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people 2014-01-27

'Tea is not second fiddle to coffee anymore'

An interview with Raghav Verma, Director, Chaayos.

By Deputy Features Editor
'Tea is not second fiddle to coffee anymore'

Raghav Verma shares his experience of opening the first cafe serving ‘Chai’ in India with variety of blends – desi Chai with adrak, tulsi, kali mirch with 30 ml milk and half sugar –  a level of customisation nobody else provides and also creating their own Chai from over 4,000 combinations.

What was the idea behind starting a cafe serving Chai?

Tea is our native beverage yet there are very few places where you can get a fresh cup of Chai in a relaxed setting.  That’s how the idea came up for Chaayos.

Tea is a very versatile beverage – it is possible to infuse various fruit, herb and other flavours with tea. Being calorie free, low on caffeine and packed with antioxidants, tea presents a much healthier option than coffee, and the modern Indian who is well read and well travelled is accepting tea as their natural choice.

Despite of the fact that coffee chains in India are growing rapidly, what made you experiment with Chai?

Many of our customers tell us that with an overcrowded coffee market, Chaayos is exactly what they had been looking for all along.

For Indians, tea is an integral part of life. People like to have their cup of Chai at different times of the day and not always does one have the luxury of home. People long for a great cup of “Chai” outside their homes. Customers are not content with standard flavoured dip teas or machine-created teas anymore. People want tea to be given its due and not play second fiddle to coffee anymore.

What is your biggest strategic priority at present? Are you planning to expand in near future?

For the year 2014, we are targeting 8-10 more outlets in Delhi/NCR. Our biggest strategic priority is acquisition of some new amazing locations and marketing to increase our reach and visibility.

Who have invested in your business?

We are funded by a group of angel investors. The first outlet was funded by the founding team, and the following outlets have been funded by angel investors. We are currently a cash positive company.

How do you market yourself?

We have done a good mix of interesting online and offline initiatives. Most of our marketing operations have been focused on on-the-ground initiatives like cross promotions, live acts, outdoor signage and sampling in nearby areas. We have also associated ourselves with several causes - for example, we ran a campaign during the elections where we provided exclusive discounts for people coming in with a voting mark.

How has been the response of people towards your venture?

We have received a terrific response from our office outlets as well as our high street cafes.

What our customers love most about us is how we allow them to find their “meri-wali-chai” – for example, a typical order at Chaayos is “desi Chai withadraktulsi, kali mirch with 30ml milk and half sugar”, a level of customisation nobody else provides. It is this flexibility in creating your own Chai from over 4,000 combinations, which is our USP and keeps our patrons coming back

What things you came along in designing your cafe?

For our café ambience, we wanted a relaxed ambience that gives our customer a feel of being at home, yet a location formal enough for people to hold business meetings. We have a very earthy, creative feel to our outlets with chai-related wall illustrations, wood-themed interiors and Indian fusion music adding to the experience of your cup of chai.

Why did you choose to open the first store at Gurgaon?

The clientele in Gurgaon is very well travelled, well read and open to experimenting with new concepts. Our first outlet in DLF Cyber City gave us a chance to do a quick proof of concept.  We realised when we had the same people coming back to us four times a day that we had hit upon something really big.

While working on such a format, who do you target?

At Chaayos, we serve people from a various age groups. Our customer base starts at 18 and goes on till 55. People step into Chaayos for a variety of reasons. A lot of patrons unwind at our cafes and many others are there to hang out, conduct business meetings and have brunch with their family. So in that respect, we are not limited to a lunch/dinner only clientele as we have a steady flow of people throughout the day.

How has been the journey so far?

The journey has been extremely exciting and rewarding. The customer demand has really made us realise how we are an excellent fit for multiple settings and locations. We are now looking forward to expanding quickly across Delhi/NCR and then pan-India.

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