NEW DELHI: It was the British who introduced tea in India from China. Now, Fabindia is trying to take Indian herbal tea to the land of the dragon.
“We are taking Ayurveda to China,“ said William Bissell, managing director at Fabindia that holds a controlling stake in Organic India, a Lucknow-based organic food and supplements firm.
So if everything goes well with the regulatory approvals, Organic India plans to embark on its journey into China next year.
As part of the process, Organic India had hired a Chinese consultancy to study potential for Indian ayurvedic products in China.“We saw a huge potential there,“ said Abhinandan Dhoke, chief executive at Organic India. He said the company has partnered with the same consultant to help work on its entry strategy for China. “We are going to enter with our tea category . We are predominantly into green tea and other infusion of herbs so that is very relevant category that is existing over there,“ Dhoke said.
Organic India was founded in 1997 by Bha rat Mitra, a former disciple of Lucknow-based spiritual teacher the late HWL Poonja, fondly known as `Papaji'. Mitra came to India in the 1980s in search of truth and self-realisation, and ended up establishing a business that supports livelihood of thousands of farmers in the area. Today, it sells its products across the country through 25 own stores besides Fabindia outlets and hundreds of general retailers, and exports to 35 countries including the US, most of Europe, the Middle East and some African countries. In 2015-16, Organic India had a turnover of `205 crore.
Fabindia, the country's largest private retailers of ethnic wear and other traditional products, acquired a 40% stake in Organic India in 2013, and later increased it to 50%.
Indian companies already selling tea in China, however, say it would be an uphill task to hawk herbal tea in that country. “It is going to be very tough to sell herbal tea in China as they have their own versions of herbal teas,“ said Rajiv Lochan, principal at Siliguri-based Lochan Tea that has been exporting Darjeeling tea to China since 2008. “The reason being they have their own versions of herbal tea and that is a matter of taste.“
Organic India, though, is confident of success in China. “Historically China has been a tea-drinking or herbal-tea drinking country,“ said Dhoke.