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Bala Sarda is the Founder and CEO of Vahdam Teas, India’s first global premium tea brand. We interviewed Sarda to learn about why celebrities love his tea and what lies ahead.
I read somewhere that you named your brand after your dad. Why?
“VAHDAM” is the reverse anagram of my father’s first name “MADHAV”. My father spent over 4 decades of his life trying to promote India’s finest teas & offerings. However, before the advent of e-commerce & social media, it was next to impossible to build a global brand, out of India.
We at VAHDAM, are taking his vision forward of building India’s first globally recognized consumer brand.
What makes your Tea so special?
I had a vision to make available garden fresh teas to discerning customers around the world.
Unlike your everyday cuppa, Vahdam Teas do not travel in containers for months before being packaged and sold. All our teas are procured direct from plantations & tea growers within 24-72 hours of production, packaged garden fresh and shipped directly from source in India to consumers across the world.
By eliminating all middlemen, we are not only able to make available garden fresh high quality teas, but are also able to retain all earnings in the region where these divine teas are grown & nurtured by millions of growers. And yes, every consumer gets to sip a much fresher, higher quality, ethical, fair-trade tea at a much better price.
So consumers get better tea for a lower price and the local growers benefit. How do the local growers benefit?
We recently launched our social initiative called ‘TEAch Me’. Under this initiative, we pledge to redirect 1% of our revenue towards the education of our tea-growers’ children.
I have always believed that a home-grown brand like VAHDAM can empower the entire India tea industry on a macro basis. However, we are very passionate to work everyday on a real micro issues. And hence, “TEAch Me”.
India, there is free education in public schools from the age of 6 till the age of 14. After that, school education must be paid for and most tea grower families cannot afford higher education.
With our ‘TEAch Me’ social campaign, we shall be funding the higher education for these children from the age of 14 until the time they acquire a desired, stable form of employment. Every parent wishes for their progeny to have a better future than they did and VAHDAM wishes to honor this aspiration.
What have been your biggest successes thus far?
Vahdam is India’s largest home-grown premium brand. We are not only getting backed by some of India’s most respected investors, VCs, entrepreneurs & celebrities, but the fact that our customers are getting re-introduced to teas & superfoods from India, is something which is our biggest success.
We once got a review from a 86 year old, who has been drinking teas for the last 60 years. She said, Vahdam was the best tea she had had.
Have you won any awards or recognition?
Our team has been working hard to achieve our vision and people are taking notice. We won Global SMB of the Year. Our Teas and Superfoods have won over 25 Global Awards. We were name to Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2018 and 2019. And we were selected by Ellen DeGeneres for the Spring 2020 Be Kind by Ellen box.
Sounds like everyone loves your teas. Has the business always been this good?
With no resources initially, building a global brand out of India was very hard. We are India’s only home-grown brand in this category, and building consumer trust & confidence in the early days was a key challenge.
What was the best advice you ever heard regarding starting your own business?
Consistency. One out of 1000 startups succeed & nobody has a winning formula. Being consistent, evolving, pivoting & having a bias-for-action is the way to build a company. That is the best guidance I got from an ex-entrepreneur, which we tend to stick to everyday.
If our readers want to try your tea, do you offer any discount codes?
Yes, you can use code: TEA2020 at checkout to save 20%
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