Logo 468x60

From teaboy to international sensation: Arshad Khan hopes to brew success in London with Café Chaiwala

Saima Shabbir

ISLAMABAD: A young Pakistani who shot to fame after his picture went viral while pouring tea for customers at his roadside kiosk in 2016 said on Tuesday he decided to capitalize on his celebrity status by setting up his own café chain and was now striving to turn it into an international brand by opening its first franchise in London.

Arshad Khan, now 25, belongs to a conservative Pashtun family from the northwestern city of Mardan. He learned how to make tea when he was 12, as his circumstances required him to take up a job to financially support his family.

Khan followed his mundane routine until a local photographer snapped his picture at the Sunday Market in Islamabad while he was doing his usual work at the tea stall. The image went viral after thousands of social media users started sharing it. People nicknamed him “Chaiwala,” or teaboy, as most of them were struck by his remarkably attractive looks.

Within days, he started receiving modeling and acting offers, but he decided to benefit from his newfound fame more strategically by opening Café Chaiwala Rooftop in Islamabad. Subsequently, he expanded the venture with the help of his team and managed to open another branch in the picturesque mountain resort of Murree.

“Our first international outlet, located on Ilford Lane in London, will open next month [June 2023],” Khan told Arab News in an exclusive conversation. “The decision to choose the area was based on the concentration of the Pakistani community living there.”

To promote Pakistani culture, he said the interior of the café featured truck art and displayed other cultural themes.

“We will serve traditional food and a variety of Pakistani teas, including karak [strong] chai, masala chai, Kashmiri chai, and doodh Patti [milk leaf tea],” he continued.

“In 2021, we signed an agreement with two investors, Nadir Durrani and Akbar Durrani, to open café franchises in the United Kingdom,” he informed.

Khan said both investors had immense experience in supporting and establishing food franchises and would open 10 outlets for him in Britain.

“We have received an upfront amount and will also get sales royalties,” he said, without sharing further financial details, adding that he would remain involved in promoting the café both in Pakistan and the UK.

“All the international standards of operating a franchise will be observed in the UK,” he added. “We will remain associated [with the project] to ensure our brand name is not compromised.”

Khan said he had also been approached by people from Dubai, Canada, and the United States for collaboration and opening franchises.

Apart from the international expansion, he shared his plan to inaugurate new cafes at different tourist resorts in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“We will also be opening two new cafes in the next couple of months, one in Balakot and the other in Swat,” he added.

When asked how he felt when people referred to him as “Chaiwala,” he said: “My original name may be overshadowed by the fame I have received as Chaiwala. I have embraced it as my identity, and I find great satisfaction in preserving this title for myself and maintaining it for my café chain.”

Speaking about his journey from a simple worker at a tea stall to a social media celebrity and entrepreneur, he said it might look like a dream but it entailed hard work.

“Initially, it all looked like a dream to me, but then I seized the opportunity and worked very hard to reach this level,” he added.

Asked if he liked to drink tea, Khan replied, “Not much. I usually only consume one cup a day.”

courtesy: arab news