1. What made you become an entrepreneur?
I’m Nirmal Raj. D Founder & TeaEO of Buddies café and DANJO Teas. My Journey of Tea was started from my childhood day; My Dad was a Tea Maker and Tea Taster in government tea factory INDCO 6 at Ooty. I lost him when I was 6 years old; my mom (Arockia Jothi) took the responsibility of the family, to rise up naughtiest kid. She got the job as a clerk in the same factory, with a salary of 1500 INR in 1996. When she used to take stocks day and night in the factory, I used to sleep over a warm gunny bag filled with teas; the aroma and warmness are the places where my dreams started.
2. How did you derive the concept for your business?
Buddies café was inaugurated in 2012 at Hopes with lots of hopes. I started this because I did not find the right place to have a good cup of tea. This was my Problem; to solve this I began my journey as an Entrepreneur with 15 varieties of Teas.
3. What is your mission at the outset?
In the beginning, we did not have any mission, our major Moto was to the server with a whole heart of joy. We made our cafe as simple as we could, we have a library, games and live music. We focused on Quality and Happy Customers instead of Interiors. We took 5 years to make our Outlet Air-conditioned. Now we have a mission after 5 years which we derived from the review we got.
“To be your second home while you are experiencing the finest teas served with love”
4. How old is your company?
We began our Journey on Aug. 29th, 2012 and we are about to start our 6 years of journey.
5. How critical is advertising for a business?
We never did any marketing so far, but we have got 1000’s of Friends & Buddies who are my customers. They were the only person we spoke & introduced Buddies cafe to others. About 90% of our customer comes through reference and word of mouth and we have more than 90% of retaining customers.
6. How do you see your company in the next 5 years?
We took a very long time to break the market but after 5 years we have opened 5 outlets, In the next 5, we will have more than 50+ outlets across India and worldwide. We will be creating opportunities for Women & First-generation Entrepreneurs and job opportunities to more than 400 Buddies as our Tea Brewers.
7. Why should people choose you?
It is not why should people choose us. It’s all their rights; we are one who loves to serve with our whole heart and love. Our Basic lesson to staff is to Be happy while you serve. Your happiness is the secret recipe for the best food. When we started to do these, people started to choose us.
8. What challenges do you face in your company?
Buddies café was inaugurated in 2012 at Hopes with lots of hopes. But nothing went as per plan. Being a first-generation entrepreneur we made lots of mistakes, the calculation we did on papers did not come up as revenue but it took a long year to achieve. Our café was just 100 sqft, we wished to serve the best tea with the best ambiance. Because of better ambiance, few customers thought our place would be costly, but in 2012 tea was sold at Rs.7 and in our café, freshly brewed teas were sold at Rs. 10. So after a few months of high rented space, we were forced to shift our café to a new location.
In 2013 we shifted our café to Peelamedu, Near PSGR Krishnammal College. Now the challenge was lack of funds, we already lost about 2 Lakh and now we had only 1.8 Lakh in hand. Advance given to the new place was 1.2 Lakh and on hand, we had just 60 K and this fund was only used to make godown to the proper structure. we could not do anything for Interior, So we just start with limestone wash, tube lights, and Hanging fans, along with 4 tables 16 chairs, The biggest challenge here as we are on the 1st floor, we don’t have right parking space, visibility was not great and this is not the metro city where customers would walk in on the first floor for having a just cup of Tea that too in front of girls college.
9. How does your organization help in uplifting society?
Right now we have directly supported more than 25 families, they are directly recruited as Team members for our outlet and franchise outlets. Apart from that, we are supporting more than 20 farmers who are handcrafting teas to Buddies café & DANJO TEAS in and around India.
10. Share one interesting incident in your business life.
Every single day we see different people from a different place at buddies’ café. Everyone has a different mindset and interest. So one day we got a call from one of our customers before 10 mins of our closing time.
Buddy: Hey Nirmal Is café closed?
Me: Will be closing in 10 min
Buddy: Will be there in 15 min will you be able to serve me,
I said “Sure bro. Please come.” They reached our café in 25 min, I asked where are they coming from, he said I came all the way from Tirupur. He said his daughter & wife wanted to have A good Cup of Tea only at Buddies café, so they literally drove 180- 200 KMPH to come to Buddies café. That movement was one of the greatest because there is a lot of cafés in-between 40- 45 km but their love towards our teas and service made one more day to move forward.
Initially, I used to do all the works at our cafe. Our tables were always full of loving customers and they used to clean up the tables after dining. I don’t think people would do that until they feel at home. I am blessed with the most lovable customers.
11. How do you manage your personal, social, and business life?
It’s all about priority and Preferences. Priority is always giving time for my Mom, as my mom is in Ooty we use to talk literally about 2 hours every single day. Preference is my work which I love to do at any time. There were days I have opened the café even at 3 am for my customers.
12. Whom do you look upon as your inspiration?
My mom is always a great Role model for me; being a single parent I can understand how hard it would be to bring me a better person. She was the one who thought not to give up on any circumstance. Her self-confidence and attitude had a great influence on me. The second person I admire most is Mr. CK Kumarvel CEO of Naturals Saloon.
13. How do you manage your Monday blues?
Once again it’s all about the preference, I love what I’m doing. When you start to do what you love there will be no Monday Blues. This way I enjoy my life at Buddies café & DANJO Tea along with my cup of Tea.
14. Give us your peace of mind for the upcoming start up’s.
Business is all about following your passion, Commitment, and being patient. Some businesses will boom immediately whereas some take their own time. We knew that Buddies café need some time to get established because we needed to educate what a good cup of tea is and how to serve Tea better. So it took 4 years to get established in this market. From 5th Year we started franchising and right now we have 5 outlets, which is making a profit from the 2nd month. So just follow your passion. “Love what you do, Do what you Love”