CK Kumaravel of Naturals Salon has an ambitious plan to open 1000 outlets of Namma Cafe, a niche tea outlet franchise in Tamil Nadu by the end of next year
“It has to be Sulaimani,” declares C K Kumaravel, founder of newly-launched Namma Cafe, about his preferred choice of tea
Golden sulaimani brewed with spices and served with a squeeze of lime is one of the signature teas offered at Namma Cafe, a franchise-model tea chain with an ambitious plan to open 1000 outlets in Tamil Nadu, over the next one year.
The chain already have five in Chennai, two in Coimbatore, and one in Puducherry. “Work is in progress in 15 places. All our teas — lime, ginger-lime, ginger, masala are best sellers. Also, filter coffee and karuppatti coffee.”
Entrepreneur Kumaravel known for his salon chain Naturals says the industry was among the worst hit during COVID-19, but it also opened up an opportunity for a new business. “Most tea shops offered no variety, operated under unhygienic conditions, without following any standard norms. It was mostly an adda for men. We wanted to create a space where families could enjoy a cup of tea,” he says.
Hence, he replicated the Naturals Salon frachise model (which has been running for over two decades), on a smaller scale. “The potential is much bigger as people always flock these shops to have tea. Now, because of COVID-19, everyone wants to go in for brands to feel safe. Our focus is on the bottom of the pyramid model and give a push to entrepreneurship as well as create jobs.”
Namma Cafe, he adds, is not high-end but it does offer hygiene and standard taste. While teas start at ₹10 and coffee at ₹15, one can also grab quick bites like sandwiches, bread-butter-jam and Osmania biscuits displayed in big glass bottles.
Heard over the counter
- On a rainy evening, over many cups of ginger tea, Prakriti Kesav, a student-turned-entrepreneur talks about her newly-opened Namma Cafe kiosk at R S Puram in Coimbatore. Her father Sasidharan K is the partner of Naturals Salon which has one of its oldest franchise in the city. “We want to push the entrepreneur model among women, starting with my own daughter. She has taken complete charge of the cafe,” he says. Prakriti’s mother runs the salon and she hopes to emulate the success story with the cafe. “Walk-ins have been good.We are getting more enquiries from women to open franchises.” They plan to touch 50 outlets in Coimbatore by the end of 2021, especially in places like Race Course, Vadavalli, Ganapathi and Peelamedu and also along Mettupalayam and Pollachi highway.
- At the kiosk, business is brisk. While A Geetha takes charge of billing counter, M Anjali applies butter on bread slices and and whips up vegetable sandwich. Selvi P makes ‘sukku podu podu raaja’ (sukku coffee) in a jiffy for a customer. “We went through a tough time during the pandemic. Now, we have an income and the job is immensely satisfying as everything is standardised,” says Geetha.
- The cafe will soon offer takeaways through Swiggy and Zomato. A food grade package (an aluminium foil pouch placed inside a cardboard box) is already in place to pack tea and coffee.
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One of the first challenges was to perfect a cup of ginger tea or karupatti coffee.“I just went home and asked my mother and grandmother. After repeated trials at home, we followed ‘one-plus-one-spoon’method for the quantity of tea leaves or coffee powder to ensure standard taste. We tested it without branding for three months in Chennai before launching it.”
Kumaravel hopes to encourage more women to take up the franchise, as they have tied up with banks to offer collateral free loan. “All they need is 100 square feet space to set up the kiosk and an investment of five lakh rupees. For a standalone outlet with seating options, they need a bigger space and six lakh rupees. By running the kiosk, they can easily make an additional income upwards of ₹50,000 a month,” says Kumaravel.
In cities like Coimbatore, they have two district franchises who in turn appoint unit franchises, and function as their supply chain partner, ensuring a steady supply of coffee, tea powder, and cups on a weekly basis.
“Our focus is to create 1000 micro entrepreneurs by the end of December 2021,” beams Dhamyanthi, Kumaravel’s daughter who is the co-founder of Namma Cafe.
She adds, “We came up with catchy names for tea and coffee based on film songs. It is ‘Inji Marppadhillai’ for ginger tea and ‘Karuppu thaan anakkupidicha colouruu’ for black lemon tea. Our turmeric latte goes by the name ‘yellow love’. We will soon start offering bread omelette. “
Adds Kumaravel. “Once we put systems and process in place, any model is scalable and can be replicated anywhere in the world.” He adds, “The need of the hour for every family, who have lost jobs or taken salary cuts is an additional income. This model is a win-win.”