Enduring in hard times

Entrepreneur Kavievanan Subramaniam makes the best out of a bad year

12 Jan 2021 / 10:30 H.

THERE was a slight drizzle when theSun met up with Kavievanan Subramaniam, the young entrepreneur who went viral over his current profession and business: selling traditional Indian masala tea on a bicycle along the busy streets of Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.

Yet despite the weather, with only the trees along Jalan Tun Sambanthan as his shade, Kavievanan continued peddling his trade uninterrupted. Though the tea itself is spiced to perfection and rivals what one might find in India, what is more interesting is the background of the young businessman.

Just 23 years of age, Kavievanan graduated from Universiti Tenaga Nasional in mechanical engineering last February.

A month after his graduation and while he was searching for a job, the country would come under restrictions prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Like many others, Kavievanan was at a loss. He was not laid off like many other Malaysians, but he could not find a job.

Several months after the first movement control order (MCO), a plan was concocted. Not one to surrender to the circumstances brought by the pandemic, Kavievanan would start a business selling tea, which would now be known as Tea Thambi.

When did you start making plans for Tea Thambi, and then actually start operations?

“I started planning this in the middle of May. I was thinking about trying something different while waiting for a job. Because of the pandemic, there are less opportunities for fresh graduates, as they were mostly looking for those with experience.

“I was thinking what to do, sitting at home doing nothing. I wanted to try something just for pocket money.”

How did your family react to this?

“Before I started, I was afraid to tell my parents, because they spent money for my studies and then now I end up doing this. But my parents are now very supportive.

“When I started, my mother taught me how to make tea. She helped me for one month, then I learned from other sources. Also, my father is a businessman. From him, I learned a lot.”

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far with Tea Thambi?

“Sometimes with the weather, like rain. But rain or shine, I will continue.

“Other times, the tea container might be too heavy. I have to be stable while riding the bicycle, and the road itself is not stable, especially in this area. Once, I’ve even fallen with the container.

“To transport the tea here, I have to come on a motorbike. There have been three or more times where I’ve fallen from the motorbike.

“Like one day, rezeki don’t have (there will be no business).”

Were there other places in KL you considered running Tea Thambi before deciding on Brickfields?

“I surveyed several places. One of the other places was Masjid India. I chose Brickfields because it’s in the city, with many office workers.”

Do you think there is room for you to incorporate your knowledge in engineering with this new business?

“So far no, because my mindset is focused on business. If [I go back into] mechanical engineering, I’ll have to [do] something new with the business, in the future.

“With this, maybe I’ll do a franchise.”

Many fresh graduates such as yourself are either unemployed, or have
been laid off. Do you have advice
for them in pushing through the struggle the way you have done to survive?

“Don’t just sit at home doing nothing. Think of something new and different to earn a living. Don’t be so choosy, like ‘I want to do this, I want to do that’.

“Just do whatever you can for this situation.”


Would you re-enter the engineering field, or would you stick to the life of a businessman?:

“I think I will stick with this.”

Did anyone inspire you to pursue business?:

“My role model is my father.”

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