Rajeev Baid, a prominent figure in Darjeeling’s tea industry, has risen from humble beginnings to become a significant player in the tea market. He owns the esteemed OKAYTI tea garden, Darjeeling’s third oldest, and spearheads Chai Chun, a chain of tea boutiques. Baid’s journey showcases his entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to revolutionizing India’s tea sector.
Early Ventures and Struggles
Baid, born into a large family with limited means, recognized the need to forge his path. At just 13, he ventured into selling tea, observing its popularity among travelers at Bihar’s Kishenganj railway station. His distinctive approach, focusing on bulk sales to tea shops, set him apart from conventional hawkers. This audacity earned him recognition and a subsequent position at Bihar’s Apex Tea Pvt. Ltd.
Rising through the Ranks
Baid’s dedication and marketing prowess at Apex Tea led to a partnership stake in the company and, eventually, ownership. Further seizing opportunities, he established Evergreen tea factory in Siliguri, producing CTC tea. Through strategic connections, he secured deals with industry giants like Tata Tea, Hindustan Unilever, and Goodricke Tea Company. His factory’s capacity scaled up to a remarkable fifty million tonnes per year.
Venturing into Premium Tea
Baid’s thirst for innovation wasn’t quenched by his achievements. Recognizing the gaps in India’s tea industry, he founded Chai Chun, a retail venture offering diverse teas from different gardens. This endeavor focused on the retail segment, catering to evolving consumer preferences. With careful blending and a commitment to quality, Chai Chun thrived, expanding to twenty-two outlets across India. Baid’s vision led him to explore flavored and seasonal teas, catering to a new generation of tea enthusiasts.
Pursuing Darjeeling Orthodox Tea
Baid’s journey had yet to encompass Darjeeling’s prestigious orthodox tea market. This changed in 2021 when he acquired the historic OKAYTI estate, nestled in the picturesque Mirik Valley. OKAYTI Tea Estate boasts an exceptional location, high elevation, and an abundance of original Darjeeling tea plants. With its unique offerings, the estate became a platform for Baid to establish himself as a tea baron in his own right.
Rebranding for the Future
True to form, Baid’s ambitions extend beyond acquisition. He plans to redefine OKAYTI’s image, making it accessible to a broader consumer base while retaining its historical significance. Baid envisions elevating Darjeeling tea’s global standing through creative branding and engaging in tea tourism to showcase the region’s heritage. His multifaceted approach aims to drive economic growth while fostering a distinctive identity for Darjeeling tea.
Lessons for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
When asked about advice for budding tea entrepreneurs, Baid emphasizes embracing passion, committing to quality, building strong brands, exploring diverse markets, prioritizing customer satisfaction, and contributing to the community and environment. His journey exemplifies the significance of continual innovation, unwavering determination, and a forward-looking mindset.
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