Meet Uppma Virdi, who is flying high after winning the Businesswoman of the Year award this year for her venture, Chaiwalli, which aims to sell and make Indian masala chai for Australian residents, along with a bite of Indian culture. The article has more about her journey and life.
On the heels of the famous chaiwalla from Pakistan who went viral for his handsome looks, Arshad Khan, we have our own twenty six year old woman in Australia, Uppma Virdi, who is a real chaiwalli, which in Hindi means ‘a female tea seller’.
Starting life as a corporate lawyer, Uppma took up a lifelong passion with tea into the boardroom and started a business which began first as an online store that doubled up as a wholesaler to a few local shops, and then became a tea shop called Chaiwalli, which bagged the Businesswoman of the Year in 2016.
Here are a few things you probably didn’t know about Uppma.
1. She is trained to be a lawyer
But Uppma found that she had a passion for tea, passed down from her grandfather who was an Ayurvedic doctor. She has still not resigned from her day job, which means that she is now balancing both lives, but looking at the speed at which her business has grown, it is possible that she will become a full time chaiwalli soon.
2. She is the designated tea-maker in the family
Whether it is her immediate family or extended, Uppma is the designated tea-maker. Her parents’ number one request, says Uppma, is for her to make a cup of tea for them. When her brother got married, she reckons she made at least a thousand cups of chai for guests. Even when she went to Austria on scholarship, she used to make tea for everyone. She says that chai is a way of bringing people together.
3. Cultural binding agent turned into business opportunity
In India, chai is everywhere. Indians are huge drinkers, and it makes an appearance in households at all times, both happy and sad, both during times of grief and joy. When Uppma experienced this in her own home and then wished to locate good tea shops in Australia, she was not able to. And that is when she thought that this could be a good business idea. She started going to markets and began to share her family tea there. When she started selling out on a regular basis, the idea gathered momentum and became Chaiwalli.
4. Her family were against the move
As one would expect, her parents was not too enamoured by the idea of their daughter being called a ‘chaiwalli’, because in India the term carries connotations of poverty and low social status. Also, they wanted to know why she wanted to sell tea when she could be a lawyer earning big bucks. Uppma convinced them by telling them that even tea sellers can be entrepreneurs and business owners.
5. She runs ‘The Art of Chai’
Taking her passion for chai forward, Uppma also runs ‘The Art of Chai’ workshops, where she teaches fellow tea enthusiasts ways to blend the perfect cup of masala chai. This way she is able to address her other aim, that of introducing Indian culture to Australia in the form of tea and conversations.