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Project Chaiwala: Steaming hot success

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While most people would argue that coffee is the best way to start a busy morning, there are few that love to indulge in a cup of tea. Ahmed Kazem and Justin Joseph want to give that segment of the local community a unique tea-drinking experience.

Enthused by tea farms in Sri Lanka and India, Project Chaiwala is a unique concept that makes tea varieties from all around the world available locally. “The tea culture in other parts of Asia is very different from what we see here. Drinking chai is an experience and you will often find street side vendors selling tea with their own unique twists. So, we decided to bring this authenticity to Dubai with Project Chaiwala.”

Kazem and Joseph have gone the extra mile in ensuring that customers get the most out of their tea-drinking experience by handpicking every supplier. “Quality is extremely important because the flavour of our products is the premise of our offer. We not only focus on traditional black chai with milk but also have several variations.”

PROJECT CHAIWALA

Stirring things up

Standing out in an oversaturated F&B market is no easy feat, but the entrepreneurial duo believes that they are in a league of their own. “We are not really competing with other tea vendors because our core offer is farm-sourced tea directly to your cup. It’s much more than just the beverage you are drinking, it makes you nostalgic. Imagine that you are sipping on a cup of tea and the experience transports you back to your hometown, all this while still maintaining the flavour and essence of the tea itself,” quips Kazem.

Joseph adds: “Project Chaiwala is an authentic concept that offers a range of traditional products with a modern twist. We’re offering our clients unparalleled street vendor style experience that you don’t find commonly in urban environments. It’s like transporting you from the streets of South Asia to an urban city like Dubai, UAE, with a cup of tea.”

Making a difference, one cup at a time

An important dimension of Project Chaiwala is its commitment to social and environmental causes. “We believe in being socially and environmentally conscious and we are classified as a social enterprise. The idea behind our concept is not only enjoying a top-quality beverage but also giving back with every cup served.”

Planting a future

Through participation at pop-up events, Kazem and Joseph have managed to create quite a stir with their concept and capture the attention of tea-lovers. With this exposure and customer base, they are now ready to launch their first outlet. “We are going to make the announcement very soon; we are currently working towards setting up a permanent location. We are also looking to expand Project Chaiwala throughout the UAE and hire staff accordingly.”

In line with this plan, the duo is streamlining their internal processes. “As we enter this new phase of our business, we need to invest more time in improving our back-end processes. That’s exactly why we standardised our recipes to ensure consistency across all our events and outlets and implemented a detailed inventory system in our operations.”

With plans to scale-up, one of the biggest operational challenges that Project Chaiwala is currently facing is recruitment and training. “Our operations are dependent on our ‘chaiwalas’ because they are a huge part of the customer experience. Hence, not finding the right chaiwala can have an adverse effect on the business. We actively search for potential chaiwalas in their homelands. If we come across someone who could potentially fit the bill, we carry out interviews and ultimately take the decision of whether to hire them or not. We’re looking to hire people beyond their tea-making abilities. Their personalities play a big role and they eventually become our brand ambassadors so it’s very important for us to pick the right people.”

So, what’s the ultimate dream for Project Chaiwala? “We want to build a concept that strikes the perfect balance between flavour, experience and nostalgia.” Well, making that happen is surely Joseph and Kazem’s cup of tea!

Rushika Bhatia

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.