Not too long ago, the word café was synonymous with coffee. This started changing with the advent of the tea-café culture, pioneered by a host of ambitious entrepreneurs. One of the earliest ones to spot this opportunity was Amuleek Singh Bijral, who founded Chai Point in 2010. To understand how he made Chai Point click, Outlook Business caught up with Bijral at their premium Church Street store in Bengaluru. Edited excerpts:
Tell us a little about your journey before starting Chai Point?
I am from Jammu and Kashmir and my father is a retired IPS officer. I did my engineering from Thapar Institute of Engineering & Technology and joined Tata Consultancy Services as a developer, and then with Microsoft. After five years here, I went to pursue my MBA from Harvard. I always wanted to start my own business, but had to build capital for it. So I worked with EMC2 at their Boston and Singapore offices, and moved back to India in 2010. I then searched for a start-up idea.
How was the idea for a tea bar finalised?
Through a Harvard professor, also a fellow HBS friend, whom I met regularly, Vikram Sharma, I realised that there is a market for selling chai in India. So in 2010, I registered my company, Mountain Trail Foods, and opened a small pilot 150 sq ft store in Koramangala in Bengaluru. Initially, we had built Chai Point as a blue collar, accessible brand for the masses. But it was unfeasible. We shut down all our stores in mid-2012 and rebuilt about 20 stores, pivoting to the white-collar customer base locations.
How did this help?