Special Content

Success Story-Volume 15


“Give wWings to Their Dreams and Let Them Fly” 

The tagline of chaayos reads ‘Experimenting with chai’ and it reflects when you look at their menu where you’ll find teas like ‘aam papad chai’ or the rose cardamom chai. Launched in November 2012, Chaayos currently has eight outlets in NCR and is now planning to expand to Mumbai and Bangalore. Chai was always a crucial part of Nitin Saluja’s life but he had never thought of opening a chai outlet, especially not after getting through IIT-Bombay! But life always has interesting cards to deal out; one only needs to be open to possibilities.

In the final years of college back in 2006, Nitin was pretty sure that he didn’t want to get into a dull job routine. He got along with a few friends and started a robotics company, Think Labs. Incubated at SINE-IIT Bombay, the company has morphed into a dedicated provider of hands-on science and technology education in India and is currently valued at over $10 million. Moving on from the operations at Think Labs, Nitin moved to Opera Solutions for a five-year stint before the entrepreneurial bug bit again.

While thinking of the enterprise, Nitin was introduced to Raghav Verma, an IIT Delhi graduate of batch 2010 by a common friend and the two hit it off straight away. Nitin took care of the product development, settling the supply chain, setting up processes while Raghav took care of marketing and business development.

Nitin spoke to Employment News on his experiences:

Question : How did you get idea for the business?

Answer : The idea came to my mind when I was working in Houston and had gone out with my wife for breakfast one day. At the end of the meal, we craved for desi adrak wali chai and then idly thought if we were in India in a similar situation what would we do. The only option was to go to a dhaba. “Somehow chai was always there at the back of my mind. And when I asked myself if there is a place in India where I can find ‘meri wali chai’, the answer was no”. This is when he decided to go ahead with this seemingly crazy idea of starting an outlet of chai. The idea was to have something like a Starbucks for India and that of course has to deal with ‘chai’.

Q. : What was your mission at the outset?

A. : To start with, Chaayos was bootstrapped. I opened with Rs 25 lakh of my savings, of which I invested Rs 12 lakh in setting up the first store at DLF Cyber City in Gurgaon. "The premise was simple. I would give it six months, either put in another Rs 12 lakh or close it down." But in six months, it was clear I am a winner, and that's when Verma joined me with an equity partnership. Given that Verma is a passionate baker, who makes cheesecakes and tea cakes, the partnership had synergy.

Q. : How many employees work in the enterprises?

A. : There are 440 employees in the enterprises.

Q. : What services do you provide?

A. : Our signature offering is our desi chai which is our ghar-jaisi chai. We allow our customers to customize it with 12-Add ons such as Tulsi, Adrak, Masala, Saunf and Kali Mirch, and vary the milk, chai patti and sugar levels. This result in 12,000 ways to make your cup of chai.We also have some international teas like Lemongrass and Jasmine, and some quirky experiments like Hari Mirch Chai and Aam Papad Chai. At Chaayos, everything revolves around chai. We serve Indian snacks like Bun Maska, Samosas, Keema Pav, Poha and many more - basically food that goes well with our chai. Our outlets have a very rustic look and feel and incorporate many chai elements like kettles, chai holder cheekas and chai jute packaging.

Q. : How do you advertise your business?

A. : We are retail/ estate heavy company and our touch points are the main points of communication to customers. We however advertise through our digital assests on Social Media as well. We also connect with a larger audience through ATL Media like - Radio etc.  We believe that positive word of mouth is the biggest form of advertising and hence customer experience is the key in our business

Q. : To what do you attribute your success?

A. : My wife, for the constant support and Companionship. She is the biggest support system and a critique in true sense.

Q. : What made you choose your current location?

A. : Chai is a product that gives us a very high degree of flexibility in selecting outlet locations. We are present in major malls like DLF Promenade and The Great India Place, prominent markets like Galleria Market, Hauz Khas Village and Bandra, and inside corporate parks and companies as well. Our delivery segment and subscription model allows us to reach out to a large set of customers who otherwise would have been difficult to reach using a traditional retail model.

Q. : What is the unique about your business?

A. : Chaayos is a Chai company revolutionizing the way Indians drink chai. A few years back, when anyone wanted to have chai outside their homes, it was mostly the tea-bag, vending machines, or the road side vendor which were available. With Chaayos coming into picture, you get over 25 varieties of chai freshly made, and over 12,000 customisation options which give people a chance to have their “meri wali chai”. Chaayos makes every chai fresh the moment you place your order, and uses the best quality ingredients from across the country to ensure every customer has a brilliant experience when she consumes her cup of chai.

Q. : What are the responsibilities as the boss of a firm?

A. : My leadership style is very simple, Have confidence in people and give them responsibilities. Give wings to their dreams and let them fly. Let the hawk perch and let the eagle perch too.

Q. : What are the challenges you have faced in your business?

A. : Challenge 1-Real estate availability and price is a big challenge for all retail F&B players. To overcome the challenge, we have created an extremely flexible format to fit into a variety of shop sizes ranging from 100 sq ft to 2000 sq ft.

Challenge 2-Delivery is also one of our ways to reach out to a much wider customer base, and this is currently our fastest growing segment. We overcame this challenge by launching disposable heat retaining Ketli (kettle) which keeps the chai hot for an hour and a half. Customers can place their order via Chaayos app or through a subscription model where their chai is delivered to them on daily basis at a pre-defined time.

Challenge 3- To break even & ways to overcome-An MNC brand will spend up to Rs 1 crore in setting up an outlet. We open in Rs 15 lakh.On an average; it takes a store just three months to break even operationally. We have tweaked a lot of things, the capex model, the product game, allowing us higher margins.

Q. :  What do you feel about the sustainability of start ups in India?

A.: Be smart; learn how to operate in minimum resources and have a fool-proof plan for break-even.

 EN Team