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Failed CAT, CA & Started Selling Chai; Now This Startup Earns Crores Every Year

Failed CAT, CA & Started Selling Chai; Now This Startup Earns Crores Every Year

Friends Anubhav Dubey and Anand Nayak share how failing exams like CA and CAT were not enough to deter them from their common dream, and how they created their startup Chai Sutta Bar that is making differences in more ways than one.

Chai. This one word stirs up several emotions in all our minds. Some like it black, some with ginger, some plain, and some cold. From our homes and college canteens to tapris (roadside stalls) and offices, this drink remains a common point over which conversations are brewed.

Cashing in on this love for chai, two childhood friends have built a brand Chai Sutta Bar (CSB) which now has an annual revenue of over Rs 150 crore. Started in June 2016 by Anubhav Dubey and Anand Nayak, the Indore-based company has over 400 outlets across 190 cities in the country. They also have outlets in Dubai.

Anubhav and Anand have today made their name amongst the famous chaiwallahs (tea-sellers) in the country, but their journey wasn’t all smooth.

Hailing from Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, 29-year-old Anubhav was preparing for UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) examinations in 2016. However, his heart wasn’t in it. It was at this time that he got a call from Anand. 

“My parents sent me to Indore when I was in Class 9 for higher education. It was here that I met Anand. We started small businesses together at that time. We would buy second-hand phones with our pocket money and rent them out to our friends, charging them for using the phones. We would then sell it, pocketing a profit,” says Anubhav to The Better India.

They would often speak about starting a business together, recalls Anubhav. 

“After graduation, I moved to Delhi for UPSC preparations and Anand started working in a garments business. One fine day in 2016, he called me and reminded me of our dreams as school children. Without informing my family, I went to Indore to meet Anand,” adds the entrepreneur. 

‘Have you heard of this place called Chai Sutta Bar?’ 

Chai sutta bar serves tea in kulhads or clay cups.
Chai sutta bar serves chai in kulhads (clay cups); Image courtesy: CSB team

While brainstorming ideas for what business they could start, the two saw that every corner had a tea shop, or tapri.

“Tea is the most consumed beverage after water. Most tea sellers make a profit, as small as their shop might be. So we decided to open a tea stall. We would roam around Indore looking for a location,” adds Anubhav.

After many surveys, they chanced upon a small shop available for rent. The USP — it was right opposite a student hostel.

Armed with an investment of Rs 3 lakh from Anand’s savings, the duo decided to launch their outlet there. 

“We did the interiors ourselves to save money. We gave it the vibe of a bar and served chai in kulhads (clay cups). On day 1, we decided to distribute tea for free to attract customers. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. We didn’t have a board for the shop. So on day 2, we called our friends so that there was a sizable crowd,” adds Anubhav.

Seeing a large crowd of youngsters, more people started stopping by and that’s how they attracted customers. 

With no marketing money, the founders came up with many jugaad ideas to sell their brand. 

Anubhav Dubey, Co-founder of Chai Sutta Bar
Anubhav Dubey, Co-founder of Chai Sutta Bar; Image courtesy: CSB team

“Everywhere we went, we used to discuss Chai Sutta Bar. ‘Have you heard of this new place called Chai Sutta Bar? It’s really good’,” smiles Anubhav. 

The crowd started swelling so much that they needed five people just to handle the queue outside, says Anubhav.

In six months, they opened four more outlets, with the fourth one being in Mumbai. They serve different flavours of tea, like the classic adrak (ginger), chocolate, rose, elaichi (cardamom), etc. They also have snacks.

Shabbir, a happy customer says, “The ambience at CSB is amazing. They have great music playing and I love their chocolate chai. We end up spending at least an hour at the outlet usually after college.” 

The founders say they now want to build a global franchise.

“When McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza and others can have successful franchises, why not us? India still doesn’t have a big brand like that and we want to build it. After the success of our first outlet, people started asking us if they could open franchises and that’s how we’ve grown to over 400 outlets today,” says Anubhav, adding that the company has remained bootstrapped since inception. 

‘Your 20s are for taking risks’

What CSB prides itself on is the fact that the tea is served only in kulhads. By doing this, the company is providing year-round employment to more than 1500 potter families, says Anubhav. They also hire people with disabilities. 

“We make it a point to employ people from underprivileged backgrounds. As we use almost 4.5 lakh kulhads daily, we are also empowering local potters,” adds Anubhav.

He also notes that an appetite for risk is very important when it comes to being an entrepreneur, especially for people in their 20s. 

“I gave Chartered Accountancy (CA) and Common Admission Test (CAT) and failed. I knew that I would not clear the UPSC exams too. So when I thought of starting this, I was ready for the risk. I was okay if it failed too, as I had already experienced failure. But you need to take a calculated risk and that’s possible when you’re young,” says Anubhav.

Edited by Divya Sethu

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