Kerala’s roadways are crowded with thousands of tea booths serving boiling hot ‘chaya.’ However, if you ever drive through Pallimukku, a town in Kerala’s Kollam district, you’ll see the ‘BTech Chai,’ a unique tea stall located along NH 66.
“We wanted to set up something that was completely unique in every way because finding a chai shop is easy in this town, so it was critical to be distinct and stand out.” We also wanted it to be called BTech Chai because we’re three engineering graduates running a ‘chai’ business,” he says.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns were among the most trying moments for many people across the nation, including Anandu and Shafi, who lost their employment during this phase.
Before the shutdown, Shanavas, who had studied Mechanical Engineering, had worked for companies in the Middle East and Gujarat. However, after the shutdown ended and the job markets showed no improvement, they decided to stop looking for work and start their own business.
Adding creative twists
That’s how B Tech Chai came to be. The tea stall, which launched recently in a crowded place of Kollam, has already become a local favourite. Not only because three engineers are offering tea, but also because of the new flavours they’ve created.
“Ginja, a distinctive Indian masala chai, is the most unusual and sought-after tea on our menu. It’s a combination of ayurvedic herbs. We came up with the blend after a lot of trial and error, and we knew it was the perfect mix because it worked. We presently have 50 various tea flavours, the majority of which are unique, and we are planning on more that will be released soon, “Anandu explains.
Despite the unusual flavours, a tea at BTech Chai is inexpensive, in fact, it is dirt cheap – prices start at Rs 9 and go up to Rs 45 for the most costly tea.
Despite the fact that the cafe was only recently opened, Anandu said the concept has been in his head for at least two years.
“This was something I’d wanted to accomplish for a long time and had even discussed with Shafi. But, because we were both working, it never materialised. Things have changed since last year’s shutdown. I lost my job, and Sahif was working odd jobs as well. Given how bad things had gotten, we were confident that we would find new employment soon. So we went back to work at the cafe. Shanavas also joined us at this point, “he stated
B.Tech Chai is centered on an old pull-cart to keep the vibe of street food, and it mostly serves folks passing by with their vehicle.
It has not been an easy path.
The journey has not been simple. The three men have had to do everything themselves to open the cafe, from re-designing the pull-cart to developing the recipe ideas, even after failing to persuade their parents.
The friends’ next concern was to raise capital; with no cash reserves and assistance from their families, they had to rely on the generosity of friends who lent them small sums. The friends raised approximately Rs 1.5 lakhs total, which was used to buy everything, including the shop and furnishings.
Anandu claims that the B.Tech Chai has become a favourite among the public in less than a month and is growing in popularity by the day, thanks to word-of-mouth publicity from delighted consumers.
Creating a brand
“So far, the feedback has been overwhelming. Customers returned for our tea, sometimes in groups of family and friends. In the last few weeks, we’ve had some franchise inquiries “he stated
Anandu went on to say that they are now aiming to establish BTech Chai as a brand.
“BTech Chai, we believe, has a lot of room to grow. Not only in Kollam, but also in the surrounding districts. We can brand our flavours and add additional unique twists to the list by marketing them under our own brand “he stated.
Anandu says he wants to show the world that a brand like this can be built in Kerala and be successful. He also emphasizes that quitting a job does not have to be the end of one’s goals. It may provide you with a new way to develop. He also hopes that one day, instead of looking for a job as he had wished, his father will embrace his chosen path.