For Rajkot-based Nisha Hussain (28), the mantra of success is simple. “The work you enjoy doing should be done with pride, not shame. You can make good money even from small jobs. No work is small,” she says.
Despite facing resistance from her family, Nisha quit her job as a computer operator in 2017 and started selling tea in secrecy, from a handcart the following year. Now, she is fondly referred to as the ‘chaiwali of Rajkot’ and sells as many as 10 flavours of tea at her stall called ‘The Chailand’.
“I used to enjoy making tea on special occasions since I was a child. When I started my business, I was confident that I would be successful but I hardly had any customers in the beginning. People were not used to seeing a woman single-handedly running a tea stall, and were apprehensive about approaching me. I threw away most of my tea for at least 15 days in a row,” Nisha tells The Better India.
“Business was just starting to pick up when one day, a customer put up an Instagram story of my stall that went viral. After that, people started flocking to The Chailand. It makes me really happy when they call me Rajkot’s chaiwali,” she adds.
While a cup of regular tea at Nisha’s stall costs Rs 10, the flavoured teas cost Rs 30. Her best-selling product, however, is the tandoori tea, which is priced at Rs 40.
“The boiled tea is poured into a kullhadd, which is placed in a tandoor. The smoke generated in the process and the earthiness from the vessel gives it a distinctive flavour, similar to the ‘chulhe vaali chai’ sold back in the day. I also sell different flavours in black tea and green tea for my health-conscious customers,” she says.
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Other flavours of tea available at The Chailand are ginger-mint, cinnamon, lemongrass, cardamom and masala chai.
Becoming a Chaiwali
Soon after she completed her High School studies in 2015, Nisha started work as a computer operator at the Rajkot Sub-Registrar’s office. She says she didn’t enjoy her work and wanted to leave the corporate world, but the lack of further studies limited her options of alternative incomes.
“Back then, I used to live in a hostel and began experimenting with different flavours of tea for my friends. They enjoyed it and encouraged me to take it up as a business, but I knew nothing about the art of selling. So I decided to quit my job and started working at the Tea Post cafe in 2018. The outlet I worked at is shut now, but the experience helped me understand what flavours are the most popular with customers. My supervisors also gave me tips on how to interact with them and handle multiple orders at a time. I had already made up my mind to open my own tea stall by then, and used to work on researching and sourcing ingredients everyday after my shift,” she says.
Three months later, Nisha used her savings of Rs 25,000 to set up a stall at Virani Chowk, eventually making as much as Rs 3,000 everyday.
“I didn’t even tell my parents about my decision because I knew they wouldn’t approve. But I was driven by my passion and knew I had to do it anyway. When they found out, they weren’t supportive and I used to avoid their calls, and they stopped talking to me altogether for a while. Now, they are happy because I’ve made a name for myself. But being a woman, they, and even my extended family, don’t understand why I have to work,” she shares. “My younger brother in Alwar, however, calls me up excitedly each time anyone asks him about his chaiwali sister.”
Earlier this year, she also began, and shut, ‘The Chailand’ cafe. “I was comfortably making at least Rs 50,000 every month until last year, but incurred huge losses when my tea stall had to be closed during the lockdowns. I opened my cafe in June with the hope of procuring a larger customer base, but I couldn’t make enough money to sustain it. I gave myself time until Diwali and when the cafe still didn’t pick up business, I decided to reopen my stall and focus on making it work,” she said.
After scouting prominent locations across the city, Nisha decided to open ‘The Chailand’ on Kalwar Road. “I open my stall around 7:30 am everyday because many people like to stop for chai after their morning walks. Devotees from the nearby Prem Mandir and students of Saurashtra University also drop by regularly. It has only been 10 days since I opened the stall, but as more people learn about my unique flavours through word-of mouth, customers are increasing everyday,” she says, adding that she’s presently making around Rs 1,500 per day.
Nisha, who calls herself an avid book lover, also keeps a few books in her stall for her customers to enjoy a quick read as they sip on her tea. “I keep books that encourage positive thinking, such as those by Napoleon Hill and Paulo Cohello, who is my favourite author,” she shares.
Following the pandemic’s second wave, Nisha started providing her services at community events and exhibitions to make additional money. In December last year, she also received a certificate of appreciation from the Rotary Club of Rajkot.
Nisha is hesitant about opening another cafe and says she doesn’t know what the road ahead holds. “For now, I want to ensure that business runs smoothly at my stall. The people of Rajkot have given me a lot of love, which has given me the strength to keep going. Many people also bring their children to meet me, offering my story as an example of success. It’s an honour for me,” she beams.
For any enquiries, you can call Nisha on 7990020772.
You can read this article in Hindi here.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)