Remember the story of two salesmen who land up in a country where no one wears shoes? One calls home and says that he is returning by the next flight since he had no business in that territory. The second man is ecstatic and tells his wife that he can sell footwear to everyone since nobody has worn a shoe before.
Darshan Dashani certainly belongs to the second kind.
A tea seller from Gujarat, Darshan has not only achieved a Usain Bolt-style print, notching up a string of 170 outlets in eight years in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, but has also made a success of a tea stall in Rajkot, a region without a culture of drinking tea.
To popularise the first outlet of Tea Post in Rajkot, Dashani used the bait of free wi-fi. Like insects around a fire, customers flocked to his tea stall for the wifi and fell for the brew giving him a profit of Rs 79,000 in the very first month.
Interestingly, Dashani, the entrepreneur, made a remarkable switch from real estate from tea – from brick and mortar to flavour and brew. But his first attempt to brew profits landed him in a mess. He bought a 1,000-acre tea estate in north Bengal but had to exit it after burning a hole in his pocket. That was 2006.
But his love for the cup that cheers did not abandon Dashani and in 2013, he decided to launch Tea Post. In India, tea is not just a drink but is enmeshed with popular culture as in Japan and China.
From the outset, Dashani began offering his customers an ambience instead of a simple cost-effective kick to tired minds and nerves.
Apart from free wi-fi, he also offered them a nice, hygienic ambience complete with light snacks and newspapers, magazines and occasional events and music. However, despite numerous requests from his patrons, Dashani stuck to his canons of not allowing smoking in his outlets.
His idea was to transform the unorganised tea stall into an organised chain that was not the run-of-the mill coffee joint.
However, humble Dashani never forgets to mention how the idea struck him in 2011 when he met a roadside tea stall owner.
Dashani and his partners often used to gather near a tea cart to discuss about their business, and one fine day while he was sipping tea, Dashani met the owner of a neighbouring pav bhaji stall owner who wanted to sell his outlet for Rs 5 crore since he was reeling under losses.
In half jest, Dashani asked the roadside tea vendor next to the pav bhaji to that shop, to which pat came the reply, “I am ready to give up for Rs 4.80 crore. You seal the deal for me.”
The tea vendor’s prompt reply left Dashani wondering that if a humble vendor on the pavement earned enough money to buy a shop worth crores, he could also make a fortune form that business.
Dashani kicked off Tea Post’s first outlet for Rs 8 lakh. In the initial days, he would the manage the stalls on his own, braving the derision people would pile on him. He nurtured a dream to open a chain of 100 outlets.
His idea was to sell 1 lakh cups of tea every day and make Re 1 from each.
His business model became so successful that 57 outlets were opened in just two years. Now Dashani gets flooded with requests from strangers to give them franchisees of Tea Post eager for a share of the profit-making brew.
Indian cities are dotted with standalone tea stalls that have attained iconic status in their restricted geographies but their owners have never expanded into a big time network of outlets.
On the country’s western belt that is a cradle of entrepreneurial culture, unassuming Dashani might be quietly brewing India’s first home-grown tea stall chain. Wait for Tea Post updates in future.
At another level, Dashani is also a rebel of sorts, a voice for poor, downtrodden tea — his Tea Post is a silent rebellion against the upstart café chains that dot the landscape of a country that is known as a land of tea.
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