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How this British era company is adding new flavour to tea culture

Taking inspiration from ancient herbal tea recipes Octavius is creating a variety of delectable flavours keeping in mind that they provide maximum health benefits

Ekta Jain, Chief Marketing Officer, Octavius Tea
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Ekta Jain, Chief Marketing Officer, Octavius Tea

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Octavius as a brand believes in delivering not just tea but a memorable experience for its consumers. As a brand, Octavius is also committed to providing its customers with a memorable experience, not just tea. As a result, the brand operates its own 'tea resorts' that are open to consumers throughout the year. There are no words to describe how picturesque the resort is. It is set among the green hills of West Bengal, with unending slopes dotted with chirpy birds in the morning. Those who love the outdoors and nature will enjoy the resort's unique atmosphere and experience. The city's clear blue skies are the perfect setting for a cup of tea. Ekta Jain, Chief Marketing Officer, Octavius Tea in an exclusive interview with Bizz Buzz outlines the company's status and its future

Octavius Tea & Industries is a 120-year-old company, that began during the British Raj in 1898, when a Scottish man named Walter Duncan, enchanted by the flourishing slopes of Darjeeling, set up Octavius Tea & Industries Ltd, on the profits of its sister concern Octavius Steel and Co Ltd. The company commenced with the cultivation of tea in Darjeeling, across Dooars, Cachar and Sylhet. The current owners took ownership in 2003, retained the name, and were able to take Octavius to greater heights. Encouraged by the success of tea plantations the company acquired an excellent coffee plantation in Coorg in Karnataka in 2007. Between 2007 to 2016, the company established good export standards and became one of the top exporters of tea and coffee in India with accolades from prestigious government organizations

Tea is one of the oldest beverages and the tea industry is one of the oldest and largest in the world. As per a report by Expert Market Research firm, in 2020, nearly 1.10 million tons of tea were consumed in the country. The industry in the country is projected to witness further growth in the forecast period of 2022-2027, growing at a CAGR of 4.2 per cent. By 2026, the tea market in India is expected to attain a consumption of 1.40 million tons

How big is the Indian tea market?

Tea is one of the oldest beverages and the tea industry is one of the oldest and largest in the world. As per a report by Expert Market Research firm, in 2020, nearly 1.10 million tons of tea were consumed in the country. The industry in the country is projected to witness further growth in the forecast period of 2022-2027, growing at a CAGR of 4.2 per cent. By 2026, the tea market in India is expected to attain a consumption of 1.40 million tons.

What is the company's standing in the Indian tea market?

We at Octavius, produce about 2.2 million kgs of tea annually and are amongst the largest tea-producing companies in India.

How has the company evolved over the years?

Octavius Tea & Industries is a 120-year-old company, that began during the British Raj in 1898, when a Scottish man named Walter Duncan, enchanted by the flourishing slopes of Darjeeling, set up Octavius Tea & Industries Ltd, on the profits of its sister concern Octavius Steel and Co Ltd. The company commenced with the cultivation of tea in Darjeeling, across Dooars, Cachar and Sylhet. The current owners took ownership in 2003, retained the name, and were able to take Octavius to greater heights. Encouraged by the success of tea plantations the company acquired an excellent coffee plantation in Coorg in Karnataka in 2007. Between 2007 to 2016, the company established good export standards and became one of the top exporters of tea and coffee in India with accolades from prestigious government organizations. However, we wanted to launch our quality products in the domestic market.

'Octavius' as a brand in the retail sector was born in 2016 with the aim to leverage the century-old tea expertise and launch quality products in the Indian market with a mission to epitomize the art of drinking gourmet teas. So the unexplored journey began with a team of 15 people (tea experts, packaging & marketing). Currently, we are a team of more than 100 people including packaging, operations, procurement and marketing. Backed by a huge team of Tea garden workers (3,000 pluckers, labourers and tea experts) associated with us for generations.

Which are the company brands and which is the flagship brand?

Octavius is our company brand. Few flagship brands are Prime tea & Dalhousie tea.

What is the acceptance of your tea brand in the Indian market?

Our idea is to cater to all kinds of customers, starting from daily tea drinkers, tea connoisseurs, to experimental tea lovers who want a balance of health and taste. We took a lot of inspiration from ancient herbal tea recipes to create a variety of delectable flavours keeping in mind that they provide maximum health benefits. Over the years we have developed more than 150 varieties of tea and other tea products catering to different sections of the audience of all age groups and have entered the modern retail and online market. The response in the Indian market has been overwhelming our customers not only like our products for their quality and taste but also appreciate our efforts towards building ourselves as a sustainable brand.

How important are export to your revenue stream?

Our revenue stream has majorly been from domestic sales. We ventured into exports for 'Octavius tea' very recently and are presently available in the USA, UK, Canada, Singapore, Middle East. The response has been very good internationally. Going forward we will be expanding our reach in Japan and Australia.

Do you see a marked increase in the appreciation of Indian tea in the international marketplace?

Yes, we initially exported leaf tea mostly in the loose form (bulk tea) to other countries. Whole leaf Indian teas have a better demand abroad owing to their distinctive character and rare flavour. Indian orthodox/whole leaf teas are expensive and are delicately mild in taste; hence, it does not have a very strong market in India. Unlike abroad most Indians prefer their tea strong, bold, and want to consume milk tea or masala chai. Indian teas are appreciated and are world-famous, but our exports are still behind Kenya, China, and Sri Lanka. There is a strong need for the government to come up with schemes to help improve tea exports from India.

What innovations do you plan for your tea brands?

Our team keeps researching all new trends in the market, currently, due to the pandemic people have become very cautious of fitness and hygiene. People are now opting for gifts that add value. In this scenario, premium wellness and novelty teas have become a favoured choice. Teas are also becoming a popular gifting option in 2022. Keeping that in mind our upcoming range will focus on tea hampers and novel brews to keep up with the trend and demand in the market.

What is the company growth forecast for the next three years?

Going ahead we have an omnichannel approach toward brands growth including both offline and online channels. We believe in a combination of traditional and modern trade along with digital marketing to help us grow in a 360 perspective. We also plan to expand our presence and our range in India through distributorship activities and also expand our presence internationally. We are looking to enter new markets like- hospitality industry, corporates and wedding gifting, etc, and are actively looking for investors, to help us accelerate our growth.

Vincent Fernandes
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