Four years ago, Praful Billore dropped out of an MBA course in Ahmedabad and decided to start selling tea. But it wasn't as easy as it might seem.
The 21-year-old took the Common Admission Test (CAT) exam but unfortunately couldn't crack it even after giving it his all. His marks were not enough to secure his admission to any of the prestigious colleges.
This left him devastated, as for Praful, like any other college student, having a set career held priority. Frustrated, he decided to take a gap & travel. But his parents wanted him to get a degree and weren't okay with him taking an off-year. So, he used up his internship savings and left.
He travelled across various states but finally decided to settle in Ahmedabad, and took a part-time job at McDonald's to sustain himself.
"One day, while having chai, I spoke to the chaiwala, his daily routine and the profit he made. I wanted to open my tapri. So, I immediately bought a patila, a lighter & a chalni," Billore told The Logical Indian.
He worked at the fast-food chain from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm and set up the stall later at 6:00 in the evening. A few months later, due to mounting family pressure, Billore left the job and enrolled himself for an MBA course in a local college in July 2017 but ran the stall side by side. His parents were unaware of his side business.
"Honestly, I was learning more like a cashier than as an MBA student."
He left the MBA course within 15 days of admission and started running his stall full-time. A resident of Madhya Pradesh, Billore was always keen on exploring other fields of interest and was clear-headed about owning a business.
"The first day was terrible–kabhi Dudh fatt Gaya, kabhi shakkar jyada ho gayi. I sold only 1 cup of tea. But this did not stop me from starting afresh. The next day was better, with chai as well as the sales. My parents were upset and said I brought 'shame' to my family. Even my friends said, 'Kahan MBA kar raha tha, kahan chai wala ban gaya?' But I couldn't give up! So, I distanced myself from everyone."
He ran the stall for two years, from 2017 to 2019. Later, he bought a shop nearby and opened his first cafe. Eventually, people started visiting his cafe regularly, and he earned over ₹30,000 from the second month of opening the cafe.
He organised an open mic and book drives to attract the audience. But it was on Valentine's Day, his cafe garnered a lot of attention. I gave 'free chai to singles' on Valentine's Day and it went viral. "Singles from all over travelled to my tapri," Billore said.
The name itself has a story behind it and is nowhere related to his pursuing the MBA course. He ran the stall with the name 'Mr. Billore'. People who visited him started calling him 'Mr. Billore from Ahmedabad', and that's when he abbreviated it and named his cafe - MBA Chaiwala.
People started inviting him to weddings to have the celebrated Chaiwala's tea. Eventually, his parents came around. "My parents were so proud. I am invited to IIMs for speeches. And the people who mocked me now ask me for advice. I tell them, 'The degree doesn't matter; the knowledge does.' I'm a full-time chai wala & I love what I do!" Billore said.
The business did take a hit during the COVID pandemic but this did not stop him from raising funds for people in need. Billore now holds franchises across the country, including Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Indore, Bhopal. He is hoping to further open a franchise in Mumbai in the coming week.
"I have organised events and donated single days of my earning to raise funds for people in need, someone who is in need of money for his son's treatment, raising funds for cancer patients and many more," Billore told us.
Billore had started a relief drive for the Kerala flood victims and donated around 2.5 lakhs. "I am more like a chaiwala who is living his dreams for India and its people."
He is currently based out of Ahmedabad and travels across other cafes.
Billore's message to the youth: "Our generation's current relationship with mobile phones needs to be utilised to its best. Instead of focusing on social feeds and inboxes, we must do something. We are a consumer country; we must utilise this factor as an opportunity."
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