Society Tea To Enter The Niche Herbal Tea Market Starting With One Flavour

Extremely conscious of quality, Karan Shah, Director at Society Tea, exclusively reveals plans for the new Herbal segment, going online, upcoming product range and more

by Neeta Nair
Published - Jun 15, 2018 8:53 AM Updated: Jun 15, 2018 8:53 AM
Society Tea has managed to hold its own in Maharashtra for more than 25 years despite intense competition from national heavyweights like Tata Tea and HUL. The homegrown brand has a wonderful legacy going back to 1924 when its founder Hiravan Pranjivan Das started out as a tea wholesaler in Masjid Bunder's Chai Galli, a street known as Maharashtra's source of tea. While the name Society Tea came decades later, the product’s following only grew with time and today the brand is present in eight other states. Now it is gearing up to enter a niche territory which few national tea players have set foot in—herbal tea segment. In an exclusive interaction, Karan Shah, the fourth generation Director of Society Tea, announces the brand’s latest product on the exchange4media platform.

Why has Society Tea decided to enter a niche category like Herbal tea?
We didn’t want to come up with a product which every other brand is offering. We are thus launching an excellent product under the herbal tea category —a very rare Tulsi with lemon grass and mint handpicked from the Himalayas. Personally I consume at least 3 liters of herbal tea every single day and we have launched exactly that blend in the market now. It’s not something that we would flood the shops with. We will exclusively sell it online or at Nature’s Basket. 

Will you be entering the market with just one variant of herbal tea? 
See, it is a smaller market to get into, we could have chosen either one of the two strategies -- one could be to just fill the shelf with 15 variants of herbal tea and then let the customer decide, or second -- being who we are and using our experience as a 100 year old tea brand to decide on what will be best for the customer. So, I don’t want to flood the market with too many variants just yet. Basically the herbal tea market is still very unorganised in India. Without confusing our customers, we would like to let the category settle and get some air time with customers before we move on to another one. Also health awareness is growing and people care about what they are putting in their bodies today. We have priced our tea at Rs 220 for 100 grams, we don’t want to sell it at Rs 400 just because it is healthy and herbal. We aren’t looking at profitability here.

The bigger players of the country are not in the herbal tea category, is that one of the reasons for you to enter it?
No, not really. Every other brand which is a mass producer will stick to mass consumption. They won’t waste or invest too much time in this category but the fact is that we are all very health conscious people here, and we all enjoy this tea, so we decided to go down that road. We will use Print and Digital medium to advertise this product. 

Society Tea has been very aggressive of late, launching products in newer categories like One minute tea, Iced tea.
The one-minute tea is doing extremely well. In fact we are focusing on that the most. We are the first turnkey company in India which produces every single ingredient that goes into the tea. We have got a dairy, we are manufacturing dairy whiteners and powders just for our instant tea which is a very sizeable project. Our factory is equipped to make baby food, we are that conscious of quality.

Can you give us a sneak-peek into the other products which you have in the pipeline?
Apart from dairy, we are planning on launching pickles and chutneys. Like Maharashtra is famous for ‘thecha’ which is basically a mix of chilli, garlic, mint and peanuts. So, the focus is on regions. That’s not out yet, we are just finalizing packaging. It will be launched in the next couple of months. We are also going to start our online store, it is in the testing phase right now. 

While you are a dominant player in Maharashtra, also present in eight other states, how soon do you see spreading out to the entire country?
Within the next two years we should be a national brand. We are looking at every major Tier I, Tier II city. We will also increase the reach in the existing eight states. As a company we believe in the fact that if you are servicing the market then you have to service it right. We don’t want to enter the market and then not be able to service it properly. So, we are getting our act organized before we enter. And if we enter the market we are there to stay.
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