A Sip of Health

Pegged at approximately Rs 150 crore, the green tea market in India is growing strongly and steadily with demand coming in also from Tier II and Tier III cities and manufacturers increasingly focusing on launching new variants

20150315eh87Cheap, affordable and addictive – have been terms synonymous with tea from the time it ceased to be an elite drink of the royals to become an affordable drink of the common man. Green tea is one of the fastest growing segments of the global tea industry. It is prepared from the leaves of camellia sinensis that have undergone minimal oxidation during processes. The concept of green tea originated from China and later spread all over the world. Some of the popular Japanese green teas are sencha, gyokuro, kabusecha, matcha, tencha, genmaicha and hojicha.

The journey of tea in India has indeed been fascinating and interesting. With rising health awareness, Indians who are majorly black tea drinkers, are now showing interest in green tea variants. Green tea is becoming an acquired cultural habit that is being driven by urban India’s urge to stay fit. Though presently green tea penetration in India is less than five per cent, however its demand is not just limited to metros and Tier I cities, but has also come to include Tier II and Tier III cities which have started consuming this drink on a regular basis. As a result of this growing penetration, the green tea market in India which is presently pegged at approximately Rs 150 crore has been growing upwards 50 per cent year-on-year.

With urban Indian consumers buying green tea for its many health-promoting benefits, manufacturers are increasingly focusing on making premium variants available in all retail channels, especially in modern grocery retail outlets. For instance, consumers are spoilt for choice with tea products of companies such as Organic India, GAIA Herbs, Twinings, Typhoo, as well as big FMCG giants like Hindustan Unilever, Tata Global Beverages, who are either launching new variants or re-launching their green tea product range. Moreover, GAIA Herbs has also introduced green tea variants, namely cardamom, and honey and lime, to cater to an increasing number of health-conscious consumers in urban cities. International manufacturers are also expanding their presence in institutional channels, including hotels, to generate awareness of their premium brands.

Tetley, sold across 40 countries and a part of Tata Global Beverages, has six flavours in its green tea portfolio including ginger, mint, lemon, honey and lemon, citrus and spice, and aloe vera. The company enjoys a market share of 35-40 per cent. Though in the total tea revenues of Tata Global Beverages, green tea currently has a very small share vis-a-vis black tea, the company expects the green tea segment to contribute significantly in the coming years. And with the increasing emphasis on health and wellness, the potential for categories within tea is immense.

For Twinings, India is one of the top five growth markets. The company, that has about 35 per cent market share in the premium and super premium teabag category in the country, is looking at increasing its business in India five-fold in the next five years. India is the third largest tea sourcing country for Twinings after China and Kenya. The company is a big buyer of Darjeeling and Assam teas and is increasingly buying tea from the Nilgiris. Twinings is part of Associated British Foods. Their range of green teas in the India market include green tea, green tea and lemon, green tea and mint, Earl Grey green tea, jasmine green tea and lemon and honey tea.

Also to stay ahead of the race, Wagh Bakri Tea Group has been offering one of the largest green tea ranges in India consisting of green tea, organic tea bags and regular green tea. The company also has different flavours across its green tea range like green tea mint and green tea tulsi and is currently working on expanding its green tea range under its wellness category. Apart from major Indian cities, Wagh Bakri Tea Group is also aggressively marketing its green tea products in Tier II and Tier III cities. Though at present, the company’s green tea revenue compared to normal CTC is negligible but in one to two years the green tea category is expected to comprise of 10 per cent of the company’s overall sales.

Global trend

20150315eh88According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the overweight population is expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2015 and growing healthcare costs in the US alone is expected to cross US$ 117 billion; all this is creating major opportunities for the growth in sale of weight management products such as green tea. Rising consumer awareness about the benefit of green tea in curing various diseases further triggers the global market of green tea.

Asia Pacific contributes the largest market of green tea in the world. Apart from India, countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and China are growing markets of green tea in this region. Rising population and healthcare awareness is further expected to boost the green tea market in Asia Pacific. Europe is the fastest growing market for the green tea industry.

Major companies operating in the global green tea market are AMORE Pacific Corp, Arizona Beverage Company, Associated British Foods LLC, Cape Natural Tea Products, Celestial Seasonings, Finlays Beverages, Frontier Natural Products Co-Op, Hambleden Herbs, Hankook Tea, Honest Tea, ITO EN, Kirin Beverage Corp, Metropolitan Tea Company, Northern Tea Merchants, Numi Organic Tea, Oishi Group Plc, Oregon Chai, PG Tips, Pukka Herbs, Qi Teas, The Kent Tea & Trading Company, The Republic Of Tea, The Stash Tea Company, Uncle Lee’s Tea and Yogi Tea.

Retrieved from – http://www.financialexpress.com/article/fhw/cover-story-fhw/a-sip-of-health/50721/

Tata Tea goes international

Tata Global Beverages (TGB), the Rs 7,622-crore beverage arm of the Tata Group, has inducted Tata Tea into its global power brand list. With this, the brand has become the second Indian product of the group to achieve this status. The other is mineral water brand Himalayan.

Typically, products with a strong international appeal, such as Tetley, Tea Pix and Eight O’ Clock Coffee, have been part of the list for some time now. TGB had inducted Himalayan into this club four years ago.

Tata Tea’s induction was on the cards but was delayed with the management debating whether such a move would be beneficial because of its strong presence in markets such as India, Southeast Asia and West Asia. However, Ajoy Misra, managing director of TGB, says: “We launched Tata Tea in Canada two-three years ago and it is doing well there. Remember Canada is an evolved tea market, where you have established brands. Tetley is already there, with Unilever’s products.”

TGB proposes to push Tata Tea deeper into the Canadian market, targeting areas beyond where the Indian diaspora is. (Its taste is considered stronger than Tetley’s.) The same strategy will be applied in the UK, where Tata Tea is available in select outlets.

These efforts are tied to TGB’s objective of building a strong portfolio of products that can straddle price points and segments. “Currently, there are white spaces, notably in coffee and water, which could be filled both organically and inorganically. In the UK, the top-end, mid-end and bottom-end are covered with Tea Pix, a luxury tea brand; Tetley, in the centre; and Tata Tea now, at the lower end. We would ideally like to replicate this model in other markets and across our verticals. If that necessitates an acquisition, we will do it. If an in-house product can fill the gap, we would look at that as well,” said Misra.

According to Misra, the acquisition of the Map coffee brand in Australia last year was part of this plan to fill gaps in key markets.

In India, the company might consider introducing one of its international coffee brands such as Eight O’ Clock (available in the US) or Grand (available in Russia) to fill the vacant slot in packaged coffee. The company is also mulling taking Tata Coffee’s packaged brand, Mr Bean, national as an alternative. Mr Bean is a popular packaged coffee brand in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

TGB will also look at co-creating products with Tata Group companies in areas such as ambient beverages.
Misra says it is also talking to “institutes and institutions”, exploring the prospect of jointly developing new products with them.

This aggression by TGB comes with the group and company chairman Cyrus Mistry laying special emphasis on the consumer and retail vertical among three other clusters as part of his Vision 2025 document. The plan here includes achieving a market capitalisation comparable with the 25 most valuable companies in the world in the next decade. Among other things, Mistry proposes to invest $35 billion (Rs 2.1 lakh crore) in the next three years in consumer & retail, defence, aerospace, financial services, realty, and infrastructure.

Retrieved from – http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/tata-tea-goes-international-115013100024_1.html

A festive brew of culture – APPL to honour contributions and traditions of tea tribes

 A woman plucks leaves at a tea garden in Nagaon.

Amalgamated Plantations Pvt Limited, formerly Tata Tea, will host the first-everSirish Festival at the company’s picturesque Hathikuli tea estate near Kaziranga National Park on February 7 and 8 in a bid to promote the unique cultures and traditions of the tea tribes of Assam.

“Sirish Festival, the first ever integrated festival to honour the contribution of the tea tribe community to Assam, is a watershed moment for us. We expect that future editions of this annual festival will provide for not only national but also international recognition for this great community,” Ranjit Barthakur, chairman of APPL Foundation, said.

The foundation looks after the corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities of the APPL and is primarily engaged with local communities in Assam in the areas of education and skill development, environment, healthcare, culture and heritage.

Sirish, a Sanskrit word meaning soul, is the local name for the shady trees in tea gardens. The festival will showcase traditional dance forms, sports, art and literature of the tea community of Assam. Apart from the local population of Hathikuli and its adjoining areas, representatives for all the 25 tea estates of APPL, tea tribe community leaders and icons from various fields will attend the festival.

The high point of the festival would be the recognition and honouring of two icons from the community – one each from the fields of literature and culture. The recognition will be in the form of a citation and cheque, which will be presented by the chief minister Tarun Gogoi at the venue on February 8.

A DVD of a modern rendition of a traditional jhumur songcalled Railgadi Jhumur will also be released during the festival.

The APPL Foundation official said competitions would be held among the participants of the tea community in jhumur dance, pole climbing, archery and other sporting events, which are popular among the community.

“Participants from APPL gardens will take part in this year’s festival but plans are there for participation from other company gardens from the next year’s festival,” the official said.

He said the tea community has made an immense contribution to the lifeline industry of the state and such festivals were necessary to give them recognition.

Although Robert Bruce discovered tea in 1823, the commercial cultivation started only after 14 years, when the first tea garden was established at Chabua in 1837. The British imported thousands of workers, mainly from the Chhotanagpur region, covering the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and also from Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. These indentured tea garden workers later came to be known as the tea tribe community.

The important constituents are the Santhal, Tanti, Orang, Munda, Bhuiya, Bhumij, Paharia, Proja, Gaur, Kharia, Bheel, Boraik, Ghatowar, Teli, Goala, Rajak, Koya, Telenga and Kamar. The culture of different tribes got intermixed within themselves and also with the existing local Assamese culture, and an amalgamation of tea tribe culture and a new way of living evolved.

Retrieved from – http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150128/jsp/northeast/story_10306.jsp#.VMnDhdKUf-t

Aid plea for Hathikuli farm

Amalgamated Plantations Private Ltd (APPL), the second largest tea producer in the country, is moving the Centre to help it sustain its organic initiative at Hathikuli — the largest integrated organic farm in the country.

The tea company, which has 25 gardens in Assam and Bengal, is making this move to take advantage of the Rs 100 crore budget provision made this year to promote organic farming in the Northeast.

A senior company official said as a first move, it is looking to the government to allocate funds from the current year’s budget for organic production and will send a detailed proposal.

“This will encourage sustaining the organic movement in the Northeast,” he said.

The cumulative loss of going organic at Hathikuli has been Rs 16 crore, which is mainly due to loss of production, he added.

The process of organic transformation was undertaken in 2007 and it was achieved in 2011. “The acreage converted to organic farming is the largest contiguous conversion that has taken place anywhere in the country,” the official said.

The 687-hectare Hathikuli tea garden, situated on the periphery of Kaziranga National Park, is certified organic according to the Indian, US, European Union and Japanese organic agricultural standards.

Hathikuli is known for its CTC, orthodox, green teas and black pepper with a total annual production of 600 metric tonnes.

The teas are being exported to Germany, the US, the UK and West Asian countries.

Hathikuli Tea Garden

Hathikuli Tea Garden

The demand for organic food and beverages in the country is huge and estimated at $129.3 million and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15 per cent.

“We are in the process of educating ourselves and developing organic packages and practices, which will help create a knowledge base for farmers across the world and specifically Assam,” the official said.

The company’s net profit during 2013-14 reflected a growth of 56 per cent compared to 2012-13. The company held its annual general meeting last month with Ranjit Barthakur as its chairman.

The company has recorded an increase of nine per cent in its own crop harvest as compared to the Assam Valley increase of six per cent.

The company has focused on increasing its volume on operations through sustained development of its tea areas and purchase of bought leaf for conversion. It has also focused on orthodox manufacturing, which has added considerable value to the operations.

The focus on quality has also improved its earnings.

APPL has deployed a fairly large number of mechanical harvesters across 17 estates, as these machines will help in harvesting the crops in time. “This would also help in availability of mandays to do cultivation, as many estates are facing a shortage of workers,” the official said.

Retrieved from – http://www.telegraphindia.com/1140818/jsp/northeast/story_18729198.jsp#.U_GQbMWSz-s

TGB announces guidelines to sustainable beverage production and consumption

Tata Global Beverages (TGB), today announced their plans for 100 percent sustainable sourcing by 2020.

Tata Global Beverages’ sustainability strategy rests on five key pillars, of which Sourcing is one. The five pillars are Ethical Sourcing, Water Management, Climate Change Management, Waste Management and Community Development.

The company’s sustainable sourcing strategy has a major focus on sustainable agricultural practices. A key component of this effort aims at achieving optimum productivity, and gradually reducing the dependence on synthetic inputs in the form of Plant Protection Formulas.

Tata Global Beverages’ commitment to reducing the use of synthetic Plant Protection Formulations, in the supply chain, is an integral part of TGBs commitment to greater sustainability to ensure the protection of the environment for the benefit of all.

The document published “Guidelines on Plant Protection formulations” outlines the vision to maintain sustainability in the supply chain by supporting Good Agricultural Practices, collaborations and partnerships, independent certifications, pilot projects and agricultural extension activities.

This applies to all the tea that is purchased either through auctions or directly from suppliers, including subsidiary and associate plantation companies, big and small estates and small holders.

Speaking on the same, Ajoy Misra, MD and CEO of Tata Global Beverages said, “As a responsible player in the natural beverages segment, TGB cares deeply about sustainability and recognises the importance of systematically reducing the use of Plant Protection Products in the tea industry and have been proactively advocating for the same. From bush to cup, we are always conscious of our obligation towards our consumers and seek continuously to maintain and improve the quality of tea production, delivering not just to norms but above and beyond them wherever viable.”


Tata Global Beverages is one of the founding members of trustea, a multi stakeholder initiative led by the Tea Board of India. The Trustea India Sustainability Tea Programme envisions verifying over 600 factories, covering 500,000 workers and 40,000 small holders by December 2014.

The Tea Board of India through its Trustea initiative and the launch of a new Plant Protection Code (PPC) in July this year announced their plans to certify 500 million kg of tea, amounting to 51 per cent of India’s tea supply by 2017.

Tata Global Beverages is in full support of independent third party certifications of sustainable agriculture such as Rain Forest Alliance, Trustea or UTZ from our tea suppliers as evidence that the tea they supply to us is sustainably sourced.

Retrieved from – http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/tgb-announces-guidelines-to-sustainable-beverage-production-and-consumption-114080701028_1.html

The Manipuri Entrepreneur who has changed the tea drinking habit of the region and created 2000+ jobs

This story is as refreshing as the brew they make. Ragesh Keisham has set out to give Manipur its proper place under the sun, and make true the sobriquet attached to it of being the ‘land that laid the golden egg’.

Ragesh is the Founder of SuiGeneris Inc, a venture that has innovated and discovered a new variant of tea made from lemongrass aka Cymbopogon Citratus, being sold under the brand name of CC Tea.

Ragesh says they have got interests for the product from local as well as international market and by next year they will plant about 600 acres with CC Tea. CC Tea has captured about 25% of the local Manipuri market and by next year 2015, the plan is to double the share. What appears like a great future has had its own share of challenges and turmoils, but today the SuiGeneris story is one of hope and inspiration.

Beginning of journey

SuiGeneris means unique or “one of its kind” in Latin, and Ragesh says he chose the name because that is what he has set out to achieve with his venture. SuiGeneris and CC Tea were launched in August 2011, but the legwork started way back in 2007. However, this is not the first venture that Ragesh set out to do. Ragesh says he had nurtured the dream of being a businessman right from childhood. The inspiration is perhaps his grandfather, who, Ragesh says, was a flamboyant businessman of his time, but also went bankrupt in his lifetime. His parents then stuck to the norm that is characteristic of Manipur, which is taking up a government job. “Manipuri people are always dependant on government jobs, and today there are 7.5 unemployed youth registered in government registers,” he points out.

Ragesh dabbled in some freelancing and consulting jobs at the beginning of his career. The first proper venture he set out to do was a BPO business, which was a contract he took from his friend in the UK for data digitization. However, the venture folded up soon because of unfavourable social conditions in Manipur. The problem was reliance on electricity, which Ragesh says is a scarcity in Manipur. Regular power cuts plague the state and sometimes the power supply is only for 4 hours in a day. Given such constraints the BPO business soon folded up.

“Although I was born in Manipur, I have not lived there, my education happened in Pune. So I didn’t know much about the place. So I thought people are doing BPO business, let me also do it,” he explains. However, once he realized the constraints in doing a BPO business, Ragesh set out to understand which could be his next outing. About zeroing in on farming, Ragesh says the rationale was that to do any business in Manipur, it had to be something that could use the local resources available and not be reliant on something external.

Founding SuiGeneris

Farming, a dominant occupation in Manipur, caught his attention and that sow the seeds of SuiGeneris Inc. His tryst with agriculture started in 2005, when Ragesh started researching and brainstorming with many experts in the agricultural field about that one product which could be turned into a bigger venture.

During one such discussion with Dr. M Ahmed, a senior scientist from the aromatic field, the perfect solution was suddenly evident and Ragesh was impressed by the numerous therapeutic benefits of Cymbopogon Citratus (CC). As some varieties of lemongrass grow in the wild, a very high yield was predicted for CC in Manipur. Ragesh’s quest had finally found a direction and he incorporated SuiGeneris Inc in 2007.

Next he imported 10,000 saplings of superior quality CC from Indonesia in 2007. Ragesh Keisham “During my research I found that lemongrass could be used to make a type of oil, so I decided to do the same. On Dr. Ahmed’s guidance, I also made a project report and approached SBI for loan. I was given half assurance that I will get the loan, but it never happened. Six months down the line, the plants started flowering and Dr. Ahmed told me that if it starts flowering then the utility of the plant is gone. I had to cut it and burn it. The first 6 months was pure heart burn for me. Then in the next 6 months the plant started growing and flowering again, but I still had no loan from the bank,” recalls Ragesh.

Two crops had to be burnt down, and predictably Ragesh was dejected and thought of quitting and doing something else. In the process he attempted many things – tried using the grass as fodder for cattle, thatching roof, but nothing worked. He started searching online for a solution and came across an article that said lemongrass had been used to cure fever in Brazil and was called fever grass. This article gave Ragesh the idea to use lemongrass as a beverage. He boiled the leaf to make the beverage, but the brew that came from it was not palatable.  “I boiled the leaf and it was the most beautiful green I had ever seen, but when I drank it, it had the most horrible taste. It was literally undrinkable. So I knew I had to find a process of drying it. So after lot of trials, I found the process of drying it. And then the tea that came tasted really good,” he says.

With the product ready, Ragesh decided to convince his parents to try it, who were ardent tea fans and had about 20-30 cups of tea a day. In the beginning his parents found the tea little light, but over a period of use they developed a taste for it and took to it completely. “That was the day I knew I had hit a jackpot. Because if my parents who were tea addicts could drink my tea, then anybody can drink my tea,” smiles Ragesh.

With the first hurdle crossed, Ragesh now had to take the product to the masses, and to launch anything in Manipur market is an uphill task. With no money to invest in advertising, Ragesh thought of an ingenious way to sell his product. During his research for CC Tea, he had read a lot about the impact of gloabl warming on the environment. So he decided he  would give talks in local schools, colleges and clubs about the subject. “I prepared a presentation of 1.45 hours where I gave a lot of message about global warming and climate change. I recruited 2-3 people who helped me take appointments from local schools, colleges, and clubs. In the presentation, the last 15 minutes I reserved to talk about CC Tea, and how global warming and CC tea are linked. Once the participants understood the problem of global warming, I told them we had to plant lot of trees. I asked young children if they would like to be my volunteers. Those who wanted to volunteer had to pay me Rs 100 per month and I would plant a tree on their behalf and they would also get a pack of CC Tea.”

Ragesh says he had to adopt this method because not only was Manipur a tough market to launch in, but also because he didn’t have any money to for packaging of the product. Through this exercise CC Tea was handed out in very rough packing of transparent plastic pouches. With the tea in their hands, people started brewing and drinking it, and slowly the product caught on. Ragesh did this exercise for one whole year and then stopped it. “Once the product stopped, customers started enquiring where CC Tea was and there was a huge demand for it,” he says.

Ragesh then borrowed some money from his family and with proper packing launched CC Tea officially in the market in August 2011. “I only had enough money to make 200 packs of CC Tea, and on the launch date all of it was sold in 10 minutes,” he says proudly.

Present day and future

Ragesh took the first loan from his wife by mortgaging her jewellery to buy big machines and get the business up and running. “Nobody was giving me finance, although I was convinced about CC Tea. My parents, sisters and wife stood by me and understood what I wanted to do. They had complete faith in me. So with the money that I had in my hand I ordered more packaging material, and when people started seeing a good product in the market, it was easy for me to raise capital,” he says.

The beginning was still slow because money was coming in slowly. Ragesh says he has borrowed from unknown people who are willing to lend him Rs 20,000-30,000. “I started gathering small amounts; once I had a particular amount in hand I would order one machine. Then again I would go out and look out for investment and have another amount in hand, I would order another machine. That’s how I started recruiting men, buying machines — it was a very slow process, because it is difficult to convince people to give money,” he recollects.

From starting in a small 200 sq. ft. space to now a factory spread over 5 acres, SuiGeneris has come a long way. The company now employs 2,000 women in its fields and has a team of 77 executives who are responsible for the various aspects of business. The company had a turnover of Rs 3.5 crores this year. Ragesh says with the current machinery they are producing about 30,000 units of CC Tea – which includes 200 gms tea packet, as well as tea bags.

SuiGeneris has managed to take 600 acres of land on lease, where production is currently underway in full swing. Once the crop starts getting harvested and processed by next year June, Ragesh forecasts an ability to produce about 48 lakhs units of CC Tea.

Ragesh claims they have already captured 25% market share in Manipur and with increased production, they should be able to increase the share in the coming days.SuiGeneris recently entered into a contract with IBCC (Indian Baltic Chamber of Commerce), which will enable them to supply CC Tea to Europe and Commonwealth Independent States. For distribution within India, they are in talks with many companies and things should firm up in the coming days, says Ragesh.

“I don’t want to sign too many contracts, because what we are producing is not even sufficient for North East now. And we are slowly upgrading. The market opportunity is huge, and tea drinkers have started liking my tea. Normal tea drinkers consume 4.6 million tones every year, and if I could upgrade my production capacity 8 times, that would still mean only 0.03% of the world’s market share, and it’s not very difficult to achieve,” he says.

Another aspect that gets Ragesh excited is the difference he is making in the lives of Manipuri people. “0.03% of the world market share means Rs 96 crores each year, that’s 5000 number of employment. Yes I am concerned about revenues, but what is more beautiful is that I will be able to employ  5000 more people. There are under privileged women in the society, but with SuiGeneiris their lives have certainly transformed in whatever small way,” he says proudly.

Lessons from the journey so far

Ragesh says for anyone who wants to enter into agriculture or plantation, grass is a good entry point. “There are many plants in the world where you can earn good revenues from, but the difficult part is maintenance. Before you gain full knowledge, start plantation from a grass family. And try to come up with an end product. So if someone has to foray into farming, come up with an end product, else it is very risky,” he advises.

He encourages everyone to take the entrepreneurial plunge, because there is a huge satisfaction when you sit back and see things have shaped at the end of the day. “Failures are stepping stones to success, but luck is also important. However, luck is just 5% of the mixture, rest of the time you learn from your mind and experience. Use your mind to apply what you a have learnt, and there is nothing like a right or wrong decision. I make a decision and then I make it right,” advises Ragesh.

And finally he says he would like to send out a strong message to the people of North East not to be just reliant on government jobs. “If you are a police or IAS officer, it’s good, and you become a better person. But if you are an entrepreneur and if you are successful, you can change thousands of lives and I would say entrepreneurism is the need of the hour,” he says.

Reference – http://yourstory.com/2014/06/suigeneris/

A visit to the largest organic farm in Asia

Today we had the opportunity to visit one of the leading tea producers in India, Hathikuli Tea Plantation. Hathikuli is the biggest employer in the Kaziranga area and as we soon found out, the largest organic farm in all of Asia. The management of this massive tea operation taught us a lot about tea and what an operation of this size means to both the local community and the environment surrounding it. The plantation covers 470 hectares and employs more than 3,000 workers, the majority of whom are working as tea pickers, which they have done for generations since the plantation opened more than 100 years ago.


While sipping on delicious organic tea from plants just feet away, the manager, Chandan, told us that the board members made a conscious decision in 2009 to prioritize their impact on the local environment. The first year they converted half of the crop to organic and the operation has since been 100% organic. This fact was astonishing to hear, because the change meant going from over a million kilos (2.2 million lbs) of final product per year to around 430,000 (946,000 lbs). There is an increase in product value but not nearly enough to cover the loss. So essentially we have major businessmen making a decision to lower revenue in order to help the environment, by decreasing the amount of toxic pesticides that were contaminating the surrounding waters. Since Kaziranga is mostly swampland and rivers, all these pesticides had a detrimental effect on the ecosystem.


The assistant manager took us on a tour of the beautiful green plantations where we had the chance to meet some of the local workers and to satisfy our curiosity about this forward-thinking company. As always, the Indian hospitality was above and beyond. Workers in the fields work 6 days a week, 8 hours a day and make 95 rupees per day. 95 rupees a day is around 1.6 dollars U.S., not exactly a dream wage by any standard. However, the workers get an hour lunch, housing, 48 days paid vacation, 84 days paid maternity leave and all medical care paid for. Amazingly, the medical care extends to their entire family. The plantation even has a professional and fully-equipped hospital to tend to any of the workers’ needs. We had lunch with the doctor who was extremely well- educated, well-traveled and dedicated to her profession. She has the assistance of multiple nurses and is on-call 24/7. When asked what she deals with, she told us “I am a jack of all trades, and deal with anything from a headache, to childbirth, alcohol addiction, trauma surgery and anything in between”.

Hathikuli Tea Plantation is just one of the many examples of the conservation efforts in effect to protect Kaziranga. The people of Assam are extremely proud of this national treasure.

Next time you sip on a cup of organic tea, there is a good chance that it was grown right here in Kaziranga!

Reference – http://quest4understanding.com/a-visit-to-the-largest-organic-farm-in-asia/

PS – This blog was posted by Amy Rose Vankanan & Martin Söderhamnwho visited Hathikuli Tea Estate. They are associated with The WILD Foundation, US based not-for-profit organization, with a vision to protect and connect wilderness, wildlife, and people. (www.wild.org)

Exploited Community

Commercialization of the beverage called tea was begun as a cottage industry in China, when individual farmers would plant a few acres of the plant, use some of the produce for his family and sell the surplus to tea buyers, However, when the British built up an alternative tea industry in India, they did so as a capitalist enterprise. Huge tea plantations, in contrast to the small family holdings in China, were set up. The local people being unwilling to work in these newly opened tea gardens, thousands of workers were imported into Assam to man them, a horrific story of colonial exploitation. Since those pioneering days the exploitation of what has come to be known as the tea worker community continued. Though today living conditions are far better than the earlier times, yet given the reality that a tea worker is the soul of a tea garden, his or her quality of life is far from ideal. It is also true that during the post-independence period, when the industry passed into Indian hands, the capitalist ethos remained, as did worker exploitation. Unfortunately, progressive opinion in tea-growing areas like Assam did not raise its voice against this, which enabled the government political entity to use tea workers as its vote bank. A single union under political control was allowed to operate within tea gardens, thereby enabling the political-corporate nexus to negotiate contractual terms to their own benefit.


These are stark truths known to those familiar with the tea industry. Thus the irony that it required a “report” by researchers from Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute to imbue global focus on them would not be lost on the knowledgeable. The oddity of the report lies in the fact that it homes in solely on one tea group, Tata Tea’s Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited, whereas the same concerns are associated with the entire tea industry! This is perhaps because issues such as the use of child workers in factories in China, or hazardous conditions confronted by workers in Bangladesh, are today touching the collective conscience of consumers in the West. Tata Tea is not only a high profile group with international holdings, but also taken loan from the World Bank for its tea producing sector, thus perhaps it has been put under the microscope for not fulfilling commitments. The “report” has coerced Tata Tea to appoint an independent firm to review the working and living conditions of tea workers and has pledged to rectify shortcomings. But action by a small component of the tea corporate sector is hardly likely to enhance the quality of life of tea workers in general, particularly those of private gardens. It is incumbent on the part of the Centre as well as Governments of States where the tea industry exists to take note of the shortcomings within it as far as worker benefits are concerned.

Reference – http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/showpage.asp?id=apr1914,6,87,225,330,981

Green tea biz poised for strong growth

Kamal Baheti, chief financial officer,  McLeod Russel is confident of the company’s entry into the green tea business and says he sees a tremendous potential in the same. “Given its health connotations, we expect this growth to increase in urban areas.” says Baheti.

McLeod Russel recently made a Rs 5 crore worth acquisition of a green tea-processing factory in Vietnam , thereby entering the green-tea business.

“Green tea market in India has a market share of only 1 percent but it is growing by 25-30 percent every year. It is basically because the base is small. But this is a market, initially it is the urban market where it is growing but we believe with the health benefits attached to green tea, this is a segment which will grow more. There is hardly any production which happens in India. We have brought this factory in Vietnam, we will also see which are the markets other than India, Middle East, Pakistan etc growing in green tea. So, it is not only India but we are looking at international markets to really export the green tea.” says Baheti.


Before this Tata Global Beverages (Tata) with Tetley and Hindustan Unilever (HUL) with Lipton were dominating the green tea business. On expectations from the black tea segment, Baheti says a 5-10 percent price hike is likely as the tea season begins.
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How Tata Global is spicing up beverage sales

While tea remains its most profitable segment, accounting for 70 per cent of its revenue, the company has also put its innovation machine into top gear-eyeing emerging segments like herbal teas and fortified water in India and the UK and coffee pods.

The American market is becoming a testing ground for a new strategy that the beverage arm of the Tata Group is putting in place: identify new consumer trends and go after them even if it means adopting new distribution and marketing models.

Consider this: the United States is the largest consumer of coffee in the world at $30 billion (Rs 1.83 lakh crore). Tata Global Beverages, the Rs 7,270-crore beverage major, which marked its presence in the US with the 2006 acquisition of Eight O’Clock Coffee, the third-largest coffee brand in that country in terms of volume, is shifting its attention to the in-home segment, making beans and pods for the coffee-making machines at home which offer a growing space in the American coffee market.

Tata Global Beverages, which derives about 25 per cent of its overall revenues from coffee and about 18 per cent from Eight O’Clock alone, has tied up with coffee-machine makers such as Green Mountain Roasters, owners of Keurig, in the US. The latter is the largest single-serve machine operator in the nearly $12-billion (or Rs 73,000 crore) in-home coffee market in the US. It has a 72 per cent share of the market. The tie up with Keurig allows the Indian beverage company to push products such as packaged Eight O’Clock branded coffee pods for Keurig machines (popularly called K-Cups). It has thus ensured that it is not altogether out of the consumption basket in this segment.

The result? In a span of a year-and-a-half since the launch of K-Cups, Tata Global Beverages has managed to garner a share of about 7 per cent of the single-serve market, according to analysts tracking the company.

This spurt has happened even as the regular Eight O’Clock packaged coffee (available in whole bean as well as grounded formats) was refurbished recently in the US to help it stand out in a cluttered beverage environment. Ajoy Mishra, executive director & deputy CEO, Tata Global Beverages – who will take over from incumbent Harish Bhat as managing director & CEO on April 1 – said while announcing the company’s third-quarter results this January that he saw the new product formats (K-Cups) helping the brand increase its share in a sluggish market.

The overall coffee market in the US is growing at a pace of just 5.6 per cent per annum. But analysts say it is the single-serve segment, growing faster than the overall coffee market, that is expected to fuel Eight O’Clock’s growth. Says Abneesh Roy, associate director, research, institutional equities, Edelweiss: “Markets such as the US are highly modern trade-led, where a number of beverage brands are competing for a share of the consumer’s wallet. Tie-ups with coffee makers such as Green Mountain, therefore, is the way forward since it gives a packaged brand direct entry into the consumer’s home.”

While single-serve is clearly the way forward for Tata Global Beverages in the US, in India the company is counting on its joint venture with Starbucks to help it expand its coffee presence. Tata Starbucks, the joint venture between the Indian and American companies, has already led to 34 stores in four cities, including in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi and Bangalore, over the past 18 months and is expected to keep its pace of launches as it looks to grow its business aggressively. Analysts say that the joint venture is expected to add at least 20 new stores in the next six months, crossing the 50-store mark in the process. This, say analysts, will possibly constitute the fastest expansion of retail outlets by a brand in recent years. Misra says that operations of the joint venture are going according to plan, but does not go into details. Last year, Tata Starbucks had increased its authorised share capital by Rs 150 crore in a fund-raising drive aimed at helping it expand operations.

Tata Global Beverages is looking to take revenues from coffee to 35 per cent in the next five years and infusion of capital is expected to aid this process.

Specialty teas and water

There are two other emerging areas on Tata Global Beverages’s radar. Around 70 per cent of Tata Global Beverages’s revenues comes from tea. But it is specialty teas, which make up 15 per cent of this 70 per cent pie, that the company has sets its eye on. Specialty teas include green and herbal teas. Tata Global Beverages, according to people who know of the company’s plans, is looking at increasing its contribution from specialty teas to 30 per cent over the next few years. This comes as preference for green tea grows in India and across the world. According to experts, green tea constitutes 5 per cent (or Rs 550 crore) of the overall 800 million-kg tea market in India that is worth Rs 11,000 crore. It is estimated that green tea will touch 20 per cent in the next few years.

Tata Global Beverages already has a portfolio of six variants under the Tetley brand name within its green tea portfolio in India, commanding a market share of 27 per cent. The company proposes to take this number up in the coming days by introducing new flavours to spice up its offering. Similarly, in markets such as the UK and Canada, the company has been aggressively pushing its green tea range. It has market leadership in green teas in Canada and is number two after Twinings in the same category in the UK.

In water, Tata Global Beverages wants to take its Himalayan packaged water to West Asia and parts of South-east Asia after launching it in Singapore at Starbucks outlets there. This is expected to gain momentum in the next financial year, when Tata Global Beverages’s joint venture with PepsiCo, called NourishCo, will also launch Tata Water Plus in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

Currently, Tata Water Plus, a fortified water brand from NourishCo, and Tata Gluco Plus, an energy drink from the company, are available in the southern markets of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Tata Global Beverages is also expected to take the two products to more markets in the south. Water at the moment contributes 2 per cent to revenues, which the company plans to take to 10 per cent in five years.

Tata Global Beverages is expected to support growth in these categories with acquisitions. Misra had reiterated in January that the company had no plans to abandon its inorganic growth strategy despite selling its entire stake in Rising Beverages, a US beverage company, during the December 2013 quarter. Tata Global Beverages, Misra had said, was looking at joint ventures and alliances besides acquisitions in specialty teas, water and coffee.


Over the last decade, Tata Global Beverages has transitioned from being a local maker of packaged tea to the second-largest maker of tea in the world. The ball was set rolling in 2000, when the company, then called Tata Tea, acquired UK-based tea maker Tetley in a Rs 1,870-crore deal. The buy-out heralded the start of an aggressive expansive strategy.

Between 2000 and 2010, the company spent over Rs 5,000 crore on acquisitions in the US, Russia, East Europe and South Africa, snapping up players such as Good Earth, Jemca, Joekels Tea, Vitax, Grand and Eight O’Clock Coffee, among a host of others. Of these, Tata Tea, which became Tata Global Beverages in 2010, cashed out of two transactions-its 30-per cent stake in US-based Energy Brands, the maker of Glaceau vitamin water and its 43.1-per cent stake in Rising Beverages, the maker of the Activate brand of functional water, a brand popular in the US.

Despite the exits, notably in the water business, Tata Global Beverages has not given up on its ambition of expanding its presence in the segment. Tea, coffee and water are the three pillars of its business, says the company. It announced last month that it had received the mandatory approval of the local stock exchanges to merge Mount Everest with itself, a process it had set rolling in November 2013. In tea, its focus will be on green and herbal since the demand for black tea is waning in mature markets with people veering towards healthier options.

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