FPJ Interview: A cup full of dreams with cutting chai

Sherine RajUpdated: Sunday, May 29, 2022, 12:13 AM IST
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FPJ Interview: A cup full of dreams with cutting chai | FPJ

As the world last week celebrated International Tea Day with fancy flavours, India (and its buzzing financial capital, Mumbai) enjoyed chai like every other day. Mohammad Aslam Siddiqui, a 30-year-old tea vendor, came to Mumbai from his village in Uttar Pradesh at a very young age with his father as he wanted to start a business here. The tea-drinking culture of Mumbaikars inspired him to take up the ‘cutting chai’ business.

Why did you decide to sell tea?

My father used to sell pav, but I had a special fondness for Mumbai’s cutting chai and so I decided to start my own stall at the age of 17.

How did you learn to make it?

To understand the cutting chai business, I worked at a stall for almost a year and learnt how to prepare tea, coffee and black tea. I learnt the peak timings of sale, the ingredients used, the profit and loss mental sheets. I love Mumbai and the Maharashtrian style tea; the cutting chai being the most famous. I like to make it and see the joy on people’s faces when they like the taste and appreciate it. I have to be consistent in the recipe, so that it tastes the same every day.

For how long have you been selling tea and where? How much do you charge?

I sell every cutting for Rs 10 and the special chai for Rs 14. The special chai just has a little extra milk in it.I have been selling tea for almost 13 years now at the same spot, Nariman Point, outside the Free Press House. I do have regular customers and the crowd is good, so it’s easier to work here.

Who are your customers and what are the peak hours of business? How much tea do you sell in a day?In a day, I sell around 15 litres of tea, starting from 6 am with cab and bus drivers as main customers. As the day grows, office-goers start trickling in. Then the sale goes on throughout the day, but 3 pm-6 pm is the next peak time when we see more customers coming to have tea and getting refreshed before going back to work.

How much profit do you earn?

I make around Rs 17,000-Rs 20,000 profit at the end of the month after setting aside the ingredients’ cost and the staff wages. I have employed two boys who handle the stall in my absence.

Who do you have in your family? How did the Covid-19 lockdown situation affect you?

I got married recently; I don’t have any children yet. During the lockdown, we faced a lot of problems as we couldn’t continue our business. I went back to my village along with my family and somehow survived until things started opening up again. I also travelled back and forth a few times to check how the situation was and if we could come back.

Are you planning to expand your business? What is your next move?

My main goal right now is to take care of my family, get back to business full-fledged, increase the profit margin and make up for all the losses. I want to give a good life to my wife and children, which means I have to work hard and I will do it. Before the lockdown, I used to sell bun maska as well with the tea but stopped it as there were no customers. But now the business is picking up again so I will reintroduce it with my cutting chai.

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