Hasmukh Shah, Founder & Chairman, Premier’s Tea has an engineering background. Before he ventured into tea, he was involved in the business of manufacturing and exports of replacement parts for heavy earth moving machinery with clients like Caterpillar, Hitachi, Komatsu and Mitsubishi. During one of his trips to Japan, he got inspired to start a tea export business and Premier’s Tea was set up in December 1988. Interestingly, the company has also achieved the greatest degree of success in Japan, where Premiere’s Tea is available in departmental stores, restaurants, tea houses, five star hotels, etc.
Once he delved deeper into the business, Mr Shah swiftly realised that his venture would get lost in the huge ocean of bulk tea exporters unless he started a brand of his own. The company subsequently decided to position itself as a provider of value added pure Indian tea from the four key origins of Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri and Kangra. Over time, the company also developed some pure blends of tea for the market. The tagline of Premier’s Tea – The Passion for Purity – exemplifies this in no uncertain terms. And that is exactly what keeps Mr Shah going as well – passion for his ambitious tea venture.
From the beginning, the company started investing in machines available in the market and also in in house R&D to develop a facility for cleaning, processing, blending and packaging of tea. With increasing demand, the company deemed that the current capacity of around 500 kg per shift was not enough.
In 1999, the company started the process of setting up its plant on an area of around 80,000 sq ft in Kolkata. A state of the art unit was completely imported from Japan for cleaning out various impurities set up that is engaged in cleaning, processing, blending and packaging tea obtained from the gardens. The plant is the first of its kind in South East Asia other than Japan. The cleaning unit removes most impurities from tea including stones, mud, iron, dust particles, tea stalks, insects, wood chips, fibres, etc. The capacity of this unit is much higher at around 3,000 kg per shift. Around 4 per cent of tea production by volume is lost in this process. Mr Shah comments, "We are much more careful that whatever we do, there should be zero impurities. That is not possible, but we try our best. We are basically filtering tea to remove impurities."
Packaging has also played a key role in the company’s success, enabling it to create strong differentiation in the market. The company supplies its tea in a wide variety of caddies, gift boxes and consumer packs. The tea itself is sold in loose form in the packs or through more innovative serving mechanisms like biodegradable/compostable tea bags and tea wands.
Over time, the company has successfully penetrated over 32 countries till date, thanks to its focus on value addition and product promotion in accordance with the demands of international markets. While the company has certainly benefitted from the acclaim that Indian origin tea commands in global markets, Premier’s is now a duly recognised and appreciated packaged tea brand in its own right.