Engineer Turns ‘Chai Maker’ After Failing to Get Job, Now Runs 7 Successful Outlets

Engineer chaimaker startup success

After being unable to find a good job in engineering, Ganesh Dudhnale from Maharashtra started Chai Makers, a venture that sells a variety of tea flavours in premixes, earning lakhs per month

When Ganesh Dudhnale, a resident of Maharashtra, graduated from a private engineering college in Vapi, Gujarat, he aspired for what most young graduates do — secure his dream job. As is the case with many industries, he knew that ‘success’ would be measured by his marks, and how they translated to a solid campus placement with an attractive annual package.

Today, that dream is just that. But success has come regardless, in the form of a successful tea venture, which earns the entrepreneur lakhs per month.

Ganesh recalls that when he sat for campus placements three years ago, he was dismayed. The companies he applied to for jobs did not offer him more than Rs 12,000 a month. “I graduated in June 2019 and began receiving job offers in July. But I felt that my skills and knowledge were not appreciated, as they did not reflect in monetary terms,” he tells The Better India.

He knew it was time to take another route.

Brewing quirky flavours

Engineer chaimaker startup success
Chaimaker cafe

“I was aware that the job market was not at its best, and during my discussions with friends, we often shared concerns about finding decent employment,” he says.

He adds that a tea business had always been on his mind. “I, too, am a fan of India’s most popular beverage. So during my last semester, I started researching about the tea business as a backup plan,” he explains.

“My research suggested that the tea business was a lucrative prospect with high returns. Also, it was the period when tea businesses were opting for the Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) route, spreading their presence across India. I knew the business would work,” he adds.

Ganesh then shared his ideas with his family. “I belong to Latur in Maharashtra, where my father runs a grocery store. The idea of a tea business did not impress him much. He was never in favour. So I explained to him the concept of QSR and how hygienic tea with a modern touch could be served to the masses,” he says. “After much convincing, I received a sum of Rs 6 lakh from my father.”

In 2019, he invested the money to set up a small kiosk at Vapi Railway Station offering unique teas under the brand Chaimaker. “I offered masala chai to the customers. But I knew that I needed to stand out from the competition and started working on bringing a unique theme to my business. I did not want to compete with the other businesses with traditional flavours like ginger, cardamom and so on,” he says.

Engineer chaimaker startup success
Chaimaker offers unique blend of teas.

Ganesh says, “I spent some money on research and development of the product. I conceived eight varieties of teas, including fruit flavours like mango, strawberry, rose, banana, hot chocolate and others. I introduced such flavours to grab attention and bring variety to the beverage. Moreover, my tea is not served in syrup or liquid form, but instead comes as premix powders. All one has to do is immerse the bag in hot water. Anyone could make it, and the taste won’t change.”

About six months later, Ganesh met his partner Pradeep Jadhav. “Pradeep was visiting Vapi for his business and came across my startup. He saw potential in it and proposed to collaborate. With additional investment from him, we decided to expand, and the second outlet came up in Surat in 2020,” he says.

Ganesh also expanded the range of his products. “Apart from fruit flavours, we now offer tea with hints of ice cream that taste like butterscotch, vanilla and caramel. There are 20 varieties of tea and 15 types of coffees at any outlet. We also offer our customers cold beverages such as shakes and snacks,” he says.

He adds, “We also have tea with banarasi paan flavour, which is not available with our competitors. All flavours are natural and have no artificial ingredients.”

Since then, there has been no looking back for Ganesh. He has seven outlets, each earning approximately Rs 8,000 per day, raking a monthly revenue of Rs 3 lakh a month, he says.

Prasad Shah, a student living in Vapi, says, “I frequent the kiosk to hang out with my friends and get my daily dose of tea. Apart from the fruit flavours, which offer a distinct taste to the tea, I am more fond of caramel tea. I often choose that to lift my spirits whenever I am in a bad mood.”

Engineer chaimaker startup success
Apart from beverages, Chaimaker also serves food.

Ganesh says that apart from the restrictions and impact on business he experienced during the COVID-19 lockdown, identifying vendors offering genuine products was a challenging task for his business. “It took a lot of study and understanding to differentiate between artificial and natural flavours. Moreover, explaining the franchisee model and streamlining Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to employees was another hurdle to resolve. I am still learning and finding new ways to deal with situations that crop up almost daily,” he says.

Ganesh now plans to have 100 outlets in Gujarat and about 1,000 across cities in India.

“I am glad that I could turn my passion into a successful business model. I want to be an example for aspiring graduates to chart a different path, and not solely rely on finding a lucrative job,” he adds.

Edited by Divya Sethu

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