It all started when Pranav saw a hard-hitting news story in which a 12-year-old refugee boy was asked what he thought of going back to Iraq and he said, “I’m not happy as I know I’ll die, but I have to go back with my family.” #WorldRefugeeDay
Amani Wadood (name changed) does not hesitate anymore while conversing in English.
From offering directions to people who are lost, ordering his favourite food items and discussing news, the 26-year old living in London does it all and speaks the language with confidence.
He recently cleared the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam and is very excited about joining a University for a Masters course.
Amani is a refugee from Sudan, and according to estimates, there are close to 1.18 lakh refugees residing in the UK. He is among the few who have embarked on a new journey for a better life; many of them still face extreme difficulties in finding a sustainable livelihood with employers giving little attention to their professional experience and education qualifications.
This is why he is immensely grateful to the founder of Chaigaram (now NEMI), London-based tea company, that was started in 2016.
The social enterprise employs refugees who run tea stalls across London food markets, festivals, events and conferences.
Speaking to The Better India, Pranav, who is originally from New Delhi, says:
Ours is a platform where the refugees can improve their English skills, regain confidence and work on skills required to enter the UK job market. We also employ them within our business to perform commercial roles including sales and marketing, events, packaging and distribution.
He adds, “We are solely impact driven and re-invest more than 50% of our profits back into our enterprise to help us achieve our social-impact goals.”
Pranav has been a resident of London for seven years now. He remembers feeling deeply disturbed when he saw a news piece about an Iraqi family who was forced to move back to their country from Europe.
In addition to this, he also had a chance conversation at a restaurant with a group of refugees, which made him understand that just getting an asylum claim accepted was not the end of the difficult journey.
After some preliminary research about the global refugee crisis, Pranav decided to do something about it and set up a formal organisation with his savings. For this, he banked on his love and knowledge for chai.
Not just that, Pranav also took advantage of the growing demand for Indian tea across the West.
Pranav partnered up with Groundwork London, an organisation that works towards providing sustainable employment, “They have a program called Elevate and refer refugees to us when we are looking to hire new staff,” he says.
So far, the company has provided work experience to 18 refugees. They work right across the supply chain—packaging and distribution as well as commercial roles including sales and marketing and events.
NEMI offers a variety of tea blends, and its retail range includes teas like English breakfast, green tea, cardamom and peppermint. The company also provides a syrup made that can be used to make tea lattes, iced teas and tea-based cocktails.
Pranav has also taken care to reduce the carbon footprint of his company. For instance, the tea bags are 100% biodegradable, and all the products have a plastic-free packaging.
The journey towards establishing a niche in a city like London was not easy, and even today, Pranav faces challenges on a daily basis.
The biggest hurdle is the funding to scale the business. We are working through the fundraising process now so to resolve the issue soon. This will help us create a greater impact as well as grow our business commercially, he says.
Seeing positive outcomes from his venture, Pranav hopes to scale up his business and expand across the country. The idea is to involve as many refugees as possible.
Pranav’s initiative shows that you do not need path breaking ideas or enormous amount of money to make a social impact, it can be as simple as tea!
All the Images are sourced from: NEMI/Facebook
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)