A country inhabiting the population of millions of tea lovers, India, has a history of almost 3000 years in manufacturing, brewing, and drinking tea. Speaking of tea here, I recently had a conversation with Soveet Gupta, the founding member of Udyan Tea, a chai startup from the land of ‘tea plantation’ itself.
The best part about Udyan Tea is that all the three founding members are specialized in some or the other aspect of tea business.
After reading this journey even you would say, the three pillars of Udyan Tea have a special bond with the beverage both genetically and professionally.
About Udyan Tea
The dealer of both flavored and unflavored chai, this company is from the valley of its product’s cultivation. Talking about Udyan Tea Soveet says, “Our heart lies in the product, creating new and excellent blends and sourcing finer tea. We have shipped our chai to 25+ countries, selling approximately 12 million cups of tea. We are a bootstrapped company, or as they commonly call it ‘self-funded firm’. In a team of 10, everyone works in a different zone.”
“We buy chai leaves from estate farms. As in different seasons, there is a huge variation in tea, so we need to make sure we select an appropriate flush segment in the particular season from the best estate.”
Soveet speaks about the uniqueness of the company as, “One of our key competitors, is Teabox, which started somewhere around the time when we did. Nevertheless, what sets us apart is that, In Udyan Tea, it makes an immense amount of difference that the founder has been into chai for a decade now. In any business, the point of major importance is how much emphasis you can lay on the product itself which shouldn’t even be 99%, but a straight 100%.”
“Companies like Tata Tea sell CTC tea, i.e. crushed, torn apart, and curled leaves. We also make CTC tea, but we majorly deal in the other blends like black, green, ginger and many others. The channel of operations, the price point vary a lot. Our target audience is different.”
“We are currently registered with a few third party companies, though major business happens from our own website. Therefore, we handle the logistics ourselves. We ship out all our packages from Siliguri itself, collaborating with the local courier services like DTDC. The clarity of the product which is explained on our website can’t be as efficient on others.” Soveet says.
Related- How to Start a Tea Business?
How Udyan Tea Started?
When asked about the life prior to establishing Udyan Tea and the story of how the company was established, Soveet says, “We are traditionally from entrepreneurial families. Punit Poddar’s family has been into tea business for around 50-60 years now. Parvez Gupta did IT engineering and I have been more into finance and marketing. The idea of Udyan Tea came to Parvez and Punit’s mind while they were traveling to the western and northern part of the country.”
He added, “All of us belong to Siliguri having an entrepreneurial background, and therefore, a good cup of tea has been a given for us. However, while traveling they realized it is not easy to find a decent tea even in India, which is renowned for its Darjeeling Black Tea. That’s when somewhere around the first half of 2012, we realized we can do something in this zone.”
Soveet recollects his journey in establishing Udyan Tea, “We brainstormed about how we can get this tea to people. How the sourcing, the selection should be done. Punit understands the product really well, the intricacies, and the key thing to look into the product.”
“Authenticity is another huge thing that most people usually ignore. If I were to talk about some figures here, the amount Darjeeling has per year, the amount of tea that is sold in the name of Darjeeling tea is almost 7-8 times more. We hereby concluded that people are not getting authentic teas; the final products need to be price efficient. We had deep links with the industry, as Punit’s family is into the business for long now, so that’s when the business took off.”
How Udyan Tea Gained Customer Attention?
To be a professional and established entrepreneur, people need to consider many aspects to be implemented when an idea pops up in the mind.
Now, we talked about the diverse look about how this entrepreneurial product brought gains.
Whatever, be your product, you need to make sure about the market it is to be sold in and even considering the fact that it would be new to people, we can’t compromise on quality at all.
Speaking of quality here Soveet says, “Our tasting process is somewhere experience oriented tasting process. We have a high emphasis on the product quality, which is evaluated by Aroma and taste. Then the major aspect is overall offering that needs to be price efficient for the customers. For the infusion of perfect blends, it takes months of research. For instance, we are about to launch next week fruit-based flavors which took months of research. The total offering that Udyan Tea does is 100 different flavors approximately. We ensure customer satisfaction with the service, even if it brings a little financial loss. This creates a new web of new customers too.”
Plans for the Future
Discussing his plans of Udyan Tea, “Currently we would soon be launching subscription model for our retail clients to help our customers in discovering new amazing blends, just by answering a few question and their reviews. Adding a human touch is very important in such businesses. ” Soviet describes.
“We might start a tea café business, somewhere down the line, today, getting into the café line might slow down our process of making great tea.”
“For the time being, we do not think it is the right way to go right now for us. Running a tea café is a 100% full-time thing, what we specialize in is the product. So, most of our time is spent in procuring the best teas, creating new blends that are a very long process.”- says Soveet
According to Soveet, the vision with Udyan Tea is to serve great teas to everybody. Hence, this vision obligates the company founders to work more on the product itself.
“To ensure everybody gets a good tea, we are focusing on becoming the source where tea is imported. Hence, we started the B2B business, helping companies set up their menus, and brands set-up their business. We slowly evolved into a consultancy and today, we pride ourselves being the only tea consultancy of the world.” Soviet adds.
Hurdles Throughout the Journey
Reminiscing the obstacle that occurred Soveet shares his journey as, “I think primarily it was about understanding the market where business was built by us from scratch. When we started, we did not know where to begin, what products to offer, about the packaging, the delivery process, the manufacturing mechanism, the response rate, and other key aspects of a business. The fact that there was a huge amount the time we had to spend on this company, we experimented with so many names, and we expanded the portfolio very slowly from the time we built the company till today.”
“Another challenge was becoming a consultancy. Gathering that much experience, getting that much understanding about the market, different brands and everything, in both international and national zones, even the ones who sell online or offline or both.”
Sharing his Business pedagogy Soveet speaks of key aspects of developing a business as “Patience is the key here, it will earn the expected revenue, but you need to be very patient whilst being passionate about your business. Building a huge product portfolio took a very long time, as I said. There are many old players in selling flavored chai, but they are not up to the mark. It all takes a lot of time in reaching the sweet spot.”
Suggestion for Potential Entrepreneurs
“Keep a close watch on the startup community, a lot of companies are looking for funding. What I have personally observed, many companies are running for funding, many times that is the basis of the startup. I am not saying that this is not valid, but a lot of time, you will be lost in this process. You lose focus on your product, and that is the biggest mistake you can do. There is no better marketing than word of mouth marketing, so rather do not lose that focus. Spend all your time and energy on the brand and product. Be more patient with the company that is when you can automatically grow it!” suggests Soveet.