After Shipping Over 100M Cups of Tea in 85+ Countries, Delhi-based Vahdam Teas Plans to Reach Out to 500K Customers by 2019
The motto behind establishing Vahdam has been to “Do Good by Doing Good”.
Vahdam Teas is disrupting the supply chain of tea, by making garden fresh teas to consumers across the world available in the shortest periods of time, by leveraging technology and cutting out all unnecessary middlemen. Vahdam’s teas do not travel in containers for months before being packaged and sold. All the teas are procured directly from plantations and tea growers within days of production, packaged garden fresh and shipped directly from source in India. The brand was founded in 2015 by the 27-year-old Bala Sarda with a vision to empower Indian tea farmers and provide premium and garden fresh teas to consumers in the US and other markets.
The motto behind establishing Vahdam has been to “Do Good by Doing Good”. Keeping this in mind the company launched its most-awaited social initiative TEAch Me on the occasion of Vahdam’s 3rd Founder’s Day. Under this initiative, 1% of the company’s revenue will be directed towards the education of the tea growers’ children in the form of annual scholarships. Under the pilot chapter of TEAch Me, the company extend the Annual TEAch Me Scholarship to all the 66 children of the tea workers at Giddapahar Tea Estate in Darjeeling.
Earlier this month, the company has successfully raised $2.5 million (~Rs 16 Cr) in its Series B round of funding led by consumer investment fund Fireside Ventures. Vahdam which has secured a total funding of $5 million (~Rs 30 Cr) till date, plans to use the latest round for further developing the US market by investing in customer acquisition and brand building, along with exploring new territories in India. Currently the company's valuation is more than Rs 150 Cr.
Vahdam’s founder Bala Sarda interacted with the BW Disrupt team and spoke about his venture.
How do you source your teas?
We work with 150-200 esteemed tea plantations and small growers across India, majorly from seven regions- Darjeeling, Assam, the Nilgiris, Arunachal Pradesh, Kangra in Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, as well as Nepal. We have worked hard to streamline our supply chain where we don't waste time shuffling the tea between multiple middlemen which ensures that we are able to ship the teas to the consumer in the shortest time possible. A majority of globally-renowned tea brands follow the obsolete supply chain system where the tea either sits in an unregulated warehouse or is straggling between retailers and auctioneers. Where Vahdam Teas stand apart is that within 24-72 hours of the tea being harvested, we procure the produce and get it at our state-of-the-art warehouse in New Delhi where the tea goes through a series of stringent quality checks and is then blended or flavored. This tea is then stored in large vacuum-sealed bags in a temperature controlled environment to ensure that the freshness of the tea is intact. Based on consumer demand, we further pack them in smaller vacuum-sealed packs before shipping them off to their respective location.
How do you plan to utilize the funds you've raised?
I am of the opinion that a 'funding' also comes with a huge responsibility of strategically curating a portfolio of how the funds will be utilized. One cannot be callous with it. Besides expanding our product portfolio where we introduce new seasonal and boutique wellness variants, we plan to reinforce our warehousing and logistical facilities in our global locations which will cap our shipping costs. We are also in the midst of launching an aggressive marketing strategy which can help us penetrate domestic and international markets much more efficiently and also aid in customer acquisition.
What next? What is the way forward?
Over the last three years, we have worked hard to be where we are today and we have a ton of plans for the future- all of which would be impossible to discuss! But to start with, the love and loyalty that we have garnered from our customers all around the world is a considerable honor and we would want to uphold the same tradition of providing world-class, garden-fresh teas that are truly ethereal in taste and character. We are launching our summer line of products with 5 exciting flavors of Iced-Teas, some of which are widely popular and a few of our in-house, unique flavors which are destined to become a summer favorite. In addition to this, we are also launching a line of single-serve, loose-leaf Tea bags, for several of our variants, which have been in popular demand in US in the recent times.
What kind of disruption have you made in the online tea industry?
I come with a lineage of over 80 years in tea and I am the 4th generation in my family to run a tea business. However, it is only when I joined my family’s bulk tea export business I noticed that most of the tea being sold across the world passes through multiple middlemen before reaching consumers like you, after a minimum of 6- 8 months of being harvested in the tea gardens.
By then, most of the PRIME freshness and flavor of the tea is lost.
Additionally, even though globally acclaimed tea brands continue to grow significantly every year, millions of tea growers back here in India are still plagued with problems like low wages and an uncertain future.
Even though India grows some of the finest teas in the world (25- 30% of the world's production), the absence of a home-grown brand has made the tea industry dependent on bulk tea exports to foreign brands. Such brands do not hesitate to shift to poor quality teas from other tea growing regions and countries, in order to compete on price points and earn higher profit margins, as soon as the farmers back home in India increase their prices.
To initiate a journey, in order to solve these problems, is when I decided to launch Vahdam Teas - a successful home-grown tea brand from India that can empower millions of tea growers on a macro level. Simultaneously, we are also very passionate about working on micro issues like education and health. These are two core areas where we wish to step in, make a difference, and ensure our farmers build a better and a sustainable future for themselves.
Share your growth plans...
We are expanding on our focus markets i.e USA, India, Russia, South Asia etc. We currently have 200,000 customers and plan to reach 5,00,000 by the end of 2019. We have shipped over 100+ million of cups of tea to over 85 countries till now. Vahdam has recently opened its new office in New York and warehouses in Indianapolis and New Jersey in the US, where 70% of it’s revenue comes from. This makes Vahdam Teas the world's first truly vertically integrated tea brand. The brand generates all its sales online and has grown by 1,000% in the last two years.
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