People were accustomed to drinking tea as it became available to them that was sanctioned by a century old system and it was time to make tea available as it should be, to everyone. So, my partner, Mr. Jayanta Kakati, and I worked on a plan to offer an additional mode of sale to the centuries-old industry and popularize tea on the lines of fine wines and brand Assam as a tea destination along with promoting tourism in NE India, where tourists visit and stay in Heritage Bungalows in Tea Gardens. Also, we wanted to offer visits and tours of fields and the tea factory to experience the toil and sweat that goes behind producing that exhilarating cuppa.
A concept paper was thus created and shared/discussed with a select few personalities from the industry and got support.
However, there is a concern which diametrically affects the overall tea experience: while browsing the Internet, I stumbled upon an article published in The Guardian on 1st March, 2014 about the tea pickers of Assam who were sold into slavery. I did some research on the subject and learned that in 1948 slavery and the slave trade were outlawed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today over 30 million people are enslaved worldwide: more than at any time in history. The primary reason for enslavement is poverty and even in the most organized sector such as the tea industry; they can’t afford to pay a better wage to tea workers as their teas do not fetch remunerative price in the auction, making tea pickers vulnerable to human traffickers who promise better wage.
Therefore using technology as an enabler, we created TEAORB, a Food & Beverage hybrid e-commerce marketplace for producers from NE India, allowing them to collectively deliver their finest and freshest produce directly to consumers worldwide and fetch a better price as there are no intermediaries, affecting their payment capacity for better wage to tea workers and access to programs and services to tackle climate change and offer tea tourism. Apart from marketing and tourism, we also have a consulting wing to provide guidance to producers in scientific agricultural practice in tea cultivation, modern manufacturing process in factory, marketing of the produce, matters related to Food Safety Standards Act 2006 and Tea Board of India's directives on Plant Protection Code (PPC).
This venture requires huge capital toward digital marketing, infrastructure and operations. It was initially thought that crowd funding would be the best option, but like introduction of any innovative idea, it was difficult to bring about the required change in the mindset. The tech-savvy have understood the concept well. So with limited own resources we set about the task of obtaining the necessary licenses/registration from the authorities.
Tea tasting on some of the samples sent by the small tea manufacturers was carried out through a leading tea broking house and reports were encouraging to say the least.
The official website, www.teaorb.com was unveiled through a soft launch on 21st December, 2016.
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