Our culture has borrowed a lot from the British who came and ruled India for more than 200 years. Many chai lovers would be sad to hear that the love for tea is also influenced by the lifestyle of the Britishers who also brought their habit of tea drinking to India.
But eventually, our love for tea grew and soon the Indian tea, made with our native herbs, was born. There are many tea brands in the markets today that export tea from India. But the new-age companies in India are going a step further and adding more ingredients to the taste buds of the tea-totallers all over the world.
One such pioneer in the e-commerce space for exotic tea is Udyan tea, which was founded in 2012 and is based in Siliguri. The name ‘Udyan’ means garden and that’s where their tea comes from.
Udyan Tea was started up by tea taster Punit Poddar, along with tech-minded and business-oriented duo Parvez Gupta and Soveet Gupta. Punit has a five-decade old family business in the tea industry and has been a tea taster for more than ten years. While all of them belong to the land of tea and share their love for a good cup of tea, Parvez and Soveet also bring financial stability to the company. Parvez holds a master’s degree in Business and IT from Melbourne University along with his computer science degree. Founding member Soveet is a finance graduate and did MBA in marketing too.
We interacted with one of the cofounders, Parvez Gupta, to know Udyan Tea’s six-year journey in the business and how its exotic tea is winning hearts of people worldwide.
How did the idea to incorporate Udyan tea emerge?
While travelling, Punit and I realised that a tea of good quality is hard to find in India. Being natives of Siliguri in Darjeeling, a great cup of tea is a necessity for both of us. And this is not just about a regular cup of doodh wali chai, but a fine Darjeeling black or green or an oolong tea. But mostly, such good quality produce is exported to foreign markets where people appreciate these types of tea more than we do, and that leaves nothing for people here in India. So, the question came to us that if none of the existing companies is doing anything about bringing the finer, fresher teas to the masses, then what should we do about it? And this is how Udyan tea was born out of a strange concoction of frustration and deep passion.
Define your first year of entrepreneurship.
Our first year of entrepreneurship was mostly a combination of trials and the subsequent learnings. You start off with a vision, without fully comprehending the path that leads to it. Facing the reality on the ground is the real test of determination and grit. It teaches to endure challenges, failures, and hurdles that stand in your way. What helped us was our passion to attain the vision for our company and that is what kept us going through all the hurdles.
What’s your current customer base? How did you go about building it?
We have shipped our products to over 25 countries in the last 5 years and the feedback that we have received has been nothing short of excellent. Till now, we’ve proudly served more than 15 million cups of tea to consumers worldwide. Being pioneers in the e-commerce space for Tea, we gained a few valuable insights and that’s why our customers have always been happy with our quality. We have seen a high amount of repurchase orders, which gives us more strength and confidence to approach the new customers.
We have had an early mover advantage and we got to see how this industry has developed.
So, we also offer B2B consultancy services to other brands in the country and abroad. Under this segment, we create customised blends and manage the product portfolio of consumer dealing with tea brands, cafes, stores and other businesses in this segment.
How do you stand apart from other tea brands and how do you ensure the best quality of your products?
We try to maintain the quality of our product based on three criteria: freshness, authenticity and quality – and this is what drives our product line.
Our teas are bought directly from the estates and selected from amongst hundreds of samples. Our no-compromise approach ensures that the tea samples are vacuumed the day we buy them. Once vacuumed, no external factor can affect the quality of the tea and the freshness is locked within. When it comes to creating flavoured tea blends, we adopt the same sourcing philosophy for our herbs, spices, flowers, and fruits. The aim is to make each blend unique, which is made possible through an extensive R&D process.
We sell through our website where we have close to a hundred tea options to choose from along with numerous gift packs, accessories and subscription boxes. Additionally, these are sold through the B2B channel along with the numerous customised blends that we create as per requirements of the client.
How much funding you’ve raised or looking to raise in the future?
We are a bootstrapped company and have invested our personal funds into this company. But we are open to exploring the avenue of external funding.
In which year did Udyan tea become profitable?
We have been profitable for the last two years. We are careful about our spending patterns and do not engage in cash burning activities, rather assess the ROI for each marketing plan that we explore.
What are your future plans for the company?
For the immediate term, we have launched our unique subscription plan which let our users discover new tea flavours each month. We believe that tea in India is loved more when curated and picked out individually for each drinker.
In the longer run, we want our tea to be the most desired and loved on the internet. There is no plan on how we will make it to the top list, but currently, we are relying on our loyal customer base who are increasing the goodwill through word-of-mouth.
What are the three important rules that every entrepreneur should follow?
Team – Hiring the right key people and choosing the right co-founder(s) is critical since these are the ones who will shape your company.
Branding – A branding strategy should be in place from day one. It is important to have consistency in your branding and the brand ethos should be reflected in both your products and the visual design.
Product Focus –This is a common mistake that many companies make when they lose focus on their product and instead solely focus on the growth. In this process the product tends to get left behind, loses quality and innovation takes a backseat. This can be devastating in the long run and hence quality and innovation should always remain a priority.
What kind of initiatives has been taken by the government to support the startups and what more should be done by them?
There have been a number of initiatives taken by the government towards the promotion of startups in recent times both from the centre and various state governments. Additionally, the Tea Board of India has many schemes that provide monetary support to startups for promotional activities.
But we feel that there is still a gap that needs to be filled by the West Bengal government as well as the Tea Board of India. Our state government needs to be more active when it comes to supporting, recognising startups, providing funds, and offering a promotional platform. Further, the Tea Board of India can do much better in terms of information dissemination, ease of licensing processes and offer support to the new-age tea brands.
What keeps you going during a difficult phase in business?
Doing business is never an easy process and I have never viewed this with such a perspective. Challenges are a part of the business and that itself is what keeps me motivated and keeps the excitement alive.
❖ Best leisure time activity: Playing the guitar and online gaming
❖ Your Role model: Steve Jobs
❖ A must-read book on entrepreneurship: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
❖ A must-watch movie for every entrepreneur: Pursuit of Happiness