Building India's Most Loved Chai Chain

27th February 2023
Deepak Gaur, Nitin Saluja
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Episode Description

In this episode, Deepak Gaur (Partner, Elevation Capital) speaks to Nitin Saluja (Co-Founder & CEO, Chaayos) on his journey of building Chaayos, India’s most loved & largest tea cafe chain.

Nitin started Chaayos in 2012 with the core insight that getting consistently good quality tea outside home in a hygienic environment was a regular struggle for consumers. While a bunch of organized players had started entering India with coffee as the primary beverage, tea is the beverage of choice for India, and therefore starting a tea-cafe chain felt obvious to him back then. With a focus on supreme quality, and by keeping personalization at its core, Chaayos has found fantastic consumer acceptance, and the company has now scaled to 200+ outlets across 6 cities in India. By leveraging technology across the value chain, from delivering consistently personalized chai across outlets through Chai Bots to building a very sophisticated loyalty engine & measuring retention cohorts in an offline business, Chaayos is demonstrating how new-age QSRs can be built out of India.

Listen to Nitin as he talks about Chaayos’ genesis, early journey, scaling up, and dreaming big. Nitin also covers the framework he used to narrow down the problem statement, his experiments to achieve PMF, the depth-first approach to outlet expansion, and building the right team.

Episode Summary

00:16 - Introduction to Chaayos

00:56 - Genesis of thought of building a tea cafe chain; initial research framework and learnings

04:43 - Defining the vision and goals

06:44 - Positive surprises in the early days and finding PMF

09:45 - Thinking through operations scale-up, setting the basics right and discovering core strengths

14:03 - Boundary conditions through the menu development journey

16:31 - Thought process behind depth-first in a few cities (versus going breadth-first)

18:16 - Evolution of the team as the journey progressed and leveraging technology meaningfully in an F&B business to ensure customer delight

23:18 - Retaining a consistently healthy culture and customer experience across such a large number of outlets

26:08 - What keeps Nitin motivated in this journey

29:14 - Way forward for Chaayos and building the chai culture

31:00 - Nitin shares his learnings with early founders - the importance of dreaming big, being debt-free, building a solid team and being perseverent