When Amuleek Singh Bijral, 35, quit a top MNC job in India to study at one of the world’s best B-schools, he didn’t imagine returning soon. “Studying at Harvard was a dream come true. I worked in Boston and Singapore but given India’s lucrative economy decided to come back and start my own business,” he says.
Bijral gave up his corporate job and turned entrepreneur last year. He raised money with the help of ‘professional angels’ as well as by dipping into his savings. Thus in March 2010 Chai Point was born in Bangalore: tea outlets serving hot and cold variants of the beverage priced at an average of R15.
His brick-and-mortar-food business required real estate, manpower and supply chain logistics. “Though the US rates higher on real estate and manpower — the greatest leveller in India are the
people. Chai is a mass consumption product so the size of the Indian market overruled everything else,” he says. The varied educational backgrounds and the vast population made it amenable for a business like his.
“In the US, the medical sector is growing because of the ageing population,” he says. The support system for start-ups is better developed there. “But the Indian story is attractive simply because market haath se na nikal jaye. Being an Indian, I’m going to start with India.”
So, why tea? “The working American is addicted to coffee. Everyone has done coffee. Chai is a green field area. The average working Indian drinks chai,” says Bijral.
The current earnings from the business are obviously less than what he was raking in from his corporate job , but the new entrepreneur is not complaining. Bijral has also imbibed American practices in the business. “We give employees stock options — an incentive to put in their best.” It seems to be working — Bijral’s chief financial officer, Tejas Chandra, quit his prestigious Goldman Sachs job to join him.
Target: Build Chai-Point as India’s first liquid chai brand aimed at the working Indian in tier-two cities.
Achievement: Started with one outlet in March 2010, grown to 40+ employees in 10 outlets in March 2011. Plans to double outlets by year-end and move to other cities by 2012.