What were the major problems faced during the expansion of Chai Sutta Bar?

Every cafe franchise faces problems in its initial days. Some problems persist in their expansion mode or new problems arrive. 

But the fact remains – Problems exist! No startup or business owners can claim that they have not faced any challenges in their entrepreneurial journey. 

The most profitable startup in India – Chai Sutta Bar is no different than any other company in this matter. 

Every neighborhood and city has a well-known “nukkad” tea stall. And some of them have even progressed to serve savory foods like crunchy pakoras, spicy samosas, or a decadent bread-omelet combo along with the tea. 

The reason why friends get together every day to discuss politics, society, and the economy of the nation is “Nukkad ki chai.”

Chai Sutta Bar is a tea cafe franchise that upgraded this nukkad ki chai Dukan concept to a standard westernized cafe. Started in 2016, by two young entrepreneurs Anubhav Dubey and Anand Nayak, this cafe became synonymous with the most profitable tea chain in India. 

Cafe Franchise

Cafe Culture in India

Despite being present in India since the post-Colonial era, the “Café Culture” only catered to a restricted group of people. Even then, it is mostly for coffee lovers and not tea lovers. 

Till the 2000s, tea cafes were extremely rare in India. Even with the coming of multiple cafes in metropolitan cities, they tend to be out of reach for middle-class consumers. 

For any middle-class consumers, drinking tea for Rs. 250 is still a big deal. Even if the tea is of premium quality. 

Realizing the Market

Understanding the need of the market and also serving people like them, Anubhav and Anand invested their only investment in Chai Sutta Bar. Anubhav and Anand both have come to Indore for educational purposes just like others. 

Even though Anubhav does not drink tea, he knows all his friends do. Morning tea is almost a ritual in India. 

However, no one knows the quality and hygiene factors of Chai consumed outside. This is when the idea came to open a tea cafe franchise for India starting from Indore. 

The initial idea was to serve quality tea at a very affordable rate. However, the USP was still missing. It was then Mr. Dubey thought of using kulhad as their USP.

The traditional kulhad chai in a bar-like setting is quirky enough to attract youth. This proved right as now the brand has become the most successful cafe franchise in India. 

Challenges in the journey

1. Finance

Owners of cafes need enough money to cover daily expenses as well as their initial startup costs. However, Chai Sutta Bar started with just Rs. 3 lakhs as an investment. 

This was the entire savings of Anand Nayak’s family. As the duo did not have any other source of investment at that point of time. 

The budget in the initial days went out of control. It was the street-style jugaad that helped the duo to manage their franchise tea shop

Chai Sutta Bar even today has not taken any outside investment. They have used the franchise model as an investment and expansion method. 

Keeping the franchise cost of Chai Sutta Bar manageable and profitable, the cafe franchise has got quite brand success. 

Tip: With a low budget, prioritize what you need first before following the trends or whims. Cater to the needs of your customers which will increase the funding or your income.

2. Recruitment and Training

The main draws of a cafe are its menu and services. You require a talented chef whose recipes will draw people to the restaurant. Additionally, you need well-trained personnel whose friendliness and efficiency win over clients on a deeper level.

However, as a startup, we lack the funds to hire a chef or staff. In the initial days, everything from preparing tea to serving to marketing was done by Anubhav and Anand by themselves. 

It was Manoj, a local orphan, who became the first employee of Chai Sutta Bar. 

Even now one of the main concerns and obstacles in owning a cafe is finding and keeping good staff. Retaining employees is greatly aided by creating a positive workplace culture and providing benefits. 

Tip: In the initial days, hire someone who understands the nature of startups. Communicate with them about the initial problems of low salaries, irregularities, extra work, and beyond offer letter job descriptions.

3. Administrative Bottlenecks

This is one of the biggest problems faced by many businesses in India. It’s not as easy as it may seem to start a restaurant. 

You must deal with a number of policies and other bureaucratic principles before you can open for business.

When people started visiting Chai Sutta Bar, some of the surrounding people got curious. 

One day, the Narcotics Department raided the cafe with suspicion of them selling drugs. They thought the crowd was due to the illegal trade of drugs. 

However, when they did not get even a pack of cigarettes or sutta in the cafe, they had to leave. 

Tip: Look up all the regulations in your particular state or city, or get a consultant to assist you in navigating the bureaucracy. You can prevent future issues that restaurants may experience by taking the effort to obtain the appropriate certifications. 

Cafe Franchise

4. Enigma of Sutta

This is a new problem that the cafe franchise faced in recent times. While opening its new outlet, the brand faced an administrative issue with the word Sutta and Bar in Dubai. 

 The Gulf country has strict protocols regarding alcohol and tobacco consumption. Even though Chai Sutta Bar does not serve any of the products, it still faced issues. 

Many times, even customers get confused about whether the franchise tea shop sells cigarettes or not. To be frank, smoking and consuming alcohol is strictly prohibited in the premises of the cafe. 

Tip: Truthfully speaking, here we don’t know much about what tip to be given. Choosing a brand name is an important process. The more unique your brand name is the more you can attract your customers. And sometimes, some unfortunate setbacks!

5. Kulhad is boon and bane both

Don’t get us wrong as we have mentioned that Chai Sutta Bar is synonymous with kulhad chai. From the initial days, the USP of the cafe franchise is tea served in kulhads. 

However, kulhads are made up of burnt clay and they break quite easily. Everyday in Chai Sutta Bar, more than 4.5 lakh kulhads are used. 

The kulhads are customized and throughout the country as well as outside the cafe serve its beverages in the same design. This means that a stock of kulhads is regularly despatched from Indore to other areas in the country. 

Read Also, The Kulhad Man of India

Many kulhads get damaged even before their use. Also, kulhads can be used once only. This means a separate budget is designed for their procurement only. 

This is one of the challenges that the cafe franchise has continuously faced since its inception. 

Tip: Even Though kulhads create problems, it is a much better alternative to plastic. Chai Sutta Bar has always worked for sustainable solutions and kulhad is the answer to it. 

Teaching staff to handle them with care is one tip that we have been following. Also making everyone understand the efforts a potter gives to make one single kulhad helped us in a long way. 

In Conclusion

There will undoubtedly be times in our lives when we must overcome problems, but the real issue is how we develop and learn from doing so. Any franchise business will have problems and the real deal is to accept the challenge and overcome them. 

Chai Sutta Bar has also faced these challenges and many others as well. We have always believed in moving forward and learning from everything. Each problem that we faced taught us how to survive and succeed. 



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