There is only one Indian brand that has managed to be featured in ‘Oprah Winfrey’s list of Favourite Gifting Things’ not once but two years in a row. It is also the first Indian brand to feature in the Iconic American TV Host Ellen DeGeneres’ Show. I am talking about Vahdam Teas, a homegrown tea brand, which has turned profitable in April this year with a revenue of 100 crores.
Started in India, shipping products to 104 countries
This journey of an Indian brand making tides in the global market wasn’t a cakewalk. “In spite of clocking reasonable sales in the first year, I had to struggle hard to get investors on board,” says Bala Sarda, fourth-generation entrepreneur and Founder of Vahdam Teas.
He further adds, “I could have grown 10 percent YoY and built something small. However, I needed money and investors to back my plan. In hindsight, we tend to take investor rejection more seriously than we need to be doing. What matters in the end, is whether you have the backing of consumers.”
Vahdam, which is a reverse anagram of his father’s first name, Madhav have raised $17 million in funding so far and ships their products to over 104 countries. It gets 50% of its revenue from the US, 30 percent from Europe and 20% from the rest of the world including India.
“We source teas from over 100 estates in India. All teas and superfoods are procured directly from plantations and farmers within days of harvest, packaged garden fresh at our BRC Certified facility in New Delhi and shipped directly to our fulﬁllment centers in various parts of the world,” says Bala.
Vahdam was 100% online until a year back when they forayed into the offline model starting with the USA. Explaining the reason behind the “online-only” strategy in the early phase, Bala says, “In the first year of operations, we had shipped to more than 50 countries which would have never been possible with an offline model.”
It is the only Indian brand available in premium retail chains including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Berdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Wegmans, Erewhon Market.
While Vahdam is growing exponentially, they are deeply committed to people and the planet by being a certified carbon-neutral brand. It measures their carbon footprint from the farms in India to their customers’ doorsteps, globally. After this, they make carbon offsets via their investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives in India. They been certified by Climate Neutral, a not-for-profit based in the United States.
Vahdam is also a certified plastic neutral brand. They recover and recycle an amount of plastic equivalent to their packaging. “We take regular initiatives to reduce our plastic consumption without compromising on product quality and safety,” says Bala.
Under its ‘Teach Me’ Social Initiative, 1% of the brand’s revenue is directed towards the education of their farmers’ children.
Launch of New Product
Vahdam recently launched a new range of Organic Turmeric Latte Mixes. These latte mixes blend premium-quality Indian Turmeric with other time-honored superfoods like ginger, ashwagandha, moringa, reishi mushroom and an array of spices. “We have already started to get a lot of prominence in India. Our initial trial with our customers has proved to be very fulfilling,” says Bala.
There was an outrage in India a couple of years back when Starbucks in the USA launched the Turmeric Latte. Fortunately for Vahdam, there has been no resistance at all. “We are an authentic brand from India, strongly trusted by consumers today. We are in fact taking the 5000-year-old ancient Indian superfood ‘Turmeric’ to consumers across the world,” adds Bala.
Challenges moving forward
Bala confirms that there are some interesting products lined up for the launch, however, he refused to divulge any details at this point of time.
Talking about the challenges for a consumer-driven brand that has just turned profitable, Bala says, “Even though tea is the universal language across all countries, it’s a brand a customer buys into it and trust. Hence, the fitment with the consumer is extremely important and that’s a consistent challenge.”
“It is very important for us to continue to innovate and stay relevant as a brand,” says Bala signing off.