FiLLi Café: A simmering success!
It all began when a young Indian entrepreneur started a small roadside café FiLLi near the breathtaking Mamzar Corniche.
Rafih FiLLi, Founder of FiLLi Café
Dubai is a land of opportunities with numerous rags to riches stories reminiscent of the American dream. ‘FiLLi’ is one such story where a visionary man of humble origins transformed his big dreams into reality.
It all began when a young Indian entrepreneur started a small roadside café FiLLi near the breathtaking Mamzar Corniche. Cooking up a delectably divine concoction that was potently flavorsome and overwhelmingly aromatic, Rafih FiLLi offered the simplest of beverages which had the lure to entice people from all over the emirate. It was a simple cup of energising tea.
“My father had a cafeteria, which started back in 1991 in Mamzar area. Living in the same area due to convenience, my first job after coming to Dubai was in the merchandising sector. Along with that, I used to help my father’s business by going to the market and purchasing foodstuff for the cafeteria. It gave me an idea of starting something unique and I discussed about taking over the shop with my father who had many questions mainly because it was something very ambitious for a 21-year-old, but I convinced him and started my venture in 2004, as soon as he handed over the keys. I started with selling tea and put the nickname ‘FiLLi’ that had been given to me during my school days on the signboard. And the rest as they say is history,” says the founder of FiLLi Café, Rafih FiLLi.
Vision knows no boundaries and the only route is that of success. Rafih FiLLi knew the importance of a good marketing strategy. “I started promoting my shop and gave my customers samples of my tea. I knew it was a great product and would catch on if positioned correctly in the market. My target audience was the Emirati community – who were initially apprehensive of the new sweetly titillating taste. But I kept on offering samples and Alhamdulillah, FiLLi became a brand through positive word of mouth. Word even reached members of the royal family, who praised the great taste of my tea,” he says.
Another ingredient for success was FiLLi Café’s strategic venue. Near the beach, people came to relax and, of course, have a cup of tea to revitalise. “FiLLi is what it is because of our tea. FiLLi is a name synonymous with the Zaffrani (saffron) tea. I started this range of tea three months after starting my business and began to promote this product. It was a big hit with my customers, who immediately took a great liking for this blend. People thronged the area day and night just for a sip of the simmering tea. We are now selling more than 25,000 to 30,000 cups per day across all stores,” comments the dynamic founder.
FiLLi Café has made it big by changing the way tea is served across the UAE and beyond. Rafih FiLLi plans to expand his business across all emirates and by penetrating the Middle East as well as other emerging markets. “We plan to open up to 100 stores in the next five years and have also introduced a franchising model where my vision is to specifically give the younger generation an opportunity to fulfill their dreams as I have!” concludes the visionary. The founder has had numerous inquiries from all over the world, including the US, UK and India.
FiLLi has 19 snazzy looking cafés across Dubai and more are in the pipeline. With a plan to open outlets across the GCC in the forthcoming year, FiLLi is in a league of its own with none to compete and the only way for Rafih – the proud owner of FiLLi Café – is to move up and forward!
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