India’s Golden Tips Plans Broad Global Presence, Thrives Locally with Retail Shops, Café
India’s Golden Tips, a tea brand from Darjeeling, is looking to expand its global footprint through e-commerce, strategic partnerships, and by widening its reach in global export markets through tie-ups overseas.
The brand has numerous retail outlets in the heart of Darjeeling and neighboring areas. “Over several decades, we have sourced, purchased and marketed the finest teas produced in Darjeeling,” said Madhav Sarda, a well-known tea taster and managing director of Golden Tips. “This has been our major contribution in bringing Darjeeling prominently on the world tea map."
For Sarda and Golden Tips, implementing new-age strategies and modifying the structure of the supply chain has proved to be beneficial. “Since digitization is the standard nowadays, using online channels of selling can boost the visibility and sales of tea brands,” he shared. “Also, since people are displaying an active interest in the purchase of premium teas online, online mediums could facilitate sales by providing a plethora of product information digitally, and thus increasing consumer knowledge and awareness.”
Sarda said virtual platforms also enable easy-to-understand and often measurable insight into the patterns and preferences of the target customers and consumer behavior which can help to improve future product innovations and sale mechanisms.
Golden Tips operates mostly through its retail chains (14+ stores across Eastern India), its omni- channel route pan India, and through its website. It also recently opened its flagship tea café and restaurant, Teattoria in Darjeeling, which offers Italian/continental and Asian-inspired cuisine along with, of course, the brand’s own specialty teas.
The company is focusing on broadening its presence in physical retail operations across metros of India by opening niche tea boutiques and stores. They’re also looking at commissioning a few outlets once the COVID-19 pandemic fully subsides.
Apart from the domestic market, the company has dedicated customers across the globe and has shipped Golden Tips teas to almost 90 countries over the last several years via orders from its website and online channels.
For business development, Golden Tips has exclusive representations in Russia, Japan, Mongolia, Taiwan, Nepal, Bhutan and now China – all through distributors.
Indeed, Darjeeling tea is a sought-after tea by connoisseurs and avid tea-drinkers around the globe. The one-of-a-kind taste of Darjeeling teas comes from its unique terroir, along with the intricacies of harvesting and processing. Though Darjeeling constitutes only 0.1 percent of the world’s tea production, it is known for its distinctive flavor and aroma, which is unique only to the region.Sarda noted that Assam is a fairly important market for Golden Tips in both CTC and loose-leaf tea categories.
“We operate primarily from Darjeeling; however, we also procure good quality teas from Assam through specialty auctions and few producers,” Sarda said.
Golden Tips's expertise lies in packaging premium teas in multiple variants, sizes, colors and assortments, thereby giving a plethora of choices to the customers to pick their teas from. “We facilitate free tea-tasting sessions in all our tea boutiques, thereby making it easier for international and domestic buyers to have easy access to our offerings and select the teas of their choice,” Sarda said.
Factoring in the Supply Chain, Sustainability into Golden Tips’ Business
While climate and sustainability is certainly very important for Golden Tips, the influence of supply chains on the price of tea cannot be ignored. “In India, the world’s second largest producer of tea, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the industry,” shared Sarda. “Social distancing measures have not only prevented some workers from harvesting tea but also disturbed trucking services. On top of that, port closures have sparked shipping delays and halted exports of tea. Meanwhile, the country’s logistics operations are also suffering due to a lack of equipment.”
Looking at other issues the business faces, Sarda said that tea leaves are continually being harvested, resulting in the loss of nutrients in the leaves, so nutrients must be continually added in order for tea to continue being harvested.
“Unfortunately, natural and ecologically-friendly fertilizers are not the norm in the tea industry,” revealed Sarda. “These fertilizers can lead to a number of problems, though small amounts of these nutrients are beneficial on land. Over fertilization can also result in soil acidification and contamination of water supplies with nitrates.”
Gradual changes in temperature and rainfall patterns in Darjeeling hills is also beginning to affect production of the famous Darjeeling tea. “The maximum temperature in Kurseong has risen by 0.51 degree over the last 20 years, while total annual rainfall dropped by 56 mm and relative humidity by 16.07 percent, leading to a decline in overall production of Darjeeling tea in terms of green leaf production per hectare,” Sarda said.
Growing Brand Consciousness for Golden Tips
As gifting tea packages at corporate events, weddings, etc. has become a common trend, brand consciousness has come into play on a larger scale for Golden Tips. People are now progressively opting for branded labels instead of products from the “unorganized sector.”
“This has led to increased global investment in tea brands who have a compelling story to tell and with a scalable business model,” said Sarda.
As per Nielsen’s insights, Indian consumers these days look at food labels more than ever before and are willing to pay more for products that make the cut, especially those with added nutrients. They are also more loyal to trusted brands.
“The surge in brand preference has also come because of the inclination towards health and hygiene factors, since people generally expect a product to be premium and reliable if it is branded,” Sarda noted.
Golden Tips’ Teattoria Is a Hit, Tea Café Chains Are Emerging
The brand’s Teattoria restaurant, nestled in one corner in a main promenade of Darjeeling and adjacent to the Golden Tips Tea Boutique, Chowrasta, has a uniquely conceptualized outdoor serving area overlooking the majestic mountains.
The view on a clear day – or even on a clouded one – is alluring and mesmerizing with lilting and music to win one's heart. The venue also overlooks Chowrasta, the city center on the other side. The eatery also features a classy and well-furnished indoor fine-dining area to seat 30 to 35 people, and it also offers brilliant views of the nature outside.
Sarda says tea café chains emerging across India are giving consumers a midway option between at-home consumption and the humble roadside stall. A number of companies with tea outlets similar to modern coffee chains have mushroomed and are slowly revolutionizing the tea industry in India.
“These companies are looking to appeal to young Indians by offering them an upgraded version of the tea ‘Dhabas’ and their efforts are paying off. Some of these startups are now national chains," said Sarda, who believes these tea chains are a much better alternative to the open-air tea vendors in India, offering consumers a more relaxed environment with seating and snacks.