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I am Nitin Saluja, Founder & CEO of Chaayos, and This is How I Work
How I Work

I am Nitin Saluja, Founder & CEO of Chaayos, and This is How I Work

Location : Delhi
Current Gig : Founder and CEO of Chaayos
One word that best describes how you work : Dedicated
Current mobile device : iPhone SE
Current computer : Macbook Pro

IITs have produced some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country. Once an IITian, you are quite likely to try your hand at a start-up. But running a successful business requires a lot of hard work and well, a few life hacks. We met Nitin Saluja, Founder & CEO of Chaayos, who spiraled to success with a 300 per cent year-on-year growth in the last five years. Founded in 2012, Chaayos has expanded to 43 outlets serving 1200 varieties of tea across Delhi/NCR, Mumbai and Chandigarh. He does not have a designated cabin in office and likes it that way. Apart from ' meri wali chai ', he also has a unique ' meri wali soch ' to offer. In an exclusive interview at the Chaayos office in Gurugram, the IIT Bombay alumnus tells Ishita Blaggan all about his journey and how he works.

Tell us about your journey and how did you get where you have ?

I was born and brought up in Lucknow. Before becoming an entrepreneur, I was a management consultant for nearly 6 years. The idea of starting a chai cafe was more of a revelation to me when I was in the US. I realized that when you walk out of your home, you don't get a cup of chai as per your personal preference, which is the basic need of most people in India. To bridge this gap, I decided to move to India and start Chaayos.

We like experimenting with tea and offer unique options like shahi, aam-papad and mirchi chai . I just love feeding Indians their cup of 'meri wali chai '.

We took that a step further in 2015, when we began our delivery business so that we could give our customers their chai at work and even at home. Our deliveries contribute to a significant part of our business which is proof of the fact that India loves their perfect cup of chai .

What apps/software/tools can't you live without ?

I cannot live without WhatsApp and Slack, which is an internal office communication tool. Slack behaves like WhatsApp for office to share files and documents and is way more organised.

What's your workspace setup like?

I don't have a fixed place to sit down and work at. I keep moving around the office. I don't have a cabin. I have one designated spot where I keep my bag every day and I keep floating around the office, attending meetings or working by myself at different spots - that's how I like it.

What are some of your best time-saving shortcuts/life hacks?

  1. Using slack for all internal communication is a great time-saving life hack. Since I work for 11 hours a day, I save a lot of time by not having to look at my inbox constantly.
  2. I have become a morning person and I am loving it. I was never one. I wake up at 4am every day and go to bed by 9:30 or 10pm.
  3. You should also stay close to work and avoid wasting time commuting. If you can afford to get a driver, get one. Utilize your commute time to hold calls or go through important official documents.
  4. An airport jugaad is to reach as late as possible. My wife and my colleagues refuse to travel with me because I am the last person to get on to the flight.
  5. I rely upon Twitter to learn a lot of new things on a daily basis. I seldom have a fresh tweet but I retweet everything that I find helpful and informative. Over the last 5 years, I have refined the people I follow on Twitter to each and every individual who can be my source of learning. I don't know how many people are using Twitter like that but for me, it is a great source to know what's happening in the Silicon Valley and other parts of the world. It is an investment of 20-30 minutes a day and it helps me to broaden my perspective. I am also very prompt at unfollowing people when I feel there are seldom any takeaways from their account.

What's your favorite to-do list manager?

I rely on the good old notebook and a fountain pen.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?

I am good at taking quick decisions based on my gut feel. I don't need a lot of information to be able to arrive at a decision and I do that much faster than others. (Also Read: I Am Rashmi Daga, Founder Of FreshMenu, And This Is How I Work )

What do you listen to while you work? Or do you prefer silence?

When I work, I am completely focused on it and prefer silence. However, I have picked a new habit of listening to podcasts and recently concluded a set of brilliant podcasts called Master of Scale by LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman.

What are you currently reading?

I am reading Alex Ferguson's Leading.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

"Get back into shape," was a good advice I received from a fellow IITian and Urban Ladder CEO Ashish Goel. About a year-and-a-half ago, he said "Nitin, you seem to be going out of shape, get fit." It took me around 7 months to start acting on that advice and in the month of March, I started training for a triathlon to be held on November 5.

How do you initiate yourself into fitness and maintain a routine?

It's all about how you want to look and feel. You should not feel ashamed in front of the mirror and that is one of the biggest motivation. What worked for me (and I can advise others) to do is to look for workout solutions that come to you naturally. I tried hitting the gym multiple times but failed miserably. I found my calling in biking. As a kid, I loved biking. So, I bought a new cycle and started biking again, after 15 years.

To maintain a routine, I started biking with my 5-year-old daughter at least twice or thrice a week. We complete 2 kms in 40 mins but it is a lot of fun and we really enjoy that time together.

If you were to give a vital life lesson to your daughter on one of your biking trips, what would it be?
In life, we don't plan for pitfalls and there will be times when you will feel like giving up a task midway. I have been teaching her to complete what she sets out to do. When we go biking, I advise her, "If you are tired, go slow but complete the 2 kms that you set out to complete. If you fall a couple of times, it's alright. Just get up and resume the task. Complete the trip."

What's your daily schedule like?
I wake up at 4:30am, go biking at 5am and return by 6:30, after which I spend 15 mins with my daughter while I drop her to the bus stop for school. I come back, have chai and leave for work by 8:15am. In the evening, I try to leave by 7:30pm and spend two hours with my family at home. Bedtime is usually between 9:30-10pm. That's what six days of my life look like. Sundays are cheat days - I eat whatever I want to, sleep and make merry.

How do you deal with procrastination?
I get over procrastination in two ways - Firstly, I have given my core flexibility to reach out to me immediately if a task is lying frozen due to my inaction. Secondly, I rely a lot on to-do lists. If a task lingers on for long, I push it on 'high priority' on my to-do list and get it done quickly. (Also Read: I Am Suchita Salwan, Founder & CEO Of Little Black Book, And This Is How I Work )

Which tasks do you finish first - those more time consuming or the ones that are more important?
The philosophy we follow at Chaayos is to prioritize work that impacts the organization most. Some of the activities may be long-term projects that may not have an immediate impact, they can be pushed down on priority list. That's how we work.

You must be flooded with e-mails daily. How do you manage your inbox?
I precisely spend 10 minutes a week on my inbox. All approvals and decisions are taken on Slack. So, a lot of time wastage in in back and forth e-mails with CCs and BCCs is avoided. Mailbox is a thing of the past!

What makes people choose Chaayos and pay 5x price for a regular chai available elsewhere?
People in India like their chais differently. There is no 'one chai fix all' solution. And we decided to give each person their kind of chai and that's what makes them visit Chaayos regularly.

Also, quality is one of our core values. It is something we vouch for and want to be known for. If you don't like your chai at Chaayos, it will be replaced with a fresh cup of tea at no additional cost and without any questions asked.

Running a successful business in the 21st century is not an easy task as customers want more than just a new product offering. You have to be careful about what I call "hygiene". Everything from cleanliness, to ambiance to customer service is - hygiene. You've got to live up to the expectation of today's customer and elevate their entire experience to make them feel like coming to you over and over again. And that's what we are noticing. People come back to us every time they want a chai .

(Also Read: I Am Amarjit Singh Batra, CEO Of OLX India, And This Is How I Work )

The How I Work series asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Ishita.

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