How 'Tea' has the Potential Make India and Sri Lanka Better Neighbours
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Over the period of time, India’s neighbour, Sri Lanka has established itself as one of the primary growers and exporters of exclusive tea in the world. In this regard, one company which is changing the outlook of the tea industry is Samley Tea. Samley Tea is a new age Tea exporting company which was established in 2015.
We caught up with The Founder and Director, Kavith Balage who tells us more about Sri Lankan tea and how India has a huge part to play in the grand scheme of things.
The Spirit of an Entrepreneur
“15 years of my life have been spent in learning the corporate side of tea cultivation, tea manufacturing, tea tasting and blending. This helped me embark on my own journey and introduce Samley Teas in 2015. We have a state of the art tea factory which takes care of quality assurance and tasting checks. We have respective licenses such as the European license which helps in trading superior quality Sri Lankan tea to the world,” Balage explained.
The three main types of markets for Samley Teas is the high-end gift market for the tourists visiting Sri Lanka. The next is the export market which is Samley Tea’s main field of interest, with clients mostly in Europe and the Middle East. Recently they have developed an online website where online sales take place for end customers who are looking at products of unique and different flavoured tea varieties.
Kavith believes in being highly visible in global platforms such as international trade fairs and networking forums which he tells have helped in B2B engagements drastically.
Tea Industry of Sri Lanka
Balage is an entrepreneur who analyses data and statistics to understand the future of tea business. Anticipation with full knowledge is always important to grow the business in different economic scenarios.
“In terms of tea exports, Sri Lanka has not been able to do that well. It, however, has had reasonable export revenue in terms of USD in 2017 compared to the previous year of 2016, with total revenue from January to October 2017 being 194.3 Billion. The supply has been an issue with Sri Lanka’s weather patterns not being able to help the crop. The droughts have been pretty severe in 2017,” Balage said.
The largest country in terms of export for Sri Lanka has been Turkey followed by Russia. Quality issues need to be addressed well especially in the tea industry, as it is something which is very user specific.
“Another problem with pure Ceylon tea is being an increasingly difficult item to market. The tea drinkers have now become more particular about what they drink. The maturity of the tea drinkers has resulted in poor tea quality being discounted for and hence only the high valued picks and tastes are able to compete.”
In total productivity, Sri Lanka often faces labour shortages which in turn have led to poor productivity at the estate level. Costs of production have gone up drastically with higher salary demand and hence, prices have shot up leading to a less competitive rate. This type of model is seen to be an issue in the long run.
India’s Role in the Tea Industry
India and China account for almost 50% of the world tea consumption due to its various health benefits and low prices.
“In India, tea is primarily grown in Assam in the North East and Nilgiri mountains in the South. In fact, India has had better exports in terms of tea compared to Sri Lanka this year thanks to its sufficient supply,” Balage emphasized when asked about whether India being a neighbouring country can be part of the expanding tea industry.
“Indian tea export to Sri Lanka is substantial. With Sri Lanka’s tea being famous but growing in price it is will be viable to mix the Assam and Nilgiri tea to get the right blend along with affordable prices. This blend of tea can then be re-exported from Sri Lanka to compete in the tea drinking nations around the world.”
Kavith Balage, a fan of the Indian culture and food hopes to create magic with India’s connection with Sri Lanka in terms of tea.
“In my opinion, Sri Lanka can collaborate with India to create a hub like Germany, Hong Kong and Turkey. This will create great tastes with the right tea blends which can create magic in terms of the tea exports. Sri Lankan Tea with the support of Indian Tea can help expand the tea industries in both the nations. If this is not done soon enough, many high producing nations like Sri Lanka will be left with little choice but to reduce the quality of tea to bring prices down which will have an everlasting impact,” Balage concluded.