Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chai guy

Last month Vaibhav Gupta emailed me as follows:

Dear Rashmi,

Let me introduce myself. I did B. Tech in Chem Engg from IIT Bombay and PGDCM from IIM Calcutta. I worked for 3 years in Hinduja Group.

Now I have resigned from the job and started Elbbub ( It is a chain of tea shops across different malls in the country. We offer 30 diferent varieties of tea including Bubble Tea, which we are launching first time in India.

We have started our first shop at Ground Floor, City Centre Mall, Vashi.

Request you to visit our kiosk sometime.

Vaibhav Gupta
Elbbub Tea Shop

So, last evening, when I happened to be at the very same City Centre Mall with the Elbbub kiosk right in my face as I exited Food Bazaar... I had to try it.

The menu was long, for a tea shop. I decided to try 'bubble' tea simply for the novelty value. The boy at the counter said it is 'like a milkshake'.

Now which flavour to choose? Kaafi ajeebogareeb flavours the, like khus, sitafal, lychee. No chocolate, surprisingly.

I opted for 'peach apricot'. Some mixing and stirring started behind the counter.

This is what the concoction looked like.

It did taste like a milkshake, though I am told the drink contains tea syrup. And it has 'bubbles' in the form of rubber-textured balls (kind of like sabudana).

Not bad. Not particularly good either. Maybe, an acquired taste.

A slightly hassled guy in a striped t-shirt arrived at the counter. The thick chashma indicated he might be Vaibhav. It was.

We chatted for a bit. He mentioned HR issues. Yup - welcome to the world of entrepreneurship!

I think Vaibhav has done a brave thing, by going into business. It's not going to be easy. Bubble tea may be doing well in southeast Asia but may not necessarily work in India.

Right now Elbbub's menu is way too long and confusing. Regular tea, designer tea, bubble tea - and all sold right opposite a Cafe Coffee Day.

But I am sure with time Vaibhav - like any other entrepreneur - will figure out what is working, what is not. He will tweak the product, create new products - kill off the rest.

That is how every enterprise finds its feet.

Rahi baat yeh, ki is this the kind of business an IIM graduate should get into? Well, why not? The food business is as good a business as any.

Of course, it involves more manual than cerebral work. Although in time, you will have to use all those management principles to scale it up (refer chapters on Dosa Plaza and Oriental Cuisines in my new book 'Connect the Dots')

And what is so cerebral about working in some hedge fund or telecom company anyways? I bet you use only a small part of your brain, your accumulated knowledge as you slip into a system which already exists.

Try running the tiniest enterprise on your own and you know - chaar paise kamaana kitna mushkil hai. You will see the bhelpuriwallah who stands at your street corner with new respect!

Lage raho, Vaibhav.

The school of hard knocks iw what prepares you, for bigger things in life.

Related story: IIT Bombay student Prabhkiran Singh runs a lassi stall by the name'Khadke Glassi' on campus.

I like the clear, focussed, limited menu. And the way he has represented each drink with pictures... So much of 'marketing' is simple common sense!

P.S. I am inspired to revive my Young Entrepreneur series. I know there are many out there, but the enterprise must catch my fancy.

Do nominate any interesting business you know of! The id is rashmi_b at


  1. Another similar initiative:
    Chandrani from the Indian School of Business has also started a similar initiative - Health and Fruit drinks - Sipz. They have one on campus and have recently expanded out to other corporates in Hyderabad.

    Do start entrepreneur feature again on the blog. I enjoyed book #2 btw....still reading through it.. and waiting for #3!! :)

  2. try this -

  3. Good effort. Thanks for writing up this one. - the 'other' facebook

  4. Two students from BITS-Pilani run fruit juices stall in Pilani and Jaipur.

  5. the bubbles *are* sabudana -- aka tapioca -- but your description of "rubber-textured" makes them sound far less delicious than they are! definitely an acquired taste, but a hard one to kick once you've gotten into the habit ;-)

  6. hey.. I tried it yesterday.. bubble tea definitely requires an acquired taste.. I'd def come back for more..
    though I feel he shud have set it up at InOrbit rather than City Centre as his TG would be more there..

  7. acquired taste! i can't live without bubbles~

  8. years ago, i tried bubble icecream in melbourne. picked a windy day and most of the airy bubbles landed in hair and clothes. the vendor actually asked me if i would walk around as advertisement!! does elbbub have an outlet in select city mall, saket?

  9. Hi Rashmi.....Don't these ideas look like copy cats...what is their USP....How they are different....I think something is missing... something like different...why everyone wants to be CCD or entrepreneurship is just a fad

  10. i found another site like this try


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