What made this hotelier sacrifice his green card to become NRI Chaiwala

Short Description
In an exclusive interview to Restaurant India, Jagdish Kumar, Owner, NRI Chaiwala talks about his journey from a hotelier to a tea seller.
  • Nusra Deputy Features Editor
NRI Chaiwala

A hotelier from New Zealand having an experience of 20 years in the industry returned to India with a dream of having a cup of tea with our honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Jagdish Kumar, a follower of Modi Ji, sacrificed his green card and came back to India in December 2018. Here he started his own business of selling chai.

Started from the scratch of selling usual tea, he then started a brand named Chotu Chaiwalah serving 35 variants of tea and their most popular varieties with quirky names like- Mummy Ke Hath Wali Chai, Mardo Wali Chai, Corporate Wali Chai and Dosto Wali Chai are what makes it a unique point of attraction.

After receiving quite an applaud for his work in this sector, he started his own company named Corpbite under which he opened multiple food brands like Chotu Chaiwalah, Chaat House, Unlimited 24, Motulal Bhaturewala and more since 2018. Inspired by Modi and his journey, he wishes to meet him one day over a cup of tea and associate it with his startup mission to make youngsters aware about the 'Make In India' campaign and realize its potential and guide them to grow a business under its concept. Excerpts from the interview:

What was the whole idea behind NRI Chaiwala? How many outlets are you running?

As I mentioned I am a big fan of Modi Ji and his startup policies like startup India, make in India, and digital India. The whole idea for NRI Chaiwala is to introduce and spread the variety of chai within the country. Encourage the youth and let them aware the value of startups.

Since, you are one of the biggest admirers of PM Modi. How are you trying to make his vision ‘Vocal about Local’ successful?

Well, the message is very clear that the honorable Prime Minister Narender Modi ji is promoting local products and trying to make it in India so the country cannot be dependent. We are doing a couple of things for vocal n local.

a) We are trying our best and using all local products so that will help boost the Indian economy. Like The chai leaves us all bought from Assam to promote our local product. We do not import from China or Sri Lanka. Our all the product is local

b) We are spreading awareness that how important is made in India, (vocal for local) how it’s contributing to developing the nation as well individual per capita income.

Covid-19 has brought the whole sector to an halt. What is the future of restaurants like yours?

India’s restaurant industry is facing what is possibly its worst existential crisis. While the COVID-19 lockdown reduces risk of transmission, it has also meant that revenues dropped to zero, with businesses struggling to find the cash to pay their employees and make rent. Even after lockdown ends, dining-out will never be the same. Restaurants can bring about contactless dining. From checking in to the restaurant and seating themselves, to ordering and online payment, limiting contact with staff would go a long way to maintain social distancing and hygiene norms. Customers could also be able to pre-book their food through apps, or do so via smart phone apps once they reach the restaurant and are seated. Valet service would also offer minimal physical contact, via automated valet tokens and minimum-contact handover of car key. Restaurant will focus mainly on delivery or take away.

I believe that post Covid, customers will be much more selective and conscious going to a restaurant/ cafe. How are you planning to beat this fear from your loyal customers?

Hospitality sector has been one of the worst-affected service sectors due to Covid-19 and is expected to take longer than expected time to recover. As people would continue to avoid travel and crowded space in the post-lockdown days, the sector would see slow recovery. It is very difficult to survive in the dining industry for the next few months or may be a year at least. We are carrying out sensitivity training across our teams, and modified body language models to include maintaining a healthy distance, this could mean reducing the number of table. We are not exposing crockery, cutlery or glass ware to reduce the chance of contamination. We are keeping it in a safe cupboard and when required it will be brought and placed on the table. Of course all the tables are going to be cleaned with sanitizers and chlorinated water. Our entire cutlery is washed in dish-washers with effective soap solutions where water temperature is as high as 80 degree. When it comes to sanitization and cleaning we are taking utmost care,

Tell us something about your uniqueness and way of cooking that makes NRI Chaiwala different from other tea cafes?

Cooking - well our cooking style is not different but our quality of ingredients (Mostly we made in house) if I will talk about chai, we mix a variety of chai leaves and make best chai out of it. We know how much quantity of chai leaves we have to use to make one final product. Our chai masala enhances the taste of chai made from a variety of secret spices. Our background, expertise, knowledge and skills in hospitality give us confidence which others do have. We do understand the role of quality ingredients and quantity we required. A part of cooking below is some of our USP which makes us different from others.

Pricing - our pricing is very reasonable, based on location, clientele and menu selection.

Menu Selection – we do change our menu as per local preference for example (Only) if we think of this particular location we have pizza lovers rather than Wraps.

Higher output in less time - NRI Chaiwala works on a strategy to value and satisfy every customer of the outlet that worked as USP for the brand in producing higher outputs.

Premium atmosphere of outlets - The atmosphere inside NRI Chaiwala cafes is a great stress reliever and relaxing. With proper and right kind of background music, relaxing furniture design.

Diversified Menu - NRI Chaiwala has a diversified range on its menu. Initially serving different flavored tea, serve different snacks and dishes for both Indian and International customers

Are you also delivering online or is there any plan?

As soon as we will get permission by the local government we will start delivering

What according to you will be the future of tea cafes in India?

We Indian are emotionally attached with this industry as after the water chai is most consumable drink in India, we start our day with chai. We can see unbelievable growth in the tea café business, many new startups (TEA CAFÉ) came and succeeded; most famous are Chaayos, Chai Point, NRI Chaiwala, and Chotu Chaiwalah. People are not accepting but they are getting used to it. They are appreciating the new variety in chai cafes and chai atmospheres. Corporate and youth have made these places their chai adda, we can see significant growth. Also investors are very keen and have shown their interest as funding these projects. Recently many brands got funding in millions and can see their rapid growth in opening new outlets and turning into profitable business. Indian was tea nation tea lover’s country is a new concept and variety has boosted this industry.

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