Faisal Yousaf started as a newspaper boy, and now runs The Chai Wallah -- a franchise of tea carts dotted around the streets of India and abroad that serves hygienic cups of freshly brewed artisanal chai.
This article is part of The Better India’s series #EarnYourIndependence through which we celebrate Indians achieving financial freedom in innovative ways.
To what extent would you go to grab a perfect cup of chai in the morning? Alappuzha native Faisal Yousaf started a business to ensure his.
He says that even while working in the food and beverages industry in England, what he craved the most was a good cup of Indian masala chai. As he had access to many products there, the tea enthusiast started experimenting and developing his own recipes. What began as a hobby ended up being stalls in the flea markets of England, which got rave reviews from different nationals.
Faisal, who always aspired to become an entrepreneur, soon realised that tea brewing is his forte. “I came back to my homeland in 2018. After all, this is the place where tea lovers are in abundance. By taking inspiration from different pop-up stalls I have seen in England, The Chai Wallah was started the same year to serve hygienic cups of freshly brewed artisan chai,” says 36-year-old Faisal.
This was the humble beginning of a thriving business which is now under the parent company Nomadic Tastebuds Private Limited. “We now have more than 50 outlets majorly in Kerala and Karnataka. We are soon opening in Chennai, Hyderabad and Middle Eastern countries,” he adds.
Newspaper boy turns businessperson
“I had no interest in studies,” says the Class 12 dropout. “I lost my father at a young age and grew up in an orphanage in Alappuzha.” Faisal however considers all these as experiences in life and believes there are bigger things to be learnt from life which can never find a place in a textbook.
After high school, he used to go for newspaper distribution around his locality. When his boss died unexpectedly, he took over the news agency and ran it for a few months. Since the scope of scalability was low, he then quit. After Class 12, Faisal took up a few marketing jobs and travelled to many places inside and outside the country. His trip to England became a turning point in his life.
“I worked in the food and beverages industry for about 10 years. The Chai Wallah is a product of my four years’ of research and experimenting. Some of my friends and family members said this was a bad idea as most of the places are filled with tea stalls. And what would I, a person who ‘doesn’t know how to brew tea’, do in this field? But I was confident and went ahead,” reminisces Faisal.
Each stall of The Chai Wallah sells at least 50 varieties of tea, coffee, juices and snacks. The stall is painted black and white. “Post setting up The Chai Wallah now there are several similar-looking tea shops in Kerala. This itself is an indication that we have started a trend,” says the proud entrepreneur.
The star item on the menu is the Indian masala chai which consists of 12 spices directly collected from farmers across the country. “Our house blend is a combination of finest black tea from Assam and Nilgiri mountain range that goes in every chai we brew at the cart,” he adds. Pudina, holy basil, paan, saffron, kadak, The Chai Wallah blend and iced masala chai latte are some of the other varieties in the stall. The price of each cup starts from Rs 15 and goes up to Rs 80.
The tea blends are also sold separately in the stall and the entrepreneur plans to retail them soon by collaborating with some other team.
In the initial years, stalls worked in a franchise model which expanded the number a lot. But discovering that most of them are not working properly and are implementing their own methods, Faisal decided to put together a monitoring team. Now, franchise stalls are provided, but with strict measures. “We are focusing on Tier 1 cities now. We are shifting the headquarters to Bengaluru in order to make the management easier,” Faisal shares. “We are hoping to begin 1,000 stalls across India and abroad.”
After returning from the UK, Faisal’s initial idea was to sell the tea blends online. But this required more investment, which he was not capable of arranging at that point. By introducing pop-up stalls the youngster felt that he could change the whole experience of sipping a chai with more hygiene and quality.
‘Step out of your comfort zone’
“Being in a 9 to 5 job would be everyone’s first choice because it is safe. But if you wish to level up in life, professionally and financially, entrepreneurship is the way. It could be a small idea, but think big. Who would have thought that a Class 12 dropout from Kerala would reach even the Middle East countries by selling chai?” asks Faisal.
The businessperson also shares that when you are passionate about something, money will only stand secondary. Financial freedom will be attained organically if you are ready to invest yourself completely in something.
Faisal is all set to scale up by opening container stalls, kiosks and cafes under his brand in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. “In a few years, don’t be surprised to spot an artificial intelligence robot in front of my stalls which would suggest cups of chai based on your previous orders,” Faisal says. If this is not love for chai, then what is?
Edited by Yoshita Rao
All photo credits: The Chai Wallah/ Instagram.