Uppma Virdi sells Indian tea to coffee-drinking Australians visits Mumbai
Entrepreneur Uppma Virdi talks about the joy of selling Indian tea to coffee-drinking Aussies, on her visit to the city
How did your venture Chai Walli happen? Did you at any stage have doubts that it would work in a largely coffee-drinking country?
The idea never struck me like a light bulb business idea moment. Chai is integral to India. Growing up as a first-generation migrant, it was important to strike a balance between the hybrid Indian-Australian I was. So, I took our beautiful chai and used it to share the rich Indian culture in Australia. When I started out, I had no intention of turning it into a business, I simply had a mission — I was a chai crusader saving Australia from bad chai. But life had other plans for me and has taken me on a roller coaster ride through entrepreneurship.
Who was your inspiration to take this forward?
My late grandfather. He was a doctor who specialised in Ayurvedic teas and homoeopathy. It was easy to be inspired by him. He was the most humble, hardworking, entrepreneurial and socially-minded man I have ever known. He made waves for women's empowerment in a time when women did not have any rights.
Will you be travelling across the country to taste new tea varieties?
I would love to, but I'm on a very tight schedule on this trip with the Australian Consulates. I currently have some amazing family-owned organic tea farms that I import from in India. However, I want to share more of India's delicious and organic herbs and spices. I'm passionate about supporting small businesses and strengthening the Indo-Australia relationship through trade. I would love to hear from specialised spice and herb farms across India and makers of chai utensils like chai glasses, kettles and pots.
Tell us about your favourite chai memories?
While studying law in Austria (Europe), I met a guy who was also studying law. We became friends after I invited him over to learn how to make chai while poring over our law notes. He was so intrigued by it that we would make chai together every day, using different exotic herbs and spices in the blend. After hundreds of chais shared with this guy, he is now my husband! My earliest memory is from childhood when my dad would wash his long hair and sit under the sun to read the newspaper. We would all gather around him where my mum would drink chai and share stories of life in India. We would go through many pots of chai listening to her. My most recent memory is of visiting Tulum in Mexico and teaching the locals how to make chai at a famous Indian restaurant there.
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