai’ is for those who want a little stronger flavour of tea, the ‘Pyaar-Mohabbat wali chai’ is a mix of water and milk and is served with rose petals, the ‘Mummy ke haath wali chai’ is a ginger tea for those suffering from a bout of cold and the ‘Doston wali chai’ is a tea you can enjoy with your friends. The ‘Anti-corona Brahmastra chai’ is a recent addition, a type that contains haldi (turmeric) and is supposed to be an immunity booster.
Jagdish is also clear that he doesn't plan to enter the coffee business ever. However, he is looking at raising funds from investors in future for expansion and diversification purposes. The business is also present on digital platforms such as Zomato and Swiggy.
The COVID-19 impact
Speaking about the ‘Anti-corona Brahmastra chai,’ Jagdish highlights that challenges are the inevitable reality of running a business. When he started out, there were immense difficulties with respect to having licences, getting skilled labour, and starting the operations.
He says, “I had predicted that a situation of this sort would reach India when the world had just started reporting cases of coronavirus.”
Eight retail outlets under construction were shut down because of the lockdown. Jagdish says that no major relief has been given to the hospitality or tourism industry in the financial packages rolled out by the government.
However, carrying the baton of ‘atma nirbhar India,’ he says he is determined to rise from the crisis.
“Modiji’s vision is to make everything in India by 2025. In today’s time, people should not sit at home and instead reap the benefits of digital India and India’s burgeoning startup culture,” he says.