How four Melbourne friends started Dropout Chaiwala

By Bhavya Pandey
The four founders of Dropout Chaiwala — Arun, Sushma, Sanjith (CEO) and Preetham // Pic supplied

Like thousands of other international students, Sanjith came to Australia with a five-year plan to study business. Little did he know he would end up opening his own start-up by dropping out of university in his last year.

“I always felt that I could use my experience in a better way to give something the market needs. So, I left avery important aspect of my life to start my journey of entrepreneurship,” says Sanjith.

Dropout Chaiwala (DCW) is the first chai store in Melbourne providing authentic style blends in a takeaway range. Whether you want a taste of home or a simple alternative to coffee, DCW has it all. The 50-sqm store in the heart of Melbourne CBD, takes you back to your nostalgic school canteen in India where conversations took place effortlessly.

The idea for DCW came to Sanjith came with missing his mother’s chai particularly at a time when he was going through a rough patch as a student here. He drew comfort from the thoughts of his mother, a chai addict. “That’s how DCW was born,” he says.

Sanjith (CEO) // Pic supplied

“When I told the people around me about starting my own venture, I got mixed responses. While people who knew me never doubted my capabilities, others did question my worth as I did not have the so-called epitome of intelligence—an academic degree.

“That’s when I realised that I needed a stronger team who could resonate with my vision,” he reflects.

Sanjith was not looking to build a business. Rather he was intending to build a ‘lifestyle’ and for that, he would need a strong corporate influence. He pitched his start-up idea to three of his best friends—Arun, Sushma and Preetham. The trio later became the co-founders and the first franchise owners of DCW.

Dropout Chaiwala interiors // Pic supplied

“We believe full time corporate professionals can be part-time entrepreneurs with our model of business,” says Sushma.

Dropout Chaiwala has seven chai flavours with authentic Indian spices and breathtaking aroma. These include Classic Cutting Chai, Cardamom Chai, Masala Chai, Ginger Chai, LemonGrass Chai, Saffron Chai and their special Mystery Chai. They also have quick bites such as samosa, bun, masala vada and a wide range of deserts.

For Melbournians, the concept of chai is entirely new and those who know already, visit DCW to satisfy their craving.

Pic supplied

“I often come here after finishing my evening shifts to have cutting chai. It reminds me of home and is exactly how my sister used to make it back in Mumbai,” says Sonali, a regular customer at DCW.

DCW collaborates with a number of student organisations and social groups by hosting in-person and online events.

“The goal is to help young entrepreneurs and international students find their feet and navigate through their goals. In this way, we believe that we are giving back to our community,” says Arun.

Pic supplied

Despite the downscale in food and beverage post COVID-19, Sanjith feels that Melbourne would love to get ‘high on chai’.

“Coffee is a beverage but chai is an emotion for South Asians living anywhere outside India. Our business shall be disruptive in the beverage industry because we are one of a kind- simple, authentic yet classy,” says Preetham.

DCW will be opening its second outlet by the end of July and expanding into merchandising as well. A start-up idea by four young Indian entrepreneurs with a vision to put India on the Aussie map has just taken off.

Pic supplied

Sanjith, who is the CEO, says that there were times when times were rough, pockets were low and confidence was lost, but his team didn’t give up.

“We are moving forward because we are not just selling chai here but taking you home with every sip,” he sums up.

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