Nearly a century after founder Narandas Desai set up his first tea store in Ahmedabad, Gujarat Tea Processors and Packers (GTPP) is taking its brands to a national audience.
From a few states, it is going pan-India with its flagship label and looking to create a premium brand
experience by investing in tea lounges. For this, the company says it will leverage its understanding of the customer and position itself as an aspirational brand, especially among young tea drinkers.
The Wagh Bakri brand
is the best-known label in the GTPP
stable and enjoys 7% share of the national packaged tea market according to a leading market research agency.
The company says it is looking to build on this and using a cricketing metaphor, adds that they are in for a test match.
does not own a tea garden, which works in favour of the brand, says Parag Desai, executive director of GTPP.
“We can pick and choose what is best. We can maintain the same quality by sourcing from different gardens,” he adds.
Focused on tea
It all started with seven shops (in wholesale and retail
formats) in Ahmedabad. In the 1980s, the group realised that the future lay in packaged tea and GTPP
was born. So strongly entrenched is the family into the tea business that Desai says, there are tea testers even among the latest generation. The advantage of local knowledge is what the brand
hopes to leverage.
Regional brands have the advantage of deep customer knowledge say experts and that is giving them the advantage over global brands. GTPP’s latest campaign ‘pehli mulakaat’ tries to build on the brand’s journey and long association with customers.
Ad agency Scarecrow says it used life stories from loyalists where they talk about when and where they had their first sip of the brand.
Arunava Sengupta, founder and director of Scarecrow explains, “We sourced these stories from our social media pages, interactions with customers. Going forward we plan to use real customers to tell their stories.” The company has also created touch-point advertising for mass brands like Navchetan and Mili.
Desai says that response to Wagh Bakri, when it was first launched, was not too good. The company has had to work hard to build acceptance for the brand
and extend it into new affiliated products.
There are around 3,000 packaged tea brands in India, and together it is estimated that they command over 40% of the market. The industry estimates that the share of these brands has increased from 29-30% in mid-2000 to over 40%. Everywhere, regional brands are growing rapidly.
is pitched at the premium consumer and was launched in Maharashtra in 2007 where it has around 15% market share. It moved to Delhi in 2009, then Goa, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and other states after 2013. Rajasthan is an older market where it enjoys over 45% market share.
Executive director, Gujarat Tea Processors and Packers
“Packaged tea is a highly fragmented category with top 20 manufacturers accounting for only two-thirds of the market; more than 500 brands clock more than a crore as annual revenue,” explains Sameer Shukla, executive director, Nielsen India.
Shukla believes that the conditions prevalent are ideal for targeting tea connoisseurs in a state or pockets therein. “There are umpteen examples of brands catering to local tastes through product innovations, right distribution footprint and effective communication,” he adds. But can regional brands ever be aspirational?
“Out of over 3,000, only two have national presence. So, while national share is a critical tool, there are dozens of brands in states and regional pockets that have aspirational positioning,” Shukla says.
He adds that these brands are certainly not perceived as cheaper options.
Differentiation and extension
Desai explains that creating a trustworthy brand
with high recall takes time. “One needs to understand the entire supply chain well and invest heavily in advertising,” he says. For Wagh Bakri, ad spends have increased from 5% of its turnover a decade back to around 10% of turnover.
segregation began actively around a decade back where labels were sorted in premium and mass categories. The company has also extended its brands into new products. In both cases, the company says, experiments have been successful. Instant or premix teas and green teas are growing rapidly as convenience and health awareness redefine consumer choices. Surprisingly, the growth here is also coming from tier II and III towns, says Desai.
The flagship brand Wagh Bakri
contributes over 70% share with Mili over 20% and speciality, green and Darjeeling teas close to 10%. “Remarkably Mili is becoming popular in western UP, Delhi NCR and using Delhi as a base, we are soon launching in Punjab as well,” Desai adds. Navchetan was launched to woo the loose tea buyers and is priced competitively.
The biggest long-term investment is in tea lounges. Lounges create the atmosphere that helps build the brand, says the company. Wagh Bakri
lounges are in Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and Goa and a few other cities and are expected to spread to other centres too soon. Setting up the perfect place for the premium sip will get the premium consumer, so the company hopes.