How Wagh Bakri dominates tea consumption in Gujarat

How Wagh Bakri dominates tea consumption in Gujarat

Customised to suit the quality of local water and milk, Wagh Bakri dominates tea consumption in Gujarat. So much so that no one can touch the brand's market position in the state - 50 per cent of the tea consumed is Wagh Bakri.

Gujarat Tea Processors and Packers' Executive Director for marketing and sales Parag Desai Gujarat Tea Processors and Packers' Executive Director for marketing and sales Parag Desai
When Gujarat Tea Processors and Packers Ltd, best known as the company that sells Wagh Bakri brand tea, enters a new market, it starts by testing the water - literally - and the milk. Depending on the results, the tea is customised for the region. For instance, people in southern Gujarat tend to use creamier milk. So the Wagh Bakri tea there has to blend with the milk's richness and make its presence, and flavour, felt.

VIDEO: How tea company Wagh Bakri was born

"Most Indians have their tea with milk and sugar. So we test these first and then figure out a way to offer a brew that eventually would work well with the local palate," says Paras Desai, a fourth-generation member of the founding family who, as the company's Executive Director, controls sourcing and operations.


  • The business started as Gujarat Tea Depot Company in 1919
  • The logo, featuring a tiger and goat sharing a cup of tea, stands for harmony and equality
  • It is the country's largest tea brand outside of the HUL and Tata fold
Desai's own palate would presumably be numb by the time he hits the bed at night, as he goes through the day tasting up to 500 samples. "As a family we are passionate about tea and obsessive about getting the right brew and blend to reach the consumer," he says.

You would expect such dedication from a company that was set up at the behest of a man whose name is a synonym for dedication to a cause. Mahatma Gandhi invited Narandas Desai in 1892 to come to South Africa, where Gandhi practised law, to tap the tea market. Desai did go there and acquire a tea estate, but left for the same reason that drove Gandhi away: racial discrimination.

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He came back with little more than a letter from Gandhi endorsing his credentials as a man who knew his tea, and set up Gujarat Tea Depot Company in 1919. In 1925 he launched the Wagh Bakri brand, which, taking off from Gandhi's belief in equality for all, showed a tiger and a goat drinking tea - yes, tea - from the same cup - yes, cup. Now you get the idea behind the name, don't you? Wagh is Gujarati for tiger, and bakri is goat.

"It symbolises harmony and shows how tea is a great leveller," says Parag Desai, Paras' cousin and the executive director in charge of marketing and sales. But you cannot be a Gujarati businessman and be content with your lot.

A time came when the Desais decided to enter markets outside Gujarat, and take on the big guys like Hindustan Unilever and Tata, who, between them, control 80 per cent of the country's tea market.

Wagh Bakri, though, is not to be trifled with. Its buyers swear by its "quality and price", as a shopper in Ahmedabad puts it. No one can touch it in Gujarat, where over 50 per cent of the tea consumed is Wagh Bakri. And it sells enough in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Mahrashtra, Goa, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka to be the largest brand in the country outside of the HUL and Tata fold.

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