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Chotu Chaiwala


Entrepreneur and client of Bank Alfalah, a long-time IFC partner

I am 17 and I own two branches of Chottu Chai Wala, my own take on a dhaba restaurant. I am still in school and studying for my A-level examinations.

Growing up, I saw Karachi as a very depressing city. There was a lot of crime and people were scared. Now things are better. I wanted contribute to this, to help turn Karachi , the city of lights, into a bright, happy place.

I also saw a vacuum. There were two extremes- rows and rows of elite restaurants with exorbitant prices, and on the other hand, the very South-Asian dhaba- a cheap tea spot, with outdoor seating and a place to take a break from the chaotic streets. However, these dhabas are famously unhygienic and often not safe or comfortable places for women. I also love tea and wanted to give it the same prestige that Starbucks gives to coffee.

So I came up with the idea of a more accessible dhaba. I serve food on traditional dhaba prices, but offer pristine hygiene, a comfortable, yet casual environment, and of course some of my own special recipes like the Pizza Paratha and the Pepperoni Paratha. It is the best of both worlds.

My first location was an instant hit and since I take quality seriously, word spread fast. It’s been less than a year and I already have a second location. I put up a projector and screen cricket matches and play local music videos. You see people of all social classes coming here, on motorbikes and on BMWs. There are ministers and celebrities and just regular people. This is exactly what Karachi needed.

My father, who is in the police service, gave me a loan to start this. But I did not know much about running a business. Sikander from Bank Alfalah was my guide and mentor and the SME Toolkit was the only resource I needed to make my business plan.

With a tough school schedule I didn’t have time to do any research. But with the SME Toolkit everything was handed to me on a platter. Later on, Sikander also guided me when I got confused about cash flows and balance sheets. Now I can prepare my weekly income statements myself.

Karachi is a high turnover city. Anyone offering an extra 10 rupees could steal my employees. So initially I had a tough time with retention. I also had to deal with employee theft. I had to revise my software and set up systems to make my financials secure. I also gave my employees health benefits to retain them. They also feel proud to be part of a venture that everyone loves so much.

I am also working on giving back. I have an alliance with the Shaukat Khanum Cancer hospital whereby my customers who want the wifi password has to text 20 rupees to Shaukat Khanum to receive it. I then reimburse those 20 rupees on their bill.

I want to be a millionaire by the time I am 25. I want my products to be everywhere, in Walmart ,7/11- All over the world. I am going to open up a few more branches in Karachi and then start franchising the brand. I already have offers in Pakistan and the Middle East.

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