On the road outside Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in the Uttar Pradesh capital, it’s hard to miss a tea shop. Not because the beverage it sells is out of the world, but for its signboard: Graduate Chaiwale.
Owned and managed by three graduate brothers in their 20s, the small stall is a marker of the growing enthusiasm for small-scale entrepreneurship as well as a response to years of struggle against poverty.
“Running my own business is a better idea than working for someone else. I couldn’t afford to start a big business, so I thought it would be better to start with a small one,” says 25-year-old Govind Tripathi, who started the tea stall in August.
The eldest of three brothers worked at Lucknow-based call centres after graduating in computer applications from IGNOU in 2012. But the pay wasn’t worth it, hardly enough to meet surmounting family expenses.
Father Satish Chandra Tripathi, a resident of Hardoi, is jobless and battling a legal case ever since he was suspended from the state road transport corporation in 1996. Mother Aparna, too, was denied a job in a government primary school on compensatory grounds following the untimely death of his schoolteacher-grandmother.
“The degree was not of much help. For better jobs you need to know English, which we didn’t because of our background,” Govind says.
When his brothers — 23-year-old Gopal and Madhav, 21 —graduated from ASBD Memorial College in Hardoi this year, they were sucked into a similar fate.
“They were initially reluctant after I discussed the idea of a tea stall. But I convinced them, it was not a bad idea for financial stability,” Govind says.
The shop fetches them about Rs 350-400 a day after deducting material and operational costs — much more than what Govind used to get at call centres. “I was getting about Rs 5,000 a month. The workload was unbearable and salary irregular.”
In the meantime, Govind found the job of a water plant supervisor in Takrohi — quite an achievement in India’s most populous state which, according to a National Sample Survey Organisation report, will have 10 million unemployed youth by 2017. His younger brothers are preparing for the civil services and bank recruitments exams.
The “Graduate” in the shop’s name reflects the brothers’ idea of trying to be different in a small-time business, considered a stepping stone for big things, as well as their frustration in not getting a decent job.
The siblings now take turns to run the shop. “When we have enough money, we will start a chain of tea stalls in the city,” says an optimistic Govind.
Many years ago, a young man from a humble background sold tea by a railroad in Gujarat and displayed similar optimism. Narendra Modi went on to become the Prime Minister. Time will tell where Graduate Chaiwale will go.