Tea, or as we fondly call it "Chai" is one of India's most preferred hot beverages. Almost every person in our country has had a sip of this drink once in their lifetimes. Some prefer it black, some with milk, some with a splash of lemon and those looking to get healthier by drinking it prefer it "Green". No matter the variety or the recipe used to brew, this drink has only grown from generation to generation.
A big contribution in the same can be attributed to the numerous vendors who are situated on the streets in shops and "thelas", sporting aluminium kettles and gas stoves, serving tea to all who pass by their shops in glasses, earthen "matkas" or sometimes in plastic cups too. They all have their ways of working and their ways to making ends meet. This article attempts to take a closer look into the lives of these "Chaiwalas" and attempts to analyse how they recreate the same taste every day and the rewards they earn for their efforts.
At the outset, during the course of our short study we observed the following average trend in the expenses that surround a tea vendor:
|Monthly sales (Rs)||24600|
|Montly Cost (RS.)||15193|
|number of cups per month||4920|
|Quantity of tea sold (liters)||388|
|quantity of Tea used (as input IN KG)||12|
|Cost of Tea Purchased per month||2898|
|Milk used (litres)||318|
|Cost of milk||9432|
|Profit per month||9407|
Let above figures not lead you astray. The same are simply an average of the shops that were surveyed at random and follow no patterns as such. Not every tea vendor makes more than Rs. 9000 as profit in a month. Besides this does not consider the expenses such as the cost of his equipment (Stove/Fridge/Utensils etc.) or the support staff. This means that the profit gets trimmed down even further and comes within a range of 4 to 7 thousand a month. This figure gives an insight into the hard lives that these vendors have to endure.
During our survey we approached each of these vendors with a set of questions. Although our intent was strictly academic at the start of the project, we could not help but indulge ourselves into the brimming cups of tea as they shared the information with us in a forthright manner. Be it their sales or their expenses, the "Chaiwalas"seemed as relaxed sharing this information as Toyota inviting people to study its Just In Time systems. Though the comparison may seem far fetched, the same is precisely what transpired.
During the time spent at the stalls asking for information, we observed the plethora of customers that these stalls catered to. Ranging from students who were headed back from tuition to tired office staff blowing off steam after a hard days work; or even the rickshaw drivers when they take a break. Somehow, these "Chaiwalas" have established their presence in all our lives as focal points where people meet and socialize irrespective of their occupation or status. The experience reinforces the importance of these vendors in the social landscape in maintaining a delicate balance between the lives of individuals.
Selling averagely 5000 cups a month and making only a rupee of profit per cup is a grim situation for any business.