Getting Real: Teasta, The Tea Shop
Stories About Profitable & Sustainable Businesses
As I was chatting with a regular Tea Shop visitor, Captain Mehra entered the tea shop. He greeted his regular visitors. He thanked new customers for coming to his 2nd location. In 20 years Mr. Mehra has opened only two outlets. His tiny shop enjoys cult status in Noida.
Businessman at 55
He reminds me of Ray Croc, the founder of Mcdonald’s. Like Mr. Mehra he also started Macdonald’s at age 53. Similarities end here.
Unlike Croc, who was already a businessman, Mr. Mehra had worked in army and a British trading company; Jardine Henderson.
He celebrated his 75th birthday last month.
Initial investment of INR 25,000
After retiring, he decided not to retire. He launched Teasta in 1996, with his savings. He doesn’t remember the exact amount.
It sold tea leaves, brewed tea and some eatables.
Family as employees
His wife and two kids helped him. Mrs. Mehra delivered leaves to people’s houses. They put up their stalls in fairs and exhibitions. They cleaned dishes and brewed tea.
Today 11 people work there. Mr. Narayan is the senior most and trusted employee. He has been working with them since 1999.
Out-teach your competitors
At first no one wanted to drink black tea or green tea. So, they educated their customers with cupping and tasting classes. With time people realised that they were drinking the champagne of teas, at fraction of the cost. They used to sell tea at INR 6 in 1996.
Most of the offerings are affordable. Students and young professionals love it.
20 years old and going strong
Thousands of tea lovers. I met Kanika (a merchandiser) with her friend. She visited it first ten years ago. Another regular Aamir ( lawyer) is regular since 2011. He was with a first time visitor. New tea lover ( nutritionist) was happy to see healthy options.
- It employs 11 people.
- It serves upto a thousand customers every day.
- Average order is for INR 100.
- Daily sales could be around INR 100,000 ( from the number of visitors and average order).
2nd shop in sector 46, Noida. They resisted when everyone was expanding around them.
Within two months of opening the shop, the footfalls in the new market has grown many fold.
Expect twenty years full of millions of cups of tea.
Catalyst for other businesses:
It also inspired others to open eateries in the market.
At their first location five eateries are up and running.
- Bistro; a continental kiosk serving pasta and sandwiches.
- Al Bake; serving shwarma.
- Waffles & Crapes ; a hole in the wall shop.
- Aisan Fun; Pan Asian shop.
- Thee Pot; copy of the original.
- Complete list
At their new location in sector 46 we met their neighbour Priyanka.
She runs Hash House, a modern Italian food.
She has been their customers for years. And, Captain Mehra inspired her to open a cafe.
One small business inspiring scores of others.
Success mantra of Captain Mehra:
1. Why did you start the shop?
Captain Mehra: I did not want to retire. I wanted to keep working.
2. How much did you invest to start the shop?
Captain Mehra: I had retired with small savings. Also, we did not want to lose money. So, we invested as little as possible.
3. What do you think people like the most about your shop?
Captain Mehra: My bubbly nature and my wife’s strict nature. She has taken unruly students to task for misbehaving.
4. Any special memory about the journey?
Captain Mehra: NDTV invited me to tell people how they should keep working even beyond 65 years of age. It was a proud moment.
5. Any message to people who want to start a business.
Captain Mehra:5 Things
- Listen to your customers always.
- Start small. Worry about losses.
- Do not give up.
- Get your hands dirty.
- Don’t crib. Leave your ego behind.
6. What’s the future plans?
Captain Mehra: Keep working. What else?