With a quality-driven approach, Parag Desai, Executive Director, Sales & Marketing, Wagh Bakri Tea Group, is making big strides in domestic and international markets.
What is your marketing approach for each of your brands?
Our key product attribute is quality and we try and keep that as premium in each of our product categories. Our brand Good Morning is positioned as the best blend of tea in the world. We blend tea from India, Africa, Sri Lanka and offer it to consumers. Wagh Bakri is our flagship and mass brand. It is seen as a little on the expensive side because everyone knows that we give a better quality tea. Mili is our economy segment brand. There also, our quality is far better than other brands in the economy segment. The brand Navchetan is for the poor who would otherwise buy loose or unbranded tea.
You have recently launched a new campaign for Wagh Bakri, ‘Chai jo sabko bulaye’. What are the insights behind this campaign?
In this fast-paced world, where families are becoming smaller and people are moving to larger cities, it is hard to maintain ties and form new relations. At a time when the concept of communicating and sharing your life with neighbours is fast disappearing, a cup of Wagh Bakri tea invites people to come closer, as its aroma, taste and colour attracts all. We researched and found that our consumers feel the tea is so good that even neighbours come and ask for it, thanks to its aroma. We launched the brand recently in some parts of the country and got a very good response because of our singular focus on quality. We want customers to understand and appreciate the fact that the quality of tea is so good that over it, you can make friends instantly even in a new place.
What is your view on the competition in the category?
Frankly, we don’t look at any brand as our competitor. When we enter new markets, we tell people that we have given them a choice.
How do you announce your entry in a new market?
We have a presence in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Very recently, we launched in Delhi. In any new place, the press plays a very important role. We do a lot of OOH too and club that with BTL and social media activities.
What is your total advertising and marketing budget, and what is the media mix?
Annually, we spend around Rs 60 crore on advertising and marketing. Of this, 50 per cent is used for BTL activities like in-shop promotions, customer interactions, samplings, etc. Out of the rest, television has the maximum share and five percent each for OOH and Print.
Since you are focusing on a few regions in the country, does going national for advertising make sense?
Logically, it does not make sense. But local advertising does not have media options that we can utilise. For example, if I want to advertise in Mumbai, there is hardly any media available which will confirm that a certain number of people have seen my ad. So we have to go national.
The brand has been around for a very long time, but it became aggressive on advertising only some years ago. What has been key for the brand’s growth over the years?
Yes, this is a very old brand and I am the fourth generation of the family in the business. We have been advertising for more than 10 years, but we have been most aggressive in the last four to five years. That is because of our expansion plans. There are three main pillars for our success - we have never compromised on quality, we have built one of the strongest distribution systems in the country over the years and we have done it with passion. Most of the people who work with us have been there for generations. We have a very different way of working.
How different is your distribution strategy?
Our sales team and distributors service each outlet once in 15 days. For that, we have set up a very strong logistics chain. We have to educate our business partners and it takes some time for the entire system to be set up because tea is a high volume business. But with this, we ensure fresh stocks of our tea in shops so that customers can buy it as fresh as possible.
In this entire brand journey, what was the key challenge that the brand had to face, post which it came out even stronger?
The tea industry is a scheme-driven industry. Most brands give something or the other free. Our challenge is that we are a quality-driven brand and we do not use schemes. We overcame that challenge with strong manpower and our trade and consumer relations. We have to find the right kind of people who believe in quality and convince the trade and consumers that we are a much better quality brand. Give-aways with every packet do not make sense.
You have recently launched ginger, elaichi, green and English breakfast tea bags. What are your communication plans for these products?
These are the products consumed very heavily internationally. We export to more than 25 countries, so we know the business. Now, India has reached a stage where consumers will lap up these products, as they are more exposed to media and have travelled globally. We will use digital in a big way to promote them.
What is your key approach on digital and social media platforms?
We have a presence on all social networking sites and everywhere, we give strategic inputs and run contests from time to time to directly interact with consumers. Lots of people ask us how a green tea or masala tea is made. We have uploaded videos on various preparation methods, and we do a lot of one-to-one communication with our customers.
You are also planning to introduce pre-mixed tea and iced tea...
Yes, these products are in the R&D stage right now. We may launch them by the end of this year. We will initially test the markets in Mumbai and Delhi. Once we are sure that we are in the right direction, we will go national.
What have been your marketing efforts internationally through which you have gained a foothold in about 25 countries?
I was in New York for three years where I set up our distribution team. We visit these markets at least twice a year. We have a very strong advertising plan in each of these markets and because of that, we are a household name across North America, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Export markets are as important as domestic markets for us. In terms of advertising, we use all the television channels that are available in those regions. We do a lot of BTL activities like sampling, etc., in stores internationally.
You have set up exclusive tea lounges in Mumbai. How do you plan to expand?
We want to set up many such stores. We are waiting for the rules and regulations on FDI in retail to settle down. They are being debated in Parliament. Plus, real estate prices were on a high and we are waiting for them to stabilise.
So, you are looking at FDI for retail expansion?
Yes, we could tie up with a global retail major or anyone who has done this business internationally and has the same passion for the venture as we do.
You also have a portal, buytea.com. How is it helping the business?
It is the country’s largest and oldest portal in online trade. This is basically a businessto-consumer portal, where we entertain any consumer anywhere in the world. We accept all types of credit cards and have the most secure payment gateway. Customers can order tea on our portal and we promise home delivery within five to seven days anywhere in the world.