The story of Udyan Tea is the story of three tea enthusiasts whose search for a fine cup of cheer helped create India’s only tea consultancy and pioneers in the e-commerce space for tea
The team behind Udyan Tea are a bunch of tea-aficionados who have a legacy that few can claim – they all belong to the land of tea. Which means, they intrinsically know what good tea tastes like. Being natives of Siliguri (Darjeeling district), a great cup of tea has always been a given for them. And this is not just about your regular cup of doodh wali chai, but a fine Darjeeling Black or a Green or an Oolong tea. Udyan Tea was started in 2012 by the trio – Parvez Gupta and Punit Poddar, along with Soveet Gupta as a founding member, (all belonging to entrepreneurial families) who, during their travels to various parts of the country, realised there is a severe lack of good quality tea.
Poddar’s family has been into the tea business for over five decades and he himself has been a tea taster for over 10 years now, tasting close to a thousand cups of tea each day. His vast experience in this field coupled with deep relationships and sourcing abilities from hundreds of gardens, giving the team the required edge to operate in this domain with perfection. Parvez Gupta has been pivotal in execution of the business idea while taking care of technology and operations with great finesse. As for Soveet Gupta, marketing and business development has been his forte and he’s put this to good use at Udyan Tea.
“Most of the good quality produce is mostly exported to foreign markets where people appreciate these types of tea much better than we do, leaving virtually nothing for our own people. So the question is – if none of the existing companies are doing anything about bringing the finer, fresher teas to the masses, then what can WE do about it? Thus was born Udyan Tea out of a strange concoction of frustration and deep passion,” reveals Soveet Gupta. Pioneers in the e-commerce space for tea, Udyan Tea prides in bringing the finest tea from the estates to your cup. He adds,“Udyan means Garden and that’s what we represent – from the gardens. We strive to bring only the finest handpicked single estate tea as well as the most flavourful blends to the people. We guide ourselves towards creating an experience for the final consumer, that we ourselves experience here. We ought to be drinking the best tea out there, no further questions asked. Today, we pride in being the only tea consultancy in the country, where we are not only serving the best tea to consumers, but also helping other brands with their portfolio and cafes with their menus.”
India has traditionally been a tea drinking nation but is it mature enough to appreciate exotic and luxury teas? Soveet agrees that India has traditionally been a tea drinker, focused on the low priced CTC Black Tea variant that is prepared with milk. The primary reason for this being lack of access to most other variants. Even if the older companies offer these other variants, the quality in most cases is sub par. Given these facts, people are either unaware of the vast domain that comprises this drink, or have developed a dislike for Green or Orthodox Black Teas – since all they’ve tasted is low quality dust (fanning) grade tea put inside tea bags. “If you ask us, India has always been ready for exotic and luxury teas. All they need is proper access coupled with enough information about the variants, so that they can make an informed decision. If someone were to taste an authentic cuppa steeped with the excellent whole leaf teas that India produces, they would be surprised at what they’ve been missing out on all their lives,” he opines.
Fine tea is like fine wine
Udyan Tea’s key USP lies in its founding team. The founders have a combined experience in two fields critically important for delivering a memorable experience to tea lovers – Tea and Technology. Poddar’s 10+ years of tasting experience is much more than any tea tasting course can offer. He says,“People might have heard enough about wine tasting and its intricacies, but do not realise that fine tea is somewhat like fine wine and you need to be sure that selection and blending of your cuppa is in safe hands. That’s where we have an edge. Further, from an operational point of view, our location in Siliguri is ideal in terms of procurement of tea since accessing the source is incredibly convenient. And being a pioneer in this niche space of tea e-commerce in the country, we have seen the market evolve over the years and understand it very well, especially in terms of consumer preferences.”
Sustainability is a priority for Udyan Tea. The company purchases the teas from a number of small growers on a continuous basis. This helps the farmers fetch the best prices for their teas by eliminating middlemen, thus contributing to their sustainability. These growers do not own any tea estate, instead farm tea on smaller patches and their manufacturing process is usually carried out manually without the use of machines. Udyan Tea has an experience oriented tea tasting process which is at the core of all tea that it deals in. “We ensure that the appearance, aroma and taste of your tea is nothing short of excellent. Our teas are bought directly from the estates and selected from amongst hundreds of samples. Our no compromise approach ensures that the teas are vacuumed the day we buy them. Once vacuumed no external factors can affect the quality of the tea and the freshness is locked within. When a tea lover opens the pack, the original aroma greets them and the tea is just as it was on the day it was packaged,” shares Parvez Gupta.
Brew of the future
The company has a three-fold product philosophy: Freshness, authenticity and quality – and this is what drives its product line. Soveet Gupta adds, “When it comes to creating our flavoured tea blends, we adopt the same sourcing philosophy for our herbs, spices, flowers and fruits. With each blend that we have in our portfolio, our aim is to make sure that each blend is unique. And this is the outcome of an extensive R&D process that we conduct instead of mindless random combinations.”
Commenting on whether e-commerce is crucial to business growth, Soveet Gupta says, “E-commerce is excellent in its capacity to quickly reach out to a mass audience given the size of the country and its population. Scalability can be attained with ease since reaching out to a wider audience does not require months of planning and distribution expansion. One only needs to focus on expansion of operations at the source. Even with zero presence in the offline channel, growth of business can be expected in two or even three digit figures while solely relying on e-commerce revenue. Having said that, the offline market has its own set of advantages, the key ones being easy access to daily shoppers and the resultant impulse buying.”
Udyan Tea has served over 12 million cups of tea to consumers in the past four years. “We are proud of this feat and are eyeing the next 13 million within the next 1-2 years. We have been shipping out our teas internationally since the very beginning and have exported to over 25 countries till date. US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Luxembourg, China, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore to name a few,” states Poddar.
Apart from B2C sales, Udyan Tea supplies a lot of teas to hotels, cafés and other tea brands in the country and abroad. The company serves as consultants to these businesses and advises them on their portfolios. Parvez Gupta adds, “Our aim ultimately is to bring the finest tea to the cup. And to do this, tie-ups with other brands is a no-brainer. Our expertise, experience and sourcing ability allows execution of this with ease. About half of our revenue is currently from institutional sales.”
As for the future roadmap, for the immediate term the company has launched a unique subscription plan which lets users discover new teas each month. Soveet Gupta sums up, “We believe that tea is something that needs to be hand curated and picked out individually for each drinker. And so is our subscription offering. In the longer term, we want our brand to be the top tea destination on the internet. On the offline front, we do not have anything planned currently. But that could change if we see any synergies and opportunities come our way.”