-Aishwarya Jayan Menon (email@example.com)
Tea had never needed an introduction in India. It has made its prominent place in the country as well as in the people’s heart from the past three centuries! Chai has not been just a business, it has always been an emotion!Tea chains in India have hence constantly come up with innovative ideas to put the market to good use. Over time, cafés have been facing tough competition in the same to survive in the consumer market. On a fine warm day in 2020, who knew the pandemic would disrupt our harmonious life, tumbling everything over? With the pandemic hitting abruptly in the last three years, the café business was one of the industries that took a hard blow.
While we are still recovering, let’s look at some insights from the conversations we had from owners of some of the best cafes in India regarding issues they faced in the pandemic hit and how they managed to pull through wonderfully!
Speaking on the same, Vandita Purohit, Founder, Mauji Time Café in Pune, that came up with the innovative concept of paying on basis of the time spent in the café, feelsthat things have changed drastically, both positively and negatively. People now, are wanting to step out more often than before. But at the same time, it has become an expensive affair in terms of operations, management, procuring raw material, & thereby increasing the general pricing for the consumers has become necessary. She feels that this sometimes creates an issue for the industry in terms of proving the value for money to its target audience, and we often sense a mismatch of understanding and difficulty in explaining or justifying the inflated rates. I also feel, post pandemic, while masses are more interested in trying out new things and looking for unique experiences, retaining good talent seems more challenging.
The pandemic revealed resiliency in the tea and coffee industries as companies changed their delivery channels to remain active in the market. It was a time of innovation and agility, with manufacturers placing close attention to their markets’ needs and discovering new ways to connect with consumers. With delivery channels going down as well, the future of these businesses seemed blurry and grey. In the light of this situation, Carlos Noronha Jr., Executive Director – Caravela Cafe & Bistro Goa, which is the heart of Goa, and which has their own blend of Latin Quarter coffee identifies and brings ahead new threats that they had observed and quoted that:
“We were one of the first cafes to completely bar entry and allow only takeaways and deliveries in the first two phases of the pandemic. The pandemic pushed us to put the safety of our staff and guests above all else and we continue to maintain very high standards of hygiene at all our outlets.I think cafes have transformed into omnichannel business ideas due to the pandemic-induced slowdown in footfall”
With their constantly evolving ideas like serving food and coffee, stock organic products like honey, jams & concentrates etc from their partner brand Ainmane from Coorg and sell their own coffee products at all outlets as well as online, where they want to establish Caravela as an authentic brand.
Eventhough boucing back to business was difficult, it was the constant love for chai from consumers and their authenticity that has helped these tea businesses to get back on track with perseverence and ample determination. Hospitality had also suffered a major blow in loss. Commenting further on this, Gaurav Saria, director of INFINITEA café, Bangalore, comments: “Hospitality has a failure rate of 99%, worldwide. Post pandemic this has become 99.99% due to various factors like disrupted supply chain. Also, most humans tend to change internally when exposed to long term trauma. Corona has rendered the humans working in services businesses completely shattered. Moreover, No support from any government/civic agency was the biggest hindrance. All departments have collected bills and taxes even when we were not having business. Apathy from civic agencies was the worst thing we had to deal with. 2 years of trauma will take at least 2 years to get back to normal. Training the team again and rebuilding the entire supply chain took a lot of work.”
With very minimal or even no support from the sources, and with added disadvantages of losing staff, keeping back brand names was a very crucial task. While the period of damage was longer than imagined, the time for recovery persists. These entrepreneurs have indeed strived to achieve the best in their line of work. Even though the uncertainty for another wave may continue, anticipation is not a solution. If another situation like this ever comes, we’ve got these professionals being prepared to face it, from the lessons they have learnt. Speaking on the same, Ms. Roopanshi Bhatt, Co-founder of Tea villacafé, says that: “An entrepreneur knows themselves to run their business well, it’s ok to make mistakes and it’s good as we do learn from our mistakes just make sure we don’t repeat it that’s the best mantra for success. For better business just don’t give up in any situation as today there could be dark clouds but sun will shine back one day just have faith in yourself.”
While we believe we have faced the worst hit the Food & Beverage field can face, we still are anxious about the future to come. But one thing is for sure: Be it rains or sun; a breakup or a date, a cup of chai will always have a special place in the Indian society.
From what these accomplished café owners have said, they have played a vital role in saving the love and interest of our beloved chai consumption history. The cafe industry, especially tea businesses had taken quite a blow during the pandemic but their perseverance and ability to creatively get back the market has made them strive to the place they have come today, from normal chai to the most interesting flavours of tea for the curious man’s tastebuds to fit different vegan preferences, they have constantly set the mark high.
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