Rafih Filli: The man who made a fortune selling tea
Chaiwalas following another vocation to find success has become the cliche rags-to-riches story. Rafih Filli’s tale of triumph, however, is in direct contrast to these. He quit his corporate job and took over his father’s decrepit cafe located at Al Mamzar, Dubai thirteen years ago; to sell tea.
So, what makes Filli a favourite among people from all sections in the UAE?
“When I took over the snack bar, the locale was not the best place for a cafe. But, I started experimenting with the beverage and giving out free samples. The final product was our speciality Zafran product which aligns with UAE’s general taste,” says Rafih, about how cafe goers tired of teabags found his instant variety enticing.
Possessive about his recipe, he prudently shares that saffron and cardamom are the keynotes, while all the magic is hidden in the right approach to brewing.
Besides the special saffron-infused recipe, Rafih also discovered something before he renamed his father’s shop to his nickname from the schooldays.
“The cosmopolitan crowd in Dubai love their tea, but the service industry was too focussed on setting up cafes selling coffee. We added value to the premium sector with our cafeterias,” says the 34-year-old hailing from Kasaragod, about how he came to branding his idea.
Much to Rafih’s delight, Dubai which was emerging into its 21st-century global persona took up his brew and the tried-and-tested word of mouth became the best marketing tool.
Later, the foodpreneur started laying his focus on innovative design as more outlets opened across the UAE and neighbouring countries.
Filli’s quick bites including rolls with Oman chips, English muffins, and even North-Indian style samosas also suit the taste of the migrant populace.
“Alongside our expansion to the US and UK—where tea rooms will be open by next year—we’re already in negotiations to open our stores in Kochi and Bengaluru,” Rafih winds up.