Being a chaiwalla in India and having a successful business is not a new thing. But having a tea business in Australia is something, someone will think twice about. But Uppma Virdi diffused the aroma of the Indian-origin tea across the boundaries.
Being a hardcore tea lover and not finding any places to get good tea after moving to Australia, disappointed her. That’s when she decided to start a ‘chai’ business herself.
Uppma Virdi is a lawyer and works for a firm in Melbourne, Australia. She also started her tea business 'Chai Walli' simultaneously almost two years where she was literally a tea seller
Her endless love for chai develops from the life of her grandfather, who was an Ayurvedic doctor. It was him who taught her all about Ayurvedic tea. However, it wasn’t easy.
“My grandfather is an Ayurvedic doctor and he used to make this Ayurvedic tea at his medical dispensary. He taught me the art of Ayurvedic tea."
“Wherever I go I make tea… My parents' number one request is 'Uppma, make some tea.' When my brother got married, I think I would have made a thousand cups of tea for all the guests. Even when I went overseas to Austria on a scholarship, I used to make tea for everyone. It was a way of bringing people together," she says.”
Uppma said because the tea has a huge importance in the Indian culture, she wants to share it with the people everywhere.
“In the Indian culture people come together through tea. Whether it’s a happy occasion or a difficult moment, tea is all pervasive. I tried, but couldn’t find many good tea places in Australia.”
That’s when the business idea was emerge ad she tells how she worked on
"I decided to take it into my own hands and start my own tea business to share the Indian culture of tea. My parents and family were totally against it. They said I was a lawyer, why did I want to be a tea seller? I said I wanted to show that tea sellers can do something.”
“I started going to markets to share our family tea there. We always sold out and that’s when I realised, I had something special in my blends that I wanted to share with the wider Australian community,” she adds.
The first few packets went to her friends and family marking the start of her business.
Now she runs her business like a business is supposed to be run.
“I have grown the business through relationship building, social media marketing, hard work.. lots of hard work.”
More attraction for coffee than tea in Australia was never a hurdle for Uppma.
“Interest in tea is growing in Australia as more and more people are seeking alternatives to coffee. It was coincidently the right time for me.”
“My real aim is to educate the Australian society about the Indian culture through tea,” she says.
Not only she serves different kinds of Ayurvedic tea concoctions through her online tea store but also runs “The art of Chai” workshops, where she teaches people how to brew the perfect chai.
She says, “All the chaiwallas and chaiwallis in India are doing entrepreneurial even if they are not well educated at least they have a business spirit.”
She has been awarded with the title of Businesswoman of the Year by the 2016 Indian Australian Business and Community Awards (IABCA) at a glittering ceremony in Sydney last week.
Uppma still continues her day job as a lawyer. She has certainly set an example for those who struggle to find the perfect balance between their career and their passions.