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    The 'India Runs On Chai' Fiasco

    Deep Shah
    Sep 13, '18 1:14 PM EST

    Hey everyone, warm greetings this midnight with a cup of cappuccino besides me. Hope you all are doing fantastic and if not, hold on tight and hang in there...everything is going to be just fine!

    In the background playing is the amazing DJ set by none other than Roger shah. He played this at the dream state SoCal in 2017. Tune in to this on SoundCloud to enjoy the trip of this amazing collection of Balearic tunes as I did while writing this post.

    So tonight, I would like to share a thought process with you which, in a way gives a slightly different lens to perceive ‘the new normal’ of Indian entrepreneurship.

    When I first started living in Bangalore on the onset of summer in 2015, we were yet to have services as swiggy, Zomato, porter, dunzo or chai point etc. at our disposal and uber/ola had just entered the market a few months back. It was a different life altogether just 3.5 years back! How and what changed so fast that I am inclined to put an exclamation mark. While it’s fascinating to live this change, lets dive into it and discover certain aspects of these transformations which go unseen and unheard off but often do have major consequences.

    While these so called ‘start ups’ have been phenomenally successful and life transforming in mega cities across the world, I would like to bring your attention to the context relevant to us - India and Indian megapolis. With the unprecedented growth and in the mad rush we are developing it, looks like the page 3 celebrations of all these successful ventures have over shadowed their realities which we fail to observe in the jist of mundane lives we live, after all, “ Deep, I aint got no time man...and these services are helping me move an inch closer to what I really want to do ...” wouldn’t that be your immediate reaction ? Well maybe...but for someone it is completely snatching away some one’s livelihood.

    How is that, you may ask?

    That’s where we come to what I call “The India runs on chai fiasco”.

    So, you see, chai is something which comes before any religion, caste, race or any god damn thing for us as Indians, it is too big to die out or be scrapped away. It is the ‘somras’ (didn’t understand? flip through the amazing book - brave new world by Aldous Huxley, and hey... don’t forget to thank me later for suggesting the same; P) of our contemporary times. After all, India does run on chai, as the one liner of one leading chai venture screams on each cup in which they sell chai to you.

    The point is very simple, someone wanted to sell chai and bring chai closer to the customer in a more up designed, packaged way, which leaves you with the maza aa gaya effect while you still wait to lick the last drop of your - the most famous ginger chai.

    Nothing wrong in doing that right?

    So, what is the so called ‘fiasco’ that I am talking about?

    Let’s dig deeper ...

    Chai in general varies from Raju bhai in Johnson market at 7 am, to ram das in Langford garden at 10 am, to Harsha on church street at 2 am, to Suresh in Shivajinagar at 4 am and this by the way is a mention of areas in downtown Bangalore within a radius just of 5 kms or so. Can you imagine the diversity we have in the taste and the variety in chai itself in just one area, now just pan out a little and relate it to Bangalore urban area scale and you will find 100 different varieties and tastes of tea, pan out a little further and you get regional taste in tea, pan out more and you get a different flavor of tea in each state of India! Chuck all that... it differs in a house from person to person who makes chai.

    I still remember, when I used travel in train from Baroda to Indore, it was a ritual to get up in the middle of the night just to have chai at Ratlam station. It is amazingly refreshing to me. The quantity of water they use in Madhya Pradesh to make chai is very different to that they use in Gujarat. In Mumbai if you go to hanuman road in Parle and raja ram Mohan Roy road on charni road, you will find the exact tea one is used to having opposite to IIM Ahmedabad or on MSU Baroda hostel entrance and why does this phenomenon exist? because these specific areas of Mumbai have higher density of Gujarati’s. Step into Santacruz or Dadar and see how taste of chai dramatically changes.

    So, you see this social character for a simple thing as chai has a deeper connection to our culture, society and majorly impacts our social diaspora.

    Now, when you have these chai point sort of concepts popping in each city, Blr has chai point, Mumbai has chaayoz and tea villa etc., what is happening at grassroot level is that you are wiping out a complete chapter of an Indian way of existing and socially engaging.

    I am sure you all remember the discussions over a chai at some Raju bhai in your area or street. What happened after you started having tea at a chai point or a similar place?

    Leave that, what happened to the Raju bhai’s across Blr, Mumbai, Delhi, etc.?



    Because you and I decided to have 10 Rs ka kadak masala chai at 60 Rs in a paper cup made in a machine mostly made from milk powder and a STANDARDIZED method and everyday taste of chai.

    Areh yaar boss, aaj chai mein shakkar kam hona bhi ek discussion tha or raju bhai aaj chai mein woh maza nahi hai ya aaj to maza aa gaya raju bhai kya chai hai...

    IT ALL WENT DOWN THE DRAIN came to filling forms and feedbacks and kripiya intezaar kijiye aapki call Qatar mein hai…The whole human interaction aspect became process oriented.

    Now, that I might be making somewhat sense to your brains, this phenomenon is applicable to all aspects of packaged consumerism we are so subtly put across with huge budgets and massive spending these corporations do on marketing to reach out to YOU.

    Imagine if that money was spent to train these Raju bhai’s in each area to upgrade themselves on a professional level, let’s say speaking English, or serving methods or whatever, what would have happened was, you would have not KICKED them out and left them stranded, you would have trained the same guys to make profit for you, you would have still had the richness and variety of each place LOCAL to its context.

    I guess the concept of think global and act local is highly misunderstood by these highly talented people who develop these ideas and all venture capitalists who dump their money in this to get double the return in 2 years’ time.

    I say hats off to all this thinking and energy put into developing these concepts, it is remarkable... all I ask is for us as the informed and educated mass is to be more responsible, socially sensitive and accommodative/inclusive when coming with these concepts. We live in a time where we have the power to support each other and grow together, by doing what has been done in the mentioned scenario, we are completely removing a whole lot of segment whose daily life depends on it, just to kill the competition. It really doesn’t work in the long run, because ‘what goes around comes around’.

    Imagine a scenario, where a startup of similar kind would have analyzed the tea sellers on each street, included them in this vision, gave them a part to play, and socially engineered this idea, the tea seller would have started earning as much as the ola or uber guys do, there would still be beautiful local variety and taste to chai, to top it all these ventures would have earned double they earn now !

    ... but today he must do something else or go back to his village....and be simply everything for all of us goes on...another day ...another chai...because ...

    India runs on chai...

    Seems a little off to me.

    We all are trying to be exclusive today, it is a byproduct of growing up in a consumer-oriented world, be it on an individual level or on a company level, what we are forgetting, and these marketing strategies make sure we forget is that, our strength as a society, as a rooted culture has always been INCLUSIVITY.

    Let’s discover the possibilities to socially engineer innovation with the use of contemporary technology available to us at our disposal locally and help each other grow in a positive spirit and I am sure this thing I refer to as a fiasco would turn into a truly great model for the whole nation and an example to the world that we are not ‘westernizing’ we are defining our own definition of contemporary while still remembering who we are !

    Hence, I urge all of us to look deeper into things and - ‘We must Remember who We are!

    Let me know your comments and thoughts on the same.

    Have great day.

    Until next time.

    Stay Tuned to the blog/post - Up next is a piece on ‘Contemporary trends.

    Note: All views and opinions expressed are solely mine and are investigative in nature. In no sense do they intend to hurt or question anybody’s or any organizations way of working, sentiments or defamation, it is only incidental and a piece to express certain phenomenon’s and realities of our contemporary times.


    • Bhadra

      That was an amazing blog post! Very thought provocative. As you mentioned about think global and act local being misunderstood, that tickled my brain and I feel it's not just about misunderstanding but it's also about the latest fashion n trends. If you see the latest pattern most of them prefer the high end costly products either because they feel safe buying it or just feel investing on the latter would make them look cheap. I've seen both types. So people who prefer the roadside chaiwala's chai or the roadside chaat would either look cheap or careless about their health. So some people who aren't really interested to buy from these chai points, swiggy, etc. are forced to buy just so that they can dodge those judgmental comments. This is one of the few points I thought about after reading your blog. Thank you so much for that. Keep writing!

      Sep 14, 18 1:22 am  · 

      "all I ask is for us as the informed and educated mass is to be more responsible, socially sensitive and accommodative/inclusive when coming with these concepts"

      I love your hopeful attitude. Truly. 

      Sep 14, 18 8:18 pm  · 

      The same sentence that SneakyPete posted above is the one that jumped out to me, too.

      This was a wonderful essay! Good questions and concerns. 

      Sep 16, 18 9:25 am  · 

      Wherever you look you can see this same pattern around the world. Real human values and culture at every level are sacrificed to the Profit Gods.

      The real question is: what are we going to do about it?

      Sep 23, 18 12:21 pm  · 

      What an absolutely though-provoking piece which I'm so glad I chanced upon!

      Wish it could be presented on a wider platform.

      Its so painful to see so many of our quaint and beautiful traditional crafts and practices  languish or die  at the alter of  'modernity' & commercialization...!

      Aug 14, 20 10:27 am  · 

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This is something I intend to start as a platform to express my perception and interaction with architecture where by using my thoughts, observations, photos i click etc as a medium to express on frequent basis.

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