Hyderabad: Never say never, because you never know how one random decision can change your life! This describes 21-year-old Praful Billore perfectly, who dropped out of an MBA course in Ahmedabad and decided to start selling tea.
Praful, hailing from Madhya Pradesh, wanted to study at IIM, Ahmedabad. The lucrative job offers that MBA graduates received attracted the 21-year-old boy. During his graduation in commerce, he earned Rs 25,000 a month as an Amway salesman and pursuing MBA only seemed a viable option. But he could not crack the CAT (Common Admission Test) exams.
This left him disappointed and frustrated. He then 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.
To sustain himself, he got a job at a restaurant, which did not go well with his parents as they first wanted him to get degree. So, while working, he enrolled himself in a local MBA college.
Three months after working at McDonald’s, he decided to start something of his own, a tea stall as he believed in the idea of ‘Dream Big, Start Small, and Act Now’. With an loan of Rs 8,000 from his father he started his business and named his tea stall MBA Chai wala. On July 25, 2017, he started his business. To make his stall look different, he served tea in earthen cups along with a toast and tissue paper. He sold the combo at a minimal price of Rs 30.
While speaking to The Official Humans of Bombay, he said, “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.”
Praful would approach people encouraging them to try tea at his stall. His fluency in English helped him. Within a month he was selling 10,000-11,000 cups daily.
He organised an open mic and book drives to attract the audience. But it was on Valentine’s Day, his café 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.
He also firmly believes in the power a good cup of chai, he said, “It’s the country’s favourite drink. And honestly, there’s nothing that a conversation over a kadak cup of chai can’t fix!”