We’ve heard of outrageous job switches but Madhur Malhotra definitely tops our list when it comes to making bold career choices! Say hello to this smart and sophisticated engineer turned cool chaiwala, who took the gallant step of quitting his cushy, high-paying job in Australia to sell kulhad chai in Bhopal! Yes, you heard that right. This intelligent and innovative NRI is the perfect example of ‘From Chandhni Chowk to China’ or, in this case, ‘From Australia to Bhopal’!
Amidst the hustle and bustle of Shivaji Nagar, Bhopal sits a quaint little chai shop known famously for its twenty-two varieties of delicious tea run by Madhur. Prior to his tea making days, Madhur worked as an engineer in Australia after completing his master’s degree in Information Technology and Communication. Though Madhur made a killing at his corporate job, he, just like any good son, constantly worried about the well-being of his parents back in his hometown of India, who were living alone. Unfortunately, when his mother suffered a serious health problem in 2008, Madhur selflessly decided to leave everything good he had going for him in Australia and come back home to India.
My mother had to undergo an open heart surgery. She was 72-year-old, while my father was 78 at that time. After my sisters got married, they had been living alone. Realising that managing everything alone would be difficult for my parents, I came back to India,”
After returning to India, Madhur joined his family’s construction business. However, he found the work to be extremely monotonous and unsatisfying. There was a strong urge “brewing” inside of Madhur that ate at him constantly, increasing his thirst to pursue something more than just the ordinary.
The Brewing of Chai34
The idea for Chai34 came to life when one faithful evening, Madhur and his friend Shelly George were catching up over a cup of – you guessed it – tea, at a local tea stall in Bhopal.
“We saw the server dipping his hands into the glasses, the milk, etc., and his hands were dirty. And everyone around us was smoking. We, being non-smokers, were quite uncomfortable. Another thing we noticed was that there weren’t any girls around. So we started wondering if we could do something better than this,” says an observant and ideated Madhur.
The duo then decided to smartly take advantage of the downsides of what they had experienced at that faithful little tea shop in Bhopal and set up a small tea cafe of their own that would provide a nice ambience for tea lovers to get together with their friends and family and bond over a hot cup of their favourite chai.
The two determined entrepreneurs put in all their savings at first to start their passionate business. They started off on a small but steady scale, while putting in a lot of hard work. “There were days when we would ourselves prepare tea because we had no staff to help us”, says an honest and down to earth Madhur.
And The Boiling Hot Journey Begins…
They started by first selling Irani chai, but this didn’t sit, or in this case, ‘sip’ too well with their customers. With some thorough and in-depth research, Madhur and Shelly improved their business model and hit the jackpot with the idea of serving tea in kulhads, which are terracotta cups. Kulhads are famous and preferred for their eco-friendly quality and, more importantly, add a great aroma to the tea.
Gradually, Madhur the mastermind, also started introducing deliciously different flavours of tea, after gauging what varieties are loved by the Indian audience and chai lovers everywhere. And now, Chai34 serves a delectable twenty-two different types of tea.
Chai34 also has a fast food menu but, five years on and still going strong, the tea remains its longed-for specialty. Madhur says the tea that they serve is of very high quality and they do not hesitate when it comes to adding generous amounts of milk when serving the typical milky Indian chai. Smoking is, of course, a big no-no at this small but beloved cafe.
What’s in The Teapot for Chai34?
Chai34 currently operates in five branches across India and gets about 50-100 customers a day during summer and this number increases to 200-400 in winter. After all, what’s better than warming your heart, your senses and your soul with a cup of steaming hot aromatic tea? There are also regular, loyal customers who show up every day without fail, and as of now there are six staff members. Madhur is also on the lookout for like-minded people who will help grow the tea brewing business and be a part of the chai fraternity.
In retrospect, after Madhur returned to Bhopal, he would regularly meet up with his friends and think about the different ideas he could work on. He recalls that he did not want to do something that was just run-of-the-mill. So finally, why did he pick tea you ask? “Because depending on how you serve tea to someone, you can enter the heart of the person. And that’s what matters,” says this warm-hearted, enigmatic and most importantly, in our books, gallant businessman. We think that when it comes to brave, bold and brilliant entrepreneurs, Madhur Malhotra is definitely our cup of tea!