The story thus far followed the journey of Kaveri Coffee Works which like all other coffee businesses in India, began with the smuggling of those 7 coffee beans by Baba Budan, and then the arrival of the British.
Missed this story? Read Kaveri Coffee Works - Where it all Began
India began changing when the British left and so did the coffee industry. Here’s what the later years began to look like for India Coffee Works.
The 1960s and 70s
Mohan Rao joined his father and the family business at the age of 18. He flourished under M. V. Rao’s tutelage, focusing on delivering quality products and building a strong coffee community. By the mid 1960s M. V. Rao had become the President of the Wholesale Coffee Traders Association at the Indian Coffee Board. He was also an active member of the Coffee Board of India and had a key role in the advancement of local trade and coffee quality. He continued to offer his services and wisdom in these areas well into the 1970s.
This decade welcomed two new chapters for India Coffee Works. M. V. Rao retired in the early 1980s and Mohan Rao took over at the helm. In keeping with his vision and the needs for the business, he brought on a partner, Sunil Kumar. This led to a change in name, and “New India Coffee Works” was born.
Around the same time, Mohan Rao also welcomed his 2nd daughter into the world - Tanya Rao. This chapter will be paused here only to continue its story in the present.
By the mid 1980s, Mohan Rao was following in his father’s footsteps and became the President of the Wholesale Coffee Traders Association at the Indian Coffee Board. Like his father he continued to represent the interests of private wholesale coffee traders.
The 1990s to 2010
Trading of coffee in India was decentralized by the mid 1990s and now traders could buy directly from farmers. This change had mixed consequences - it increased transparency of coffee origin and better pricing for the farmers. However, it made things challenging for small businesses like New India Coffee Works. Bigger companies now had the upper hand because they could negotiate prices and buy in larger quantities from the farmers who now preferred to sell their produce to them.
Being a natural leader, Mohan Rao collaborated with other small business coffee traders to travel to the coffee growing regions of South India to build relationships and secure inventory. Despite his initiative, business became highly competitive and slowed down overall growth.
Meanwhile, both of Mohan Rao’s daughters immigrated to the United States in the late 1990s to pursue their higher studies and to find better job opportunities. The thought of taking on the family business was not a common practice amongst daughters in India in those days.
Mohan Rao continued to run New India Coffee Works with Sunil Kumar up until his death in 2010. After this, both his daughters sold their share of the business to Sunil Kumar. He continued to run New India Coffee Works until his death in 2019.
Now, remember that paused chapter from the 1980s? That story continues in the Bay Area, California, which is now home to Tanya Rao. After dabbling with more conventional career paths, she was looking to start a business that was meaningful and community driven. This led her to the specialty coffee industry for it was her father that inspired her to be her own boss.
For a brief moment she did consider buying back New India Coffee Works from Sunil Kumar’s family to continue her father and grandfather’s legacy. But, this did not make financial or practical sense. She looked around her and realized that there was actually a need for speciality Indian coffee right where she lived. The Bay Area’s coffee lovers knew nothing of Indian Coffee.
An idea began to form and Kaveri Coffee Works was born. The lack of formal education and experience in the coffee industry did not deter her because she knew her roots and coffee runs through her veins. Tanya is the owner and roaster of Kaveri Coffee Works, and proudly following in the footsteps of her father, and his before him, of delivering fresh and delicious coffee.
Read Tanya's personal account of starting a specialty coffee business in the Bay Area: Birth of a Mother