THE Great Indian Brew Wars are all set to take off with FMCG major Hindustan Lever Ltd (HLL) gearing up to add more kick to its tea business by setting up a chain of branded tea parlours across the country, a la Barista and Café Coffee Day.
To be christened Lipton T Place, they will offer a range of hot and cold teas in a setting that will make tea the next big thing after coffee, which has caught the fancy of the Indian populace.
The first T Place, a 1,600 sq. ft. pilot outlet, has already made a low-profile appearance. In Bangalore's Koramangala, it has been brewing up a range of teas including fusion and `turbo' teas (teas infused with a range of herbs including jasmine, cinnamon and citrus), iced teas and signature house blends.
"Within the HLL portfolio, the role of Lipton is to present tea in surprising and exciting ways. One is through providing a different product experience through the Lipton parlour and kiosk formats and it is being tested in Bangalore," a HLL spokesperson confirmed to Business Line.
Top sources said the company is betting big on branded tea parlours to push its tea business and has firmed up plans to launch over 100 such outlets across the country over the next two years. While the Koramangala T Place is run by a franchisee, the company is looking at multiple formats to roll out its tea retail venture. HLL, it may be recalled, initially began retailing Lipton tea through branded kiosks set up at high-footfall locations last year.
The business model will tap the rising trend towards health and wellness through Lipton tea parlours/outlets in major centres. "These will be in strategic locations to tap young adults, such as BPOs, entertainment centres and malls," the HLL spokesperson added.
According to sources, the company will use the Koramangala outlet to test the concept and train personnel in the art of brewing and serving tea as it has no experience. "The branded tea bar will be positioned as a trendy, fun place to hang around in and will also have a strong health benefit. Tea is medically known as a vitality enhancer and HLL will leverage the health quotient in this venture," sources said. "Drinking tea has never been considered as trendy or exciting as going out for a cup of coffee. With T, the effort will be to offer customers an exciting place to get their cup of tea."
The Koramangala outlet also offers customers a range of bakery products and its signature light meals. Sources said it is still evolving as a product and the final look and products served will in all probability be different from what they are today. The outlet is expected to be completed by end-March after which the company will announce its foray into branded tea retailing.
"The company is working on operational logistics and other key issues now. The final call on how to take the foray forward will be made depending on the response to the pilot project," another source said.