Want, career and conversation

By Shubhangi Shah

The ‘chaiwala-oriented-prime minister’ story may be selling, but a number of entrepreneurs in the country are now selling the same product (tea, not the story) and taking it one step further, but with a twist. So, in the past, if there were tea-sellers who had an MBA or an engineer – and their stories inspired us – now, our undergraduates and graduates are holding their academic or professional degrees (even if they don’t have one) in their business name. And different from the crowd.

It all started with Prafulla Billore, the entrepreneur and the brains behind ‘MBA Chaiwala’. Although he hails from Madhya Pradesh, he set up his tea stall in Gujarat, a state famous for another Chawla.

Billor first got into business in 2017 when he set up a Chai Ka Thela (tea stall) on the SG Highway in Ahmedabad. For five years, it has multiple outlets across India with a turnover of Rs 4 crore. Previously, it was an MBA degree that guarantees an eight-digit salary check. Now you don’t even need that degree to get the number. In ‘MBA Chaiwala’, ‘MBA’ does not mean Master of Business Administration, but ‘Mr. Billore Ahmedabad’. In fact, Billo never finished that degree and never dropped out mid-term.

But did ‘Mr. Billore Ahmedabad Chaiwala’ catch the same number of eyeballs as ‘MBA Chaiwala’? Enough to tell the story of Monica herself.

Bilour’s success seems to have inspired many. At least in India the sheer number of operating businesses with similar names seems to suggest so. Just Google the MBA, BTech, BCom or any other seeker, and you will find one nearby.

While it was his drive to become the master that drove Billore into the business, the reason for losing the coveted-induced job was that Kerala wanted BTech. Again, the name itself leaves it that it is run by technologists. Located in the Kollam district of the southern state, BTech Chai, run by Anandu, Mohammad Shafi and his brother Shanavas সকল all engineers র্ব boasts 50 flavored teas. Think of an ingredient from classic Bombay ‘cutting tea’ to ‘blue tea’ to chocolate and even something called organic ‘egg-milk tea’ and these engineers have made a tea from it. Their logo is also quite interesting. It has a classic bag (car) embossed on top of both a cup of tea and a black graduation hat.

Although the tea business is full of wala (men), it is not free from wali (women) either. Family pressure to get a government job did not dampen the interest of 26-year-old Tuktuki Das in owning a business. So MA English Chaiwali was born on a platform at Habra railway station in West Bengal. The presence of high customers explains the location, and the resonant tea-cafe chain Chaos with Das explains the product. So what’s the name? “Well, there was already a Chai Wali. So that option was out, ”he says.

Das praised MBA Chaiwala as the inspiration behind the name. “If you want to grow your business, you have to show your business,” he says

“I could just be an MA chaiwali. Do you know why I gave English? “He asked.” To tap into the English obsession of India, “Das replied quickly.

It is not just tea that is selling these grades and post-grades. Whether it’s local veggies, exotic-local samosas, or above all exotic pizza, you name the food and they’re selling it. Also, the (degree / product) phenomenon is not just an Indian thing and it has crossed borders. You can get MBA Vada Pav in Islamabad, the capital city of neighboring Pakistan.

Talking about unemployment in 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi infamously said, “If a person earns Rs 200 at the end of the day by selling pakoras (snacks), will it be considered as employment or not?” The comment not only drew widespread criticism but also gave rise to the term ‘pakodanomics’. Who knew that some people would give new meaning to those (disrespectful) comments?

While MBAs and technicians are selling countless food items, want is at the core. And why not? In a land of diversity, this drink is what unites us. From feeding guests from the beginning of the day to meeting friends, at home, on the side of the road or in cafes, want everywhere. This is one of the few British legacies we don’t think of.

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