While straining a vat of boiling tea (chai) on a hot May afternoon, Jagdish Chandra Prajapati says consumption of tea is not a seasonal phenomenon; rather a habit for most Indians, where people drink chai at any time of the day, irrespective of the weather. You couldn’t agree more as there are about half a dozen customers either sipping chai or waiting for their cuppa outside his shop Jai Jagniya Coffee Stall at the busy Bapu Nagar market area in Bhilwara, Rajasthan, where temperatures exceed 43⁰C in the hottest month of May.
“Many people think of tea as an “in-home” beverage, but in reality, the culture of taking small breaks at roadside tea stalls has been in India for ages, and in almost all places, be it metropolitan cities, small towns or villages,”
says Prajapati, pouring lemon tea into the glasses.
His customers include farmworkers, construction workers, employees from a State Bank of India branch and the railway office located nearby, and passersby.
He also caters to a large number of surrounding shopkeepers. Every hour he tours the market on his motorbike with his thermos, personally serving piping hot chai in each of the shops.
The shopkeepers call him ‘online chai’ as they can either call him or send him a Whatsapp message to place their orders. Prajapati is proud of the fact that he never takes more than 10-15 minutes to deliver orders.
“I get immense satisfaction when I serve people tea as per their tastes and preferences,” he says, adding, “At the end of the day, I want every customer to be happy with my tea so that they spread the word about my shop. A lot of my competitors will make the tea in advance, but here, I make the drink only when the customer places an order. That is why my customers walk past ten other competitors to get the best tea here.”
Besides lemon tea, he sells milky tea (elaichi/masala), ginger-lemon, mint tea, coffee, biscuits, namkeen and tobacco products.
When he’s out for deliveries or taking care of other aspects of the business, his wife, Sanjana, manages the shop.
Prajapati, who earlier worked at a textile mill in Bhilwara, says:
“My love for tea made me quit my job, and I turned my passion into profit. I set up a tea stall outside the mill, serving tea, snacks, and even meals to the workers there.”
It was a successful endeavour, and his two brothers helped him run the business.
That was in 2007. Since then, things have continued to grow, “both as a businessman and a family man”, says Prajapati, who lives in a joint family with his parents, wife, four daughters, and a son.
After four years, the mill shut down, and he moved his shop to the highway.
“Although in the tea shop business, extending credit is not only common but also expected, on the highway, the transactions were always in cash.”
Three years ago, he shifted to the market area as the four-lane highway was being upgraded to six lanes.
At the market, he sells 1,000 cups of tea everyday at Rs 5 per cup. His wife prepares the tea while he delivers the orders, traveling up to 5 km. And work, he does, from 7 every morning till 8.30 or 9 in the night.
“There are no weekly offs, we work all seven days. But in a month the shop remains closed for two days,” he smiles.
He adds that these two days were earlier reserved for doing hisab-kitab, but now with Khatabook, he doesn’t have to worry about keeping track of a growing number of transactions.
“Earlier, some of my customers were slow to pay, which put me in a tough spot. The slow collection of receivables stifled growth, and I was always in need of funds to move my business forward. Plus, these slow-paying customers affected my cash flow and distracted me from running the business. I could not pay my bills on time, primarily the rent for this shop, which is Rs 4,000, or the tuition fees of my five children.”
That’s when he thought of using a bookkeeping app. Since some shopkeepers in the market were using a particular bookkeeping app, he too signed up for the same. After using it for a year, he was “frustrated and tired of constantly watching the loading bar”.
It was time for an upgrade.
“Your systems should make life easier – not harder,” Prajapati emphasizes. That’s when he downloaded Khatabook.
At first glance, Khatabook ticked all the right boxes, he says, adding that at a glance, he can now gain an overview of his finances and better understand his cash flow.
“Khatabook really makes bookkeeping simple and allows me to get payments really quickly. It also makes it easy for my customers (who are willing to make online payments) to just put in their details on a secure platform.”
On an average, he has as many as 200 customers who owe him anywhere between Rs 800- Rs 1000.
According to Prajapati, his choice was partly based on Khatabook’s excellent reputation and expertise.
“But, I also found that the app greatly improved the speed and efficiency of my accounting tasks. As a result, I can spend more time on customer-focused goals, and growth. It has made my experience of running the shop more enjoyable.”
While pointing to the fact that her husband never liked making collection calls, Sanjana says,
“As a family, we had to keep telling him that you have to manage all the functions of your business, even the ones you don’t like. But, now he doesn’t have to feel awkward about letting someone know that it’s time to pay up. The app reminds people, ‘Hey, you owe Prajapati money,’” she says with a laugh.
“It just makes it so much easier, because I no longer need to have that awkward conversation about pending payments. They know it’s not paid. And the app also sends them a reminder, but it doesn’t feel like it’s coming from me,”adds Prajapati.
Prajapati, who has been using the app for over two years, says that he’s started to recommend the platform to a few of his customers.
“I’d encourage other small businesses (including tea shops) to consider using Khatabook just like I did.”
Explaining there is no one secret to a successful tea shop, Prajapati says it boils down to either hard work, extensive experience, or luck or a combination of all three.
“I am lucky that I found Khatabook as it takes care of all my accounting needs. The app gives me peace of mind that I’m properly managing my finances with minimal time and effort.”