Chai, bun maska and more: Hyderabad’s Cafe Niloufer story

March 16, 2024

How does a decades old brand continue to grow even today? Cafe Niloufer’s director marketing, Sreeja talks about the growth with Swiggy.

Go to the smallest gallis of Hyderabad and ask a local where you can find the best bun maska and chai, 9/10 will direct you to Cafe Niloufer. So synonymous is the brand with the city, that many visiting NRIs’ stop for a sip of chai at Niloufer first and then go home.

This is the story of a legacy brand that has been running for decades and how Sreeja Anumula, along with a little help from Swiggy, is making sure that the tea sure might be a decades old recipe, but the brand is definitely moving ahead into the digital space. 

Sreeja, Cafe Niloufer’s Director Marketing.

Brewing a good story

Babu Rao moved to Hyderabad from Adilabad in 1975. Back then he didn’t know how this act of moving to the “big city” would change lives drastically. “He had very humble beginnings and worked in a textile store and a restaurant, which eventually led him to meet the owners of the cafe that started in 1978,” says Sreeja, Director Marketing at Cafe Niloufer and Babu Rao’s daughter-in-law.

Shashank with his father and owner of Cafe Niloufer, Babu Rao.

Babu Rao is a people’s person and knew how to sell anything, in addition to making a good cup of chai. “These traits made him an instant hit with the restaurant owner and my father-in-law kept growing at the cafe. The owner trusted him with his work and when he decided to sell the business he passed it on to Babu Rao in 1993,” she adds. 

Even today, some 30 plus years later, Babu Rao remains as dedicated to his business as he was back when he started it. 

As the years passed, Cafe Niloufer, like many businesses, saw its fair share of ups and downs. So around 2019, when Sreeja joined the family business they started looking at the online space. “We are a well-known offline brand, but over the years I started noticing that there was a huge untapped online market that we could grow in. It was then that we started looking at online avenues and that’s how we onboarded with Swiggy 4-5 years back,” Sreeja says.

Swiggy steps in

When Vishnu Kanth, Swiggy’s account manager started working with Cafe Niloufer, he had his work cut out for him. “This was an already established brand and people across the city knew about it. So how do you help a big brand get better? That was a big question,” he says.

Cafe Niloufer is famous for its tea followed by its cookies, “So, one of my challenges was to grow the other product categories.  Tea brings in their maximum business, but cakes and savouries was something that was moving slowly online. So I worked with them on building these categories. And it paid off, currently their online cake sales have increased by 2X,” says Vishnu, who also improved their menu conversions. 

The account manager of Swiggy standing.
Vishnu Kanth, Swiggy’s account manager.

Sreeja and her team say, “Vishnu worked with us on strategic plans. For instance, we used to have a huge number of products on our menu, but we cut down on that and brought in different categories. This categorising became easier for our customers to choose from. This was just one of the many things that Vishnu sorted out for us.” In addition to that, he also helped them understand how to invest in ads and allocate the right budgets for this.

Chai at Cafe Niloufer
Chai at Cafe Niloufer.

Speaking about his association with the team of Cafe Niloufer, Vishnu says, “The whole family is very humble. They listen to feedback and suggestions. Customer satisfaction is a must for the owners. In everything they do, the customer is at the centre of it.”

So what does the future look like for Cafe Niloufer? Vishnu explains, “They have some big plans, but they always believe in growing at a sustainable pace. Tea is at the centre of their business and we can expect some exciting things in the future.”

Author Bio

Priyanka Praveen leads content for Swiggy's Employer and Talent Branding team. She comes with 11 years of writing experience having worked for Indian and International news organisations. She loves story-telling, is an avid embroidery artist and a wannabe baker.

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