A small tea stall in the heart of South Kolkata has been strongly disrupting the cafe culture that emerged in India over the last decade. How? Here’s a tale to tell.
Tea. Ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu described it as the elixir of life, while some describe each cup of it as representing an imaginary voyage. For Indians and especially Bengalis, it’s like, if you don’t succeed, use it as a balm for the soul. If you succeed, have a cup of it to celebrate and cherish the moment. This is the reason why Kolkata has been experiencing a plethora of tea cafes, some are owned by multinational chains, while the majority are standalone.
These tea cafes may be the go-to place for the urban intelligentsia and young couples and a wide spectrum of people, but one cannot ignore the roadside tea stalls. These small roadside tea stalls have become a signature of Calcutta culture. The city has changed its name to Kolkata, but the character and ambience of these tea stalls remain the same. However, uniqueness has been seeping in there as well. One such unique tea stall is Tripti Tea Stall.
Located at the heart of South Kolkata, near Rabindra Sarobar metro station, this standalone tea stall is no less than a startup. You may be wondering how a roadside standalone small tea stall becomes a startup, as in that case, even fuchka, telebhaja, pakora and paan shops too will become startups. The boy from South Kolkata, Vijay Shil, who owns Tripti Tea Stall thinks it otherwise. And he has his own reason too, which you cannot ignore. To understand why it is not just a mere tea stall like others, but a startup; one cannot fathom the depth of the word unless he or she visits the stall.
Like any startup, this tea stall and its owner are full of innovations. Instead of just a tea stall, the owner likes to call it a boutique tea stall, which is justified by the innovations he has made through his offerings.
From tea with saffron crumbs, to thick creamy Kesar malai. from suave urbane chocolate fusion to smooth ice tea. You can order basil or mint tea, Gujarati spice tea, Kashmiri Kawa, Hookah Iced Tea, Hot Chocolate Coffee, Chocolate Cake Ice-Cream, Chocolate Lassi with choco chips, Japanese green tea, ayurvedic tea laced with a wide variety of herbs and many more. A cup of Chafee can be your evening companion, bringing in a unique taste of tea and coffee together. The stall sells not only Darjeeling and Assam tea, but you will find Nilgiri and Sri Lankan tea as well.
Served in bhaad or decorated earthen cups, the wide spectrum of offerings comes with a unique range of toppings as well. Apart from the hot beverage and the usual little hearts, the chocolate coffee comes topped with an ice cream cone. Overall, there is no dearth of innovations at Vijay’s tea stall. He even claims that these innovations are the results of continuous research. Even now as well, he claims to be doing various researches on tea all day long. As you know, innovation is synonymous with startups.
Not just unique innovations, but Vijay’s business growth too has accelerated upwards constantly and that too at a time when other businesses have been facing lacklustre performance. Clearly, innovation and dedication are the recipes behind Vijay’s success. Besides the constant innovation, the businessman also has an urge for branding and scaling. He also is relentless in attempting to disrupt the conventional business of the current market. He is even thinking of opening a branch and scaling the business.
As Vijay says, he is aiming to disrupt the culture of tea cafes. In his opinion, Bengalis have been known for their age-old adda culture and that should not go behind the four walls of cafes. Instead, that can be continued on roadsides as well, if the quality and taste are not compromised.
It was not a pre-planned business for Vijay. Neither was an easy one. After completing high school, he couldn’t pursue further studies. Everyone in Vijay’s family is in business. He wanted to see if he could become self-reliant by taking a job somewhere. As Vijay says, he tried his luck in various companies. However, none of those seemed his cup of tea. And the key reason behind that has been his sense of freedom and dream of owning a business.
While serving tea to the customers, the tea startup founder was saying that he wanted to own a business, no matter how small it would be. He dreamt of making it big. This dream drove him to open his boutique tea stall near gate number 6 of Rabindra Sarobar metro station.
The tea stall may look like a simple one, but the USP lies in its innovative products and quality. It’s been nearly six years since Vijay started this stall and the popularity has been increasing with every passing day, which is proven by the thick crowd of customers visible every evening. The teal seller has mastered the technique of fusion without compromising the taste and quality of tea. There is uniqueness in the presentation as well. From designer menu cards to decorated earthen cups.
The number of items has been growing keeping pace with innovation and demands. One of the bestselling items in Tripti is chocolate tea. While the fusion offering is available at a premium in tea cafes, Vijay has been keeping the price affordable. Also, it comes with a wide range of toppings. The tea stall owner has been replicating the taste and quality of big tea cafes through his innovations. He claims this constant innovation is the USP of his offerings.
Every business needs a good marketing strategy to achieve growth. When it comes to marketing, there is no better strategy than word of mouth. Vijay’s success has relied majorly on this strategy. He used to let one or two customers taste his offering, which paved way for customer acquisition. Customers started pouring in after hearing from other people.
A startup is known not only for its products but for innovation and culture as well. Vijay, the tea seller has been paving the way for standalone tea stall startup culture by acing those traits.
Also Read: Indian cuisines: Heritage, evolution, influences, its killers, preservation and more