What led to the inception of the brand? Also shed light on your entrepreneurial journey.
Mr Ashutosh Ghosh, under whose name our parent company (A Tosh & Sons)was formed, was enchanted by Darjeeling’s terrain with its dewy muscatel and the sweet floral fragrance and immersed himself in the history of the region. His numerous journeys through the meandering Hillcart Road in Darjeeling resulted in his entrepreneurial expedition that has now become a legacy.
I was born in a distinctive era, but I am as passionate about teas as my forefather was. I felt greatly inspired by his rich legacy and decided to embark on a journey to create a unique and premium brand that offered delightful and exotic tea blends to the true connoisseurs. This is how The Hillcart Tales was founded. We are committed to providing a wide range of exquisite, yet authentic tea experiences sourced from tea gardens located across Darjeeling, Assam, Taiwan and Rwanda. The Hillcart Tales combines about 122 years of rich heritage with the dynamic nature of a startup. My endeavour has been to provide immaculate blends given that customers today are interested in unique experiences. We are the first brand in India to have created a different range of teas known as dessert tisanes. The Hillcart Tales has been growing at 100% since our inception and the journey so far has been highly enriching.
Kindly throw light on USPs of the start-up, growth and future plans. Do you have a tie-up with modern retailers as the part of your distribution strategy?
We are the first tea brand in India to have handcrafted packaging with hand-painted watercolour illustrations, created with the artistic prowess acquired over 37 generations. Our tea is packaged only in muslin tea bags, and the aim is to give the best quality to our customers. Recently, we were named as one of the finalists at the prestigious Lexus Design Awards 2019 for excellence in branding and packaging on parameters like structural designs, surface graphic designs and environmental impact. Thus, our market positioning has always been distinct, and we are an exclusive premium-to-luxury tea brand. It is not only our identity, but also our products and the packaging that are a class apart.
Our soft launch was in November 2017, and we entered the market in April 2018. If we look at it from a year-on-year perspective, we have maintained a growth rate of 100%. Today, we have an omni-channel presence in about 7 major Indian cities including Pune, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Kolkata. The Hillcart Tales products are available online on Amazon, bigbasket and our own website and we are further expanding our partnerships with other online marketplaces. Our blends are available in gourmet stores such as Godrej’s Nature’s Basket, Spencer’s in Kolkata, Le Marche in Delhi, and Krishna Mart. Our retail presence spans about 200 stores across India. In the Horeca segment, we are present in about 70 hotels and over 100 high-end cafes across India. The Hillcart Tales is a premium lifestyle brand. We are forging partnerships with wedding planners and offering them customized solutions. This is another high-growth channel for us around which we have been doing several promotions and events.
Are you bootstrapped or raised any funds so far?
The Hillcart Tales is internally funded through our parent company.
How is The Hillcart Tales supporting traditional skills and expertise of the tea garden employees, blenders and experts?
We source teas from tea gardens but do not own any tea gardens. The question thus may not be relevant to us.
Tell us about your B2B and what are the plans to scale this side of business?
Our teas are currently available in about 200 stores and in terms of HORECA, we are already present in about 70 hotels and 100 high-end cafes. Our high-end and premium teas also make an excellent corporate gifting option. Today more than half of our revenue is being generated by the B2B segment and we are further increasing our footprint by forging associations with wedding planners to offer their guests the unmatched experience of The Hillcart Tales teas.
We are now aiming to expand our coverage beyond the existing metro cities and have plans to enter the high-income Tier 2 cities such asChandigarh, Jaipur, Surat, Ahmedabad, and Coimbatore for our products.We are currently not exporting to other countries.
All our blends are unique in nature and this when combined with innovative packaging makes us stand out from the crowd. Our focus is on providing a unique experience to retail customers and make a mark in the HORECA segment. Our business generation strategy focuses on developing and introducing new blends for our customers.
Who do you see as your competition within same space?
There are several tea players in the market today however none of them have benefit from our 121 years of rich heritage of blending and producing the highest quality of exotic and experiential premium teas.
There is shift towards organic, sustainable products due to evolved habits. How does your product fit in that category?
As a brand, we are devoted to the cause of environmental sustainability. We place great emphasis in making our packages reusable as home décor pieces or articles like pencil boxes and even attractive coin boxes. The Hillcart Tales tea bags are packaged using Origami technique and once a tea bag is cut open, the packaging can be used as a coaster and each of these carries a motivational quote. We also print instructions on our packaging stating the different ways they can be reused. Even the water-color illustrations that are featured on our packages, serve the purpose of raising awareness about the various tea-growing regions across the world from where our teas are sourced.