27 Jun 2020 14:40 IST

The cup that keeps you in the right Society

Tracing its origins to 1924, Society Tea is one of the country’s top ten chai brands

Sometimes it takes a crisis to bring out the best in a person – and the same can be said of companies. During this Covid-19 pandemic, as India moved from one lockdown to another, and social distancing has become a daily mantra, Society Tea came out with the #StayAtHome campaign on its digital platforms. The initiative not only requests people to stay safe indoors but also provides them with web links to classes and activities to keep them occupied and healthy.Talk about commitment to the customer!

It is no secret that tea preferences vary across family members, let alone different regions and cultures, and this is the reason why, even within brands, consumers look for wider choices in flavour and fragrance. And in this respect, Society Tea may have just captured the pulse of the customer.

Said to be the leader in the Maharashtra tea scene today, the brand has a near 40 per cent market share in the packaged tea segment in the State. It has top-of-the-mind recall among consumers because of its distinctive blue packaging – a first for a tea brand – which stood out amongst the reds and greens favoured by its competitors.

Origins in Chai Galli

The brand had its origins in 1924, when Hiravan Pranjivandas set up shop as a tea wholesaler in the famous Chai Galli of Masjid Bunder. He sourced tea from across India and sold the same in bulk to local traders; he is also said to have traded with West Asian countries.

In 1933, he started Hasmukhrai & Co and opened a shop in Kalbadevi to cater to consumers in Bombay. The new outlet did well and earned the trust of customers by consistently delivering tea of excellent quality. The company grew from strength to strength and, by the late 1980s, was the acknowledged market leader in the tea industry in Mumbai.

Not content to sit back, the firm surveyed customer preferences and discovered that long-established tea-buying patterns were changing. Tea drinkers were opting for convenience, ease and quick preparation options. This prompted Hasmukhrai & Co. to launch tea in packet form in 1991; thus was born the retail tea brand Society Tea, named thus to make it appealing to all age groups.


Diversified product range

Tea varieties with the Society label comprise One-Minute tea pre-mixes, Masala tea, Leaf tea, Green tea, Dust tea and Iced tea. The brand also offers One-Mminute Coffee and dairy products (ghee, milk powder, whitener). It plans to launch sugar variants in the One-Minute drink category and a herbal tea with a rare type of tulsi and mint added.

The product range was recently diversified to include chutneys and pickles under the brand name ‘Spice Secrets’.

Society Tea claims to be the first turnkey company in India that produces each and every ingredient in the tea. It keeps the quality of its tea consistent and perfect – the colour, fragrance, flavour and taste – by roping in people at the helm of affairs as tasters.

Taking into account the fact that tea preferences are said to change every 100 km within India, it researches customer consumption trends across regions and innovates and improvises its blends according to each market. This has helped it weather seasonal changes and retain customer loyalty, offering quality products with the right marketing, distribution and promotion, giving people the taste, flavour and consistency options they desire.

Sealing in aroma and freshness

Packaging has always been an integral part of the brand, with the predominant blue colour attracting attention, Recyclable Kraft paper retains the taste and aroma and prevents damage to the product, while zip-lock seals retain the freshness. Its highly advanced manufacturing unit at Vadodara, in Gujarat, for tea and dairy products maintains strict standards of hygiene and is fully automated.

The brand has a good presence today in such States as Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Delhi and Tamil Nadu. It is also among the top ten tea brands in India today.

Society Tea is now available on e-commerce sites (through which it entered the Southern markets), in addition to retail outlets, grocery chains and super mart chains like D-Mart.

Brand quality, social causes

The brand has done well despite not opting for celebrity endorsements; it stands by the quality of its products. Its taglines have always resonated with the consumer, from the revolutionary blue kettle, with the line ‘In a world full of labels, one name that sets a brand apart - Society Tea’ through ‘Tea as it should be’ to ‘Masala Nahi Toh Mazaa Nahi’ for its Masala Chai. Society Tea is also active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Its photo essay ‘Tea Society called India’ celebrated the country’s tea-drinking culture. It won the best Out-of-Home advertising campaign awards in two categories at the 5th edition of the Kyoorius Creative Awards in 2018.

The same campaign got a tremendous response from members of the public who wished to purchase the images shown: this gave birth to the ‘Tea Society Initiative’, for which the brand tied up with NGOs. Thus, when someone bought an image, the proceeds would go to a charity, such as helping underprivileged children, women and other sections of society.

The company is now run by the fourth generation, with Karan Shah as Director. Recently, the company opened its flagship tea café ‘Tea Terminal’ in Mumbai.