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This Entrepreneur Is Paying An Ode To The Indian ‘Chaiwalas’

A Chef by profession and currently the Founder of Chefs@Work, a Hospitality Consultancy and the Founder of ‘Pappu Chaiwala,’ a Tea Café, Mr. Rajesh Gandhi shares his story with us. 

Here’s Mr. Rajneesh Gandhi story in his words.

The early years

I was working as the Acting Executive Chef at Leela Palace Bangalore and then one fine day a thought came in my head - after being the Exec Chef, what would be the next? How my life is going to be? And that’s when I decided to quit my job and start-up my own company as a Consultant. I wanted to do something of my own to have an existence, which is not really an option when you work in a corporate environment where you are working under someone and will always have limitations. 

From being an Hotelier to starting up

Ten Years back, Bangalore F&B market was moving fast and I realised that there’s lot of gap in the market when it comes to the back-end solutions. So, I thought of setting up my firm as a Consultant and help people in setting up restaurants where we can design everything from the scratch, creating the menu, designing the kitchen, hiring an equipped Chef and team members, do trails and trainings as per the tastes of the target audience and then finally open up the restaurant. Hence, Chefs@Work, a Hospitality Consultancy was commenced. For the past 12 years now, we have completed more than 70 projects and a few more are in the pipeline.

During the journey, a time came when I wanted to have a larger space for my office. So, along with my office I decided to have a baking school as a retirement plan. Unfortunately, the baking school wasn’t picking the way I had thought it would. That’s when I decided to start a tea cafeteria. Hence in April 2015, we launched “Pappu Chaiwala” which believes in putting things together. The culture of both my companies is family-oriented. I treat my team members as my family and I treat them with trust which is very important. Though you meet different kinds of people in life, no matter how they are trust is the key.

Why the name Pappu Chaiwala?

While the idea of Pappu Chaiwala was being incorporated, all the chefs from my consulting firm, Chefs@Work, and I together were deciding what should be the name of the brand. Everybody wanted to name the brand as Chefs@Work Café. The first thing I asked was what would we sell? They said ‘chai.’ Then I asked them what would be the selling price point of the brand? INR 20-25, they replied. So, my reply to them was, “if we use the word café people will have an impression of a pricey place, so let’s not call it a café, and we should name the brand something very ‘Desi.’ Hence, we decided to call it ‘Chaiwala.’ While we called the brand chaiwala, I felt that it wasn’t sounding complete as a brand name. We further thought and I told my team that in the North, you have these younger boys running around and giving tea to shopkeepers or car guys and they are typically not known by their real names, but are given pet names by their customers such as Chotu, Tillu, Raju. So, as an ode to these boys, we decide to name the brand “Pappu Chaiwala.” For the menu, we decided to have the dishes that go well with chai combined with the street foods of India. 

The challenges 

We face challenges only when there are strikes and shut downs because we have to close down for 3-4 days and we lose lot of business. So, on an average if you are doing x amount and in 4-5 days if you lose out it takes a hit on the entire business turnover. The other challenge is with GST, we don’t get any inputs. For example, I pay rental with 18% as service tax but as a restaurant owner, I don’t get any input out of it.

Talking about technology, we are in the age of advanced technology where aggregators are there and they play a very important role in our business because all the youngsters want to sit at home and order food at the least possible price and that’s another major challenge. In the race of getting more and more customers the aggregators have started doing everything possible to have a consumer database of their own which will help them raise funding for their company. Instead of making restaurants owners as their partners, they have started using them as another platform to source money. Another major challenge we face exclusive with Pappu Chaiwala is manpower. 

 Future Plans

Being a Consultancy, Chefs@Work will keep growing gradually because the nature of the business is very client driven. If clients like our work and financial proposals then they will choose us over the competition. Hence, I am not putting too much pressure on my consultancy firm. 

For Pappu Chaiwala, I keep debating within on whether we should or shouldn’t go for funding. In the next 5 years, we would like to have our brand presence felt in good locations and places so that people are able to realise our brand. We also want to be present globally.  

One message to the world

“In life if you can help someone to grow, at least one person, then that person will help another and the chain will continue, hence their life will change.”

Pallavi is a seasoned brand content publisher.For the last five years, she has been working with brands, developing their publishable content for their business ecosystem. At CF+, she is an articulator. She and her team are actively building brand communities. A journalist at heart believes the words have the power to change the world.


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