The café at Indiranagar has the shack-like roadside ambience with floor seating, very rustic with lots of colours and with Chirag donning the host’s role. It offers the best tea, maggi, pakodas and other snacks. It’s a mini art store with jewellery & home decor items put for sale. And the place also metamorphoses into activity workshops for Salsa, pottery, bar tending, photography, film-making, dessert-making, etc. We caught up with Chirag, an ‘ex’-Electronics engineer with specialization in embedded systems who left the corporate humdrum 5 years ago in pursuit of those perfect Salsa steps and subsequently ventured into art-curating, blogging, cooking. He finally turned all of these pursuits into a business venture, drawing heavily from his marketing skills!!! How did you stumble into this venture? Chaipatty is a 2-year old brand that was conceptualised as a unique activity hub, catering to an exclusive but fun loving audience. Over the couple of years, it changed into a very creative and one of its kind Tea Cafés (or Teafes as we call it). It has now grown to become a one-stop solution for your tea and tea-time snack cravings, a home décor/funky jewellery/ art boutique and as before a very exclusive activity centre for weekend hobby indulgences. What has been the key to your business’ssuccess? The key reasons for our success have been numerous: •A very passionate drive to excel and make a mark in our customer’s heart and minds by constantly rubbing our energies in each experience that they have at our Teafes. •Recognising the potential of word-of-mouth marketing rather than blatant advertorial efforts. •Being personally on top of issues rather than delegating them to the staff or non-owners. •Respond to everything that’s been said or written about us in a manner that we come across as a protective yet humble owner of the idea. We seem appreciative of feedback but do not take vague criticism lying down. •Being old school for customer connect rather than relying on technology or resource.
With tea available in almost every nook and corner of Indian cities and towns (and also villages) for as little as rupees two or ten, what have been your major challenges in making your tea-café successful? Oh, the challenges have been many – from having to work through the corrupt bureaucracy who needed to validate the idea, to having to live with the ever-present haggling tendencies of an usual Indian customer who feels ‘Chai’ is something that flows out of taps at homes and not expensive espresso machines so why buy it. We have also painfully replicated the same street-smart attitude of hospitality across the board. Have you benefitted from the use of any specific technology for your regular operations? Nope. Just a credit-card machine that helps with plastic cash. Any plans for expansion beyond Bangalore? Conservative as we are, we have a ‘Keep it rare’ approach.Nonetheless, we plan to have close to 20-30 outlets in India and at least one international outlet starting this year every year. Also since we are self-funded, we are not over ambitious. What has been your strategy for Customer Satisfaction? Talk to them and not send your bots to script out an experience to them. Add humour, wit and at times sarcasm to show that you are not a run-of-the-mill brand. Respond to their feedback. Keep the surprise and the charm element, but also present it yourself and not through jazzy methods. Believe in brand retention first through experience and then through visible tangible product or giveaways. What have you been doing to increase your customer base? Spread the word yourself and have an army of ambassadors who are not spoilt by freebies but by the belief of liking the hard work and efforts put in by you in making their experience at Chaipatty that much better. Value mentions and write-ups of all sorts and just indulge in more chain-reaction formations of good and important news related to your brand. So what are the top skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur according to you? Attitude. If possible, incessant narcissism. Risk-taking ability with constant re-evaluating/introspection capability. And, an infectious never-say-die drive to excel. Website: www.chaipatty.com