Tea Entrepreneurs Saurabh and Prerna take their passion for Tea Online with Tea Amo
A tea entrepreneur is a rather alien concept in a country obsessed with its chai. And two under the same roof is even stranger. But hang on. Let us introduce you to a sweet couple, Saurabh and Prerana Gupta, who have taken it upon themselves to introduce healthy teas into our routines. And with a brand name that right about speaks of their love for teas, they are the face behind Tea Amo – an online store selling everything from tea leaves to herbal teas.
When we caught up with them recently, the first question we asked them was why tea? And the couple had an answer that convinced us about their passion for teas. “To us, TEA is more of a process, than a commodity, of consuming the goodness of various herbs, fruits, flowers, and spices by soaking it in water. Tea is one of the few addictions that is tasty and healthy.”
Saurabh and Prerna at Tea Amo, believe that teas should be more of a necessity, given the increasing pollution and commotion in cities. And that is why they wish to bridge this gap and bring the experience of better teas and habits to the masses.
What is your brand all about and what do you sell?
Tea Amo is all about love for teas. We currently deliver variety of teas and herbal infusions to our customers, and wish to include tea-ware as well in the near future.
Our USP is that we steer clear of artificial flavours and all our teas are made of only real fruits, flowers, herbs and spices. We personally taste and choose the finest of teas for our collection.
When and how did Tea Amo start out? How long did you play with the idea before you started out?
Tea represents my (Saurabh Gupta) love for nature, fitness, and Shaolin culture, and is an instant escape from the hectic city life. Interestingly my biggest inspiration for tea came from a fictional character, named “Uncle Iroh” from an animated series called “Avatar: The Last Airbender” which I saw in 2007. For the next few years, I would love to taste new teas, and in the process I developed a knack for identifying better ones from good ones (professionally known as tea-tasting).
In 2011, I got married to Prerna, and she discovered her love for teas through me. We were happily settled in our family business for a while, but then certain events happened that convinced us that we needed something of our own. We decided to turn one of our passions into profession, and tea was the answer.
We had already gained more than common knowledge about teas by now, but we started putting the pieces together more seriously hence forth. We gathered all the knowledge we could by reading books, searching online, personally visiting tea gardens, and tasting numerous teas. The initial idea was to open up a cafe, but we couldn’t, due to the finances involved. Therefore we finally landed on the idea of an online tea store, and we finally launched one in July 2012, by the name of Tea Amo.
What was the one major challenge you overcame since you started out?
Everything is a challenge for a new start-up. Understanding the legalities of the trade has always been a pain, since the information is not available systematically. Raw material and packaging was another, still is, since the suppliers demand volumes. We did most of the designing and photography ourselves. Family and society pressures were a big challenge too.
But you do always make it through as long as you believe in yourself.
What was Tea Amo’s first product and what is the story behind it?
We use to visit Kangra Valley in Himachal, often for a getaway. We knew it was a tea producing region, and comparatively easily accessible from Delhi. I think this is where the idea of taking up tea professionally came to us in the first place.
We decided to go on a research tour through this region and found out about this beautiful little tea estate turned into a home-stay, called Darang Tea Estate. We went there for a holiday and simply fell in love with the place. The hosts Mr. & Mrs. Bhandari were one of the most amazing set of people we had ever met, and they arranged our meeting with a local tea factory.
We procured our first set of teas from this factory. These were Basic Teas, which included (clockwise from top left corner) Green, Oolong, Kangra Black and White tea. These teas tasted amazing, so we just procured them without worrying much about the prices, because more than anything we needed to start somewhere.
How have your audiences received your brand? Which is your best selling product?
Audience in e-commerce comes from marketing, and honestly we haven’t done much of that yet since we first needed to streamline our product and processes. It’s all set now and marketing will soon begin. However, whatever limited audience we’ve had so far are a dedicated one and have been very motivating with their feedback.
Our best selling product is the Himalayan Amrit Herbal Tea, which is a beautiful and healthy blend of 20 herbs and green tea. It has been so successful that we are now the whole-sole distributors for this product in Delhi and are placing it at retail outlets around the city.
Apart from your online store, what are some of your other point of sales? Say, exhibitions, retail outlets, etc. Which one has worked best for you?
We have started placing our products at retail counters very recently, and the results are awaited. Exhibitions are an important point of sales, and we are looking forward to participate in the upcoming ones.
What was the one thing that pushed you to start selling online? And how has the whole experience of setting up your own online store been?
Reach, convenience, and lesser investment were the main reasons. But setting up an online store was a scary thought too at the start, with all the new technical terms for a non-techie like web hosting, and payment gateways etc. A friend told us about the concept of e-commerce portal, and that sorted a lot of things. We picked Zepo out of all, and it’s been a wonderful experience.
What is the one activity that has worked best for you in online marketing? Any marketing tips for our entrepreneurs and artists?
We have only maintained regular interaction on Facebook so far, and it’s been helpful. Tip is that marketing is the most important thing in e-commerce, and all offline and online options like SEO, Social Media Marketing, blogging etc. must be properly exploited.
Now let’s ask them, on a more personal note, how has their journey as entrepreneurs been.
How do you define success?
Success is happiness, satisfaction and good health. In terms of business, success is a repeat customer.
Keeping the same levels of enthusiasm everyday is not easy. What keeps you inspired and motivated every day?
There’s a different motivation every day. Sometimes a cup of tea, friends, wise advise from teachers and role-models, and sometimes even a complete stranger who goes out of the way to help you. And if nothing else, there has to be self-motivation. One cannot go too far without motivation.
What are some of the decisions that have worked best for you?
Starting our own business, and taking it online was the best decision of our career so far.
What is the one big mistake that you made as an entrepreneur?
In the wake of excitement, we often make the mistake of not having a plan B. No idea or plan is perfect; therefore always have a plan B, atleast.
What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur?
I think the proudest moment is today, when we look back at how far we’ve come. We started from scratch and we’ve established a business on our own. It’s a great sense of achievement.
If you could give any piece of advice to would-be entrepreneurs, looking to follow in your footsteps, what would it be?
Always follow your heart, not what others think or say. And know your product in & out.
Thank you Saurabh and Prerna for taking out the time to do this interview. It was a complete pleasure. Wishing you all the very best!