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Tapri chai, now at a website near you

Chotuchaiwala.com is a first-of-its-kind website to connect Bandra tea vendors who deliver tapri chai at your doorstep. Kareena Gianani meets the people who have revolutionised tea time in Mumbai

Hill Road chaiwaala, MV Prakash, watches over as tea bubbles over in a large pan on the stove. The dark ochre coloured drink swirls as he scoops some with a ladle, raises his arm above his shoulder and lets it fall merrily back into the pan. His rhythm is undisturbed until he gets a phone call.

Varun KR, who helped launch Chotu Chai Wala, with one of the five tea-stall owners at Linking Road who use the service. PIC/Pradeep Dhivar
Varun KR, who helped launch Chotu Chai Wala, with one of the five tea-stall owners at Linking Road who use the service. PIC/Pradeep Dhivar

Prakash grabs a chewed up pencil lying near the stove and scribbles on a notepad. Then, he pours tea, half filling seven fluted glasses.

Chotu Chai Wala
Varun KR with the chaiwala at Linking Road who takes orders for tea online, thanks to Chotuchaiwala.com, an online
chai-delivery service launched by Zepo. (Inset) Nitin Purswani, founder, Chotu Chai Wala. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

“Here,” he says, handing us the name of a website scrawled on a bit of paper, “this is my website. You could order chai from home or office now.”

Prakash, like four other chaiwaalas in Bandra, is listed on chotuchaiwala.com, where tea-crazed Mumbaikars can log in, subscribe to tea and get it delivered at their doorstep. It sounds too easy, and it is.

Five weeks ago, Chotu Chai Wala was launched by entrepreneurs at Zepo.in, an e-commerce website development platform. Nitin Purswani, its 25-year-old founder, says it was when he was holding a tapri chai in his hand that he did a double take. He wondered how a drink so inseparable to Mumbai’s culture had no online presence. “Small businesses are going online, but no one had bothered to take the one beverage almost everybody has had brainwaves over. I wanted to experiment an unorganised sector can find a place online and leverage the space,” explains Purswani.

Purswani’s team for Chotuchaiwala, which includes 22-year-old Varun KR and Tanya Rao, decided to kickstart operations in Bandra because they wanted to tap one of the most Internet-savvy areas of the city. They visited several chaiwaalas to lure them online, but were only met with wary glances. “The first four chaiwaalas turned us down because the idea was too unusual for them. Later on, we met a few sellers who were excited and we worked out subscription plans and delivery details with them,” recollects Varun.

Users can log on to the website and choose between three subscription plans — weekly (Rs 70), bi-monthly (Rs 140) and monthly (Rs 280). After they pay (cash-on-delivery is acceptable, too), users can place the order via telephone or the website. The team at Zepo forwards the orders to the respective chaiwaalas through an SMS. The five chaiwaalas listed are based near National College, Hill Road, Linking Road, Bandra Post Office and Waterfield Road, and deliver up to a radius of two km. The website charges a minimal convenience fee which is used to give chaiwaalas T-shirts, caps, mugs and glasses. “We are not making a profit through Chotuchaiwala yet — this is an experiment to connect the chaiwaalas to their customers and study how we could help similar small businesses grow,” admits Purswani.

In a month, 60 users in Bandra have signed with Chotuchaiwala and over 750 cups of tea have been delivered. Purswani says he is heartened by the response and will expand the service to South Mumbai next, before reaching out to the rest of the city. He plans to include other unorganised sectors, too, and will soon start negotiations with a few paanwalas in Mumbai. “I am keen to take this service to Delhi, but we have observed that the capital isn’t as much into tapri chai as Mumbai is. We might pick up another beverage or food,” he says.

Did you know
Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, after water. This might be due to tea’s many health benefits — it contains antioxidants, has less caffeine than coffee and is known to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke

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