Society Tea is now stepping out of its western India fiefdom to offer the cup that cheers to tea lovers across the country, taking on established names such as Tata Tea and HUL.
In a candid chat with Moneycontrol, Karan Shah, Director, Society Tea, said, “We are striving to be a national brand, which means, customising blends for each of the markets as per their requirement rather than blanketing it. While we have a stronghold in the west, we are looking at expanding into every major city across the country be it north, east, or south.”
Founded in 1933, Society Tea is the largest tea-seller in the state of Maharashtra, with a 40 percent market share within the state. The brand is also present in Goa, and in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.
While it has been dominant in western India for long, the company has managed to establish a presence in the southern markets through its e-commerce channels.
The plan now is to expand further, Shah said.
A fourth-generation director of the company, Shah is keeping his cards close to his chest, and would not elaborate much on how he plans to take on the big names in the industry, but said the company wants to capitalise through new launches and penetrate in every market. "Our strategy is: Listen to our consumer! The way tea is consumed changes every 100 km," he said.
India is the world’s second-largest producer of tea, after China. The local tea industry in India has a market value of more than Rs 12,000 crore. Assam alone contributes more than 50 percent to total tea production in India. Almost 80 percent of the total output in India is consumed domestically.
Across India, Tata Global Beverage holds a 29.6 percent market share with brands such as Tata Tea, Tetley, Good Earth, Vitax, Joekels, and Teapigs. According to brand experts, within the tea segment, Tata Global Beverage is the leader across East, North and South zones.
Hindustan Unilever, which sells tea under the brands Red Label Brook Bond and Taj Mahal, has a 25 percent market share, while Gujarat Tea Processors & Packers Ltd that sells tea under the brand Wagh Bakri has 15 percent.
When the coronavirus-pandemic struck, after analysing new trends among customers, the company felt there was a need to "improvise" (as per the trend) tea, Shah said.
The COVID-induced lockdown was a blessing of sorts for the company, Shah said, as it compelled people to stay indoors and adopt a remote working culture. The lockdown period saw a sharp increase in tea consumption, he added.
Since tea is a beverage that contains immunity-boosting ingredients, showcasing properties that are beneficial to health, the company also capitalised on the pandemic-led drive for healthy living by launching Cleanse Green Tea Detox Kahwa Premix.
Cleanse Green Tea is made of ingredients known to accelerate metabolism and help build immunity. It contains ingredients like turmeric which is known (as per Ayurveda), to be beneficial for skin-related problems, common cold, cough, etc., along with, ginger, asafoetida, cardamom, black pepper, clove, cinnamon, green tea extract, amongst others, which help remove toxins from the body, working towards cleansing the system.
During the pandemic, the company witnessed traction on its website and other e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Big Basket and Grofers.
Among its frequently-purchased products online this year were One Minute Tea, Cleanse Green Tea, and also new offerings from the chutney and pickles category under the Spice Secrets brand.
Entry into dairy
Widening its product range, in October this year, the company also ventured into the dairy category, with offerings such as Skimmed Milk Powder, Dairy Whitener, and Desi Ghee.
“We wanted to ensure that the milk in the tea is just right. Hence, continuing our quest to provide better-quality products we came up with the idea of venturing into the dairy category,” Shah said.
Last year, too, the company had ventured into chutneys and pickles, which it sells under the Spice Secret brand. Shah said the response towards the category has been encouraging.