INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Growing 5X during the Pandemic in E-Commerce, Exports and White Labeling
We talked to Sunil Chandra Saha of Blue Tea India about the unique products, packaging and options to consumers, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sunil Chandra Saha: It was tough professionally and personally to go into a HIDING kind-of-situation.
My team member caught COVID in the 1st month. But he recovered in 28 Days, and we got him back with his Certificate of COVID Negative.
It is, after all, a very unique year 2020. Everyone lived in extraordinary situations – In India, we were no different.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Blue Tea India.
Sunil Chandra Saha: I founded – Redplum India Pvt Ltd, with a close friend- Nitesh. We started BLUE TEA, Bootstrapped along with some Family and Friends help in 2017.
Before that – I was an MBA. I worked in India’s biggest firms for 7 years of my corporate career. Bharti Airtel (India’s biggest Telecom Co.), Aditya Birla Fashion(India’s biggest MNC), Bestseller (Globally one of biggest Fashion Retailer). I also did consult in multiple startups as well in Healthcare, Coffee Exporter, and BTL Marketing.
We started BLUE TEA as an E-Commerce Brand and started selling on AMAZON-India, Flipkart.com, Bigbasket.com, 1mg.com etc. By 2020 we stabilized our company and started 3 more Brands – YOGAFY , BIGBEAN & YOGAWAY. Now we sell in 5 Countries online via- AMAZON. USA, UK, Australia, Canada, and Singapore. We also White Label for a Cafe Chain based Out of DUBAI.
How does Blue Tea India innovate?
Sunil Chandra Saha: We had 3 unique proposition.
1. UNIQUE PRODUCT :
Blue Tea – We were the first company to bring BLUE COLORED HERBAL TEA in the Indian Market. We provided people with high quality mildly sweet tasting flower teas in very attractive packaging.
We started procuring traditional medicinal plant flowers in 2017 and blended them with herbs like Lavender, Mint, Holy Basil, and Indian Spices.
India is a big country geographically, and as a brand, we focused on the ETHICAL SOURCING of native herbs. Like Lavender grew best in the lower Himalayas in Kashmir. Indian whole spices from Kerala- Malabar Foothills. Ginger and Turmeric from Meghalaya, – Eastern Himalayas. Each of these places was – 1500kms apart and hence makes great quality tea in every cup.
We kept the packaging very, very attractive and consumer-friendly, and our packs became a hit.
3. OPTIONS TO CONSUMER
And then we branched out with YOGAFY & YOGAWAY with products like HERBAL POWDERS, BLACK TEA, GREEN COFFEE, HERBAL SEEDS, HIMALAYAN PINK SALT, NATURAL BATH SALTS, Etc. And we keep adding products every month. BIGBEAN COFFEE, we bring instant flavored coffee in packaged Glass Jars. Very very few brands globally do this. For any unique flavored coffee, everyone needs to go to Café.
Shell out $3-10 a Cup. We are trying to bring this Experience, every day at home- Sugar free for about $0.3 a Cup.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sunil Chandra Saha: We are in the Online Grocery segment. So just like any other brand in this segment, we have grown very well in this period.
However, because we have been in this business for 3 years already, we have solved many issues at the onset of 2020. We signed up with AMAZON USA for an AMAZON EXCLUSIVE BRAND – YOGAFY as well. So we were ready for the year.
The Sales did drop in March and April 2020. But since May we have been growing 25% Month on Month, and in this period of 6 months, we have grown 5X. We are looking to continue 15% Monthly growth for another 4-5 Months.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sunil Chandra Saha: Yes, indeed- tough times make you go through those. We had our Office closed for 30 Days period and did minimum work with 10% of staff. Difficult choices were whether to keep the employees or get rid of them. March April was such Panic that most companies were thinking to survive.
I am my Partner decided we will not take salaries for the next 5 months to cover the sudden loss. We did cut the salaries of our staff but only for April by 25%. Since May, we have been paying them fully, and we did not sack any of the team members.
Thankfully, this event helped us grow. We remained positive and kept reinvesting. Not taking salaries hurt the financials badly. My family has been under little stress, but because the extra spending were also minimum – we survived.
But company-wise we are good. We hired 50% More staff to manage the hike in sales.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Blue Tea India in the future?
Sunil Chandra Saha: As directors, founders- Optimism and Positivity has to be an inherent trait. Skills make you succeed fast or slow but Positivity and Perseverance – Makes you survive and flourish in tough situations. The same happened to me.
I won’t lie- somedays in March 2020- I told my Partner- we are doomed! He motivated me. Somedays he would tell me- Sunil, I think we are going to close this soon as we are hovering at low sales. I motivated him. And 99% of days we both were planning what more we could do.
My team also sees me as a problem solver. As a Founder- Senior member – I should solve problems that my teams can’t—taking a deal at a price that the Operations team failed to do or getting a new Export Order or Making a unique consumer-friendly product range etc.
Stress is a part of business and life now. I love trekking and biking. I was so tired, so I did a 50kms Trek in the higher Himalayas in Oct as soon as Lockdown opened and did a 900kms Biking on mountains. This gave me energy again for the next few months. I love sports – it helps me free up my mind. Indian Premier League Cricket in Sep 2020 – helped me calm down more. Also- Netflix and Amazon prime were saviors in dark days too.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sunil Chandra Saha: We have now an amazingly wide range of products and competitors. In most cases- natural herbal product- Source of product and quality makes a difference in the long term. However, When you bring very unique Packaging- It helps!
Our packaging and branding are super cool. Also, we are open to White labelling of products from Oct 2020. We shall be doing White labelling for DUBAI CAFE CHAIN, and the USA based Organic Store in early 2021.
In tea- we compete with All Online Herbal tea brands – YOGI TEA, TEA FORTE in the USA; VAHDAM & TEABOX from India.
In coffee, we will be competing with LITTLE, BEANIE, NESCAFE GOLD, BRU.
In Herbal products and Himalayan Pink salt- every country as a different leader
What are the plans for the future?
Sunil Chandra Saha: Covid 19 has taught how business and life can be unpredictable.
From 2020 end we are looking to get into EXPORT and WHITE LABELING for US, EUROPE, DUBAI, AUS of our high-quality products.
For Organic Stores and Retailers. We are looking to sell our wide range of these high quality and Shelf-Ready products at very economical price points to Buyers and Importers packages starting as low as $0.9 for 350g Pet Jar Packaged.
Your final thoughts?
Sunil Chandra Saha: As an Entrepreneur, there are so many different tasks. More tasks you do on your own gives you more control of the business. And a Founder has to be inherently OPTIMISTIC. He needs to feel the positivity even when the odds are against it.
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06/29/2021 at 6:51 am
Nice article.. I have heard about the.. Gao Shan Tea which is cultivated in the mountains of Taiwan.. Thanks for sharing this amazing article..