Meet The Indian-Australian ‘Chai Walli’ Who Is Business Woman Of The Year

by Anjala Farahath

If there’s one thing that India runs on, it has to be chai! Given how pervasive a cup of chai is across the country and how it transcends boundaries, one can safely say that this simple beverage holds mighty power in itself. It has the power to keep us awake and active, the power to get people together for a milky sweet cup of chai, and the power to make someone a businesswoman of the year! Yes, you read that right, a simple cup of masala chai with the perfect blend of herbs and tea leaves was all that Uppma Virdi had to put together to become a millionaire.

Uppma Virdi: The Reverse Slumdog-Millionaire

chai_walli / Instagram

We’ve seen people striving to climb up the economic ladder to lead a better life. But, have you ever seen anyone descending down that ladder to hit a bag full of fortune? Uppma Virdi did exactly that. From being a successful lawyer in Australia to becoming a tea-seller, she brewed her own success story. She started the chai business Chai Walli, which literally translates to “a female tea seller”. Her aim is to familiarize the Australian community with the beverage that she loves dearly, the hot and humble chai.

chai_walli / Instagram

If you come to think of it, one would be skeptical about putting their well-paying job second on the priority list to start something as trivial as a tea business. Selling tea isn’t the job of the educated, after all, right? Well, at least that’s what popular opinion sounds like. Uppma’s family was no different. When she pitched the idea of Chai Walli to them, their reaction wasn’t quite supportive. They questioned her why she would want to be a tea seller when she is already a successful lawyer. Well, isn’t that a question that even we would like an answer to? So, why did Uppma decide to become a tea seller and make a full-fledged business out of it?

What Was The Inspiration That Led To Chai Walli?

chai_walli / Instagram

“Wherever I go I make tea… My parents’ number one request is Uppma, make some tea,” Uppma said in a leading daily. In fact, everybody loves the tea she makes, so much that, even in her brother’s wedding she was the woman behind thousands of cups of tea for the guests to relish. Her anecdotes are a testimony of her love for tea. In one such instance, when she went to Austria on a scholarship, she carried tea with her. She even made tea for everyone. She feels that tea brings people together. We agree with her that tea isn’t just a simple beverage but a powerful emotion that brings people together; it helps people bond, start conversations, and share stories.

chai_walli / Instagram

If you are from India or have friends and relatives living in a culturally diverse country, you will notice an unexplained fondness for tea. Indians love having tea; be it the first cup of subah ki chai (morning tea), a chai and sutta (tea and cigarettes) break, a welcome beverage for the guests, an evening accompaniment, or the perfect combination for a plate of hot pakoras. “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,” Uppma Virdi said.

The huge significance of tea in Indian culture inspired her to share it with people everywhere. This idea gave birth to her humble business of selling tea.

How Did She Start The Business?

chai_walli / Instagram

Uppma thinks that all the chaiwallahs and chaiwallis in India are doing something great and they have great entrepreneurial sense. She decided to use her passion for tea and brew her own mix of tea leaves. With the knowledge and love for tea that she inherited from her grandfather, a doctor specializing in herbs and spices, Uppma started brewing a special kind of tea. Her grandfather was an Ayurvedic doctor who used to make Ayurvedic tea at his medical dispensary. The art that she learned from him found its use in her tea business. She started going to the markets to share her family tea. She noticed that that tea had so much demand that it would always be sold out. That’s when it hit her that her tea blends had something special, something new that the people liked and appreciated. Why wouldn’t they be, after all, it was a novelty in the Australian community.

With a simple idea, she created a full-fledged business that now serves tea blends and tea in Australia under the name, Chai Walli. There’s also an online store dedicated for retail purchases worldwide. It also has a wholesale segment that caters to gourmet supermarkets, food stores, cafes, yoga, etc. Her perseverance and her out-of the-box thinking led her to win the Businesswoman Of The Year, by the Indian Business Community Awards.

chai_walli / Instagram

That’s not all, Uppma also conducts workshops and meet-ups under the banner: “The art of Chai.” These workshops educate people on how to brew a perfect cup of chai.

The fact that chai is now not just a beverage but woven into the fabric of this nation is hard to dispute. Shall we say, “Don’t underestimate the power of the common chai?

Are you a chai fan? Where did you have the best chai in your city? Let us know in the comments below.

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Anjala Farahath

Anjala Farahath is a 23-year-old tall mess under a hijab, trying to fit into the world of crop top while traveling nonstop, converting her passions into her job, and occasionally soaking in the raindrop. Do you think she needs to stop?
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