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3 Business lessons from a Chaiwala (tea vendor)

I reside in Narela, a suburb area that falls on the border of Delhi and Haryana. Being next to the national highway, the area is sprouted by many dhabas (low cost 24 hour restaurants by the roadside) and chaiwalas (tea vendors) — all selling the best and the most hygienic food at cheapest prices, or perhaps they claim to.

Every evening before leaving my hostel for the evening walk, I go to the Chinku Chaiwala for a cup of tea. As a loyal customer, I am very frank with Chinku — a 20 something hard working owner of the shop, and often ask him questions regarding his business and life. Chinku is decent enough to answer them honestly.

Of late, I have been working on the private beta strategy of my startup, and there have been some conflicting thoughts that have been running through my mind. While doing some online research, it just appeared to me that Chinku — who is running a real profit making business must also be facing some real world business problems. Why not check upon him as to see how he overcomes them.

First Lesson:
The next day at 5:30 in the morning I went over to Chinku’s tea stall. He starts early, earlier than most of the people in his business (one of his USPs), and caught him in the midst of his busy routine.

“Why do you start so early Chinku, do you even get customers at this hour of the day?”, I asked Chinku.

“I don’t get many customers around this time. On a good day I sell 20 cups of cups of tea between 5:30 and 6:30. Most of the people start coming in around 7:00. But starting early gives me time to prepare samosas and bread pakoras. When my customers ask for them, I don’t make them wait like other chaiwalas. This makes them very happy.”

Chinku is clever. He understands that his customers hate waiting. Perhaps a good customer research on his end. In-order provide a high level customer satisfaction, he prepares the dishes before hand. Great strategy! Great implementation!

Second Lesson:

“Would you like to have your regular chai, bhaiya ji?”

“Yes, make me one cup of it”

Customization. That’s the pet word in the startup industry — “We customize our product for you”. Even my startup uses that line. Customization means making your customer feel special and catering to their individualistic needs. We all love customization. And this is exactly what Chinku does.

Chinku customized the tea for me. I like to have one spoon of sugar, a little ginger and more tea leaves. Strong tea. Chinku prepares exactly the same for me. Product-Market Fit, right? This is what I want. This is what I am willing to pay for. And this is what I get. Awesome!

Add to this the fact that I don’t even have to tell Chinku what I need. Machine Learning? Possibly 😉
Being a regular customer, Chinku keeps a tab on what exactly I like. Every other time I visit him, I don’t have to repeat them. They have already been cached by his brain’s browser history.

Third Lesson:

“Here.. you chai is ready!”, Chinku said as he gave me the chai in a glass cup.

“Ah! This tastes great..”, I replied as I took the first sip, “Chinku tell me why do you have all these chairs in front of your stall… Didn’t it cost you a lot of money to buy them?”

“It did, but just the first time… Because of chairs, my customers spend more time at the stall. They talk to each other and sit for hours. This way they end up buying a lot of extra stuff.”

A great example of customer engagement leading to customer satisfaction and retention and in turn resulting in increase in sales. Wow! Calculate the ROI on this investment and you would be truly amazed.

It turns out that Chinku is a great businessman, and has effectively come up with strategies to increase his business. Next up I will be talking to Chinku regarding his competition. I bet he must be applying some great strategies there too.

If you found this article useful, please be kind to share it with others. Let’s help all the entrepreneurs, and this is exactly what our community is about.

And just in case you are curious, here’s the link to my startup 🙂 Any kind of feedback, specially critical would be more than appreciated.
You can reach out to me at atuli@learnifi.com or @arjun_tuli

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7 Comments

  1. Interesting !

    I liked Chinku and your narration as well Arjun!

    Well, we already learned that Chinku is a step ahead of competition by having no/lesser waiting time for the service delivery.

    It will be interesting to learn what you learn from Chinku further.

    Do share your findings soon.

    Best,
    Omkar

  2. Thank you Mr. Omkar 🙂 I surely will! 

  3. Hi Arjun,

    Thanks for sharing . You have good writing skills . Why dont you write about some food start ups in India. It will be good booster to Entrepreneurs. And the photo you posted is also good.

    Kiran

    CremeFresh Specialities , Mangalore.

  4. Hi Kiran,

    Thank you for taking out time to read the article. And thanks for the compliment. Writing is what I like to do in my free time 🙂 As of now, I am trying to get my startup up and running. But be sure that I would keep on sharing my experiences. Hopefully you’ll come back to read them as well 🙂

    Thanks,
    Arjun

  5. Hi Arjun,

    Great narration and well informative article. Its really a very good trait to learn from everybody we are meeting in day to day life. Though I am trying to develop this trait. 

  6. Thank you Amarjeet. I am glad you liked it. I am of the opinion that we can learn something good from everyone. It’s great that you are working on developing this habit. I would like to know more about the experiences you get while developing it. 🙂

  7. Hi Arjun,

    I liked the way you expressed your feeling’s and opinions towards the start up business. One could really get inspiration through these must read articles. I myself looking for new start up business and you gave me reason to get encouraged through this moral story of Chinku… Thank you.

    Warm regards

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