Anand Nayak, co-founder of Indore-based tea chain Chai Sutta Bar, delves into the brand’s history, success principles, sustainability efforts, and much more
Bengaluru: Indore-based Chai Sutta Bar (CSB) claims to be the largest kulhad tea seller, globally. Although the claim could be open to challenge, what cannot be contested is the fact that the brand has changed the way Indians consume their favourite beverage—chai. Founded in 2016 by Anand Nayak and Anubhav Dubey, the tea retail chain became popular because of not just the variety of flavours it serves but also because of how tea is served—in clay cups known as kulhads in desi parlance.
In just seven years since it was started, CSB has expanded its footprint to encompass more than 500 outlets across over 300 cities in India. Nayak shared that the chain that today aims to become a global brand, started with a seed investment of Rs 3 lakh with borrowed items from friends and second-hand furniture.
In an exclusive interview with IndiaRetailing.com, the co-founder shares the brand’s story, success principles, sustainability efforts, and much more. Edited excerpts…
What is the story behind the brand?
The concept of Chai Sutta Bar originated from my aspiration to offer clean and delicious tea in a market where such options were rare. Driven by the determination to achieve something significant and establish my enterprise, I embarked on a quest to find the perfect business idea. This journey commenced while I was managing my men’s wear business.
With the support of my friend Anubhav Dubey, who was then preparing for the UPSC exam, we both identified a gap in the market, prompting me to explore the tea industry and inviting him to join me in this new business venture. I initiated the business with an initial investment of Rs3 lakh and opened the first outlet, adjacent to a girl’s hostel in Indore, with borrowed items from friends and second-hand furniture.
Why the name ‘Chai Sutta Bar’?
We deliberately chose Chai Sutta Bar as the name to spark curiosity and excitement among potential customers. The bar-like ambience, where smoking was strictly prohibited, attracted customers, underscoring the brand’s commitment to health.
What are the three key factors that have accelerated CSB’s growth?
First is our commitment to delivering quality, hygienic tea in a plethora of flavours has strongly resonated with a broad audience.
Second our concept of serving tea in kulhads (clay cups) not only set us apart but also became a significant draw for customers. This concept, besides gaining immense popularity, has also played a role in providing livelihood to potters. Moreover, our franchise model, which offers opportunities for budding entrepreneurs, has been a cornerstone of our expansion.
Third is our diversified menu, extending beyond tea to include items like burgers, pasta, Maggie, pizzas, and sandwiches, which has further fuelled our growth.
What led to the idea of serving tea in kulhads at your outlets?
The idea of serving tea in kulhads was aligned with our vision to offer a unique and traditional tea-drinking experience. Presently, we sell approximately 4,50,000 kulhad teas daily, making us the largest kulhad tea seller globally.
This has not only popularised the kulhad movement but also supported about 400 to 500 families involved in the production of kulhads. We are also proud to employ individuals from underprivileged backgrounds and the disabled community, contributing to our commitment to social responsibility.
How do you incorporate sustainability into your business?
Sustainability and ethical practices are at the core of our business philosophy. We are actively working towards reducing our environmental impact by exploring eco-friendly packaging options and responsibly sourcing our ingredients. We prioritize fair trade practices and continue to support local communities through employment and the sourcing of kulhads.
What marketing strategies do you employ to entice customers?
Our marketing strategies encompass a blend of digital marketing, social media engagement and in-store promotions. We leverage social media platforms to engage with our customers and generate excitement around our brand. Furthermore, we offer loyalty programs and discounts to retain our customer base. Word of mouth and the unique name ‘Chai Sutta Bar’ have also contributed to attracting customers.
What is your current area of focus?
Maintaining brand consistency and quality is paramount as we expand. We do this by closely working with our franchisees, providing comprehensive training, and implementing strict quality control measures. We conduct regular audits and have stringent guidelines in place to ensure uniformity across all outlets. Our focus remains on delivering the CSB experience consistently.
How do you support franchisees?
The success of a franchise-based business like CSB hinges on several factors, including a strong and appealing brand, a proven business model, ongoing support and training, and a dedicated franchisee network. We support our franchisees through comprehensive training programmes, marketing assistance, and continuous quality checks. We aim to create a win-win situation where both the brand and franchisees thrive.
How do you leverage technology in the business?
Technology plays an instrumental role in streamlining our operations and enhancing the customer experience. We are actively exploring digital ordering and payment solutions to make ordering more convenient for our customers. We also utilize data analytics to understand customer preferences and tailor our offerings accordingly.
Retail expansion plans for 2023?
While our expansion plans are dynamic and subject to market conditions, we have ambitious goals for opening new outlets in 2023. Our focus is not limited to specific tiers; we aim to cater to a diverse range of locations, including tier 1, 2, and 3 cities, based on demand and growth potential.
Where do you see the brand in two to three years?
In the next two to three years, we envision Chai Sutta Bar as a global brand known for its innovative tea offerings, sustainable practices, and commitment to quality. We aim to continue expanding our presence internationally while staying true to our roots and delivering an exceptional customer experience.