TGL teas is a start up created by two Indian entrepreneurs, Bhuman Dani and Oxford MBA alumnus Shariq Ashraf.
The premise of the company is simple: to source the highest quality teas from across the world, and supply them to rapidly growing premium markets in India and the Middle East.
While drinking tea might be nothing new to India, TGL’s blends offer their customers something different from the usual high street choices. ‘My favourite blend is called Fountain of Life,’ explains Shariq, ‘it is a combination of six different types of tea: four green teas, a white tea and a yellow tea. These are mixed with peaches, papayas, marigold petals, lemon and kiwi fruit. It is something very special.’
Like many entrepreneurs, Shariq’s success with TGL teas stems partly from an ability to capitalise on chance encounters. ‘I was travelling through Argentina, and I happened to visit a store that was selling the most incredible and delicious tea. I asked to meet the owner, without realising that she was a famous businessperson in Argentina named Inés Berton. Well, I can only think that she was amused by my audacity, because she agreed to meet with me. I ended up spending two months there, learning as much as I could about the tea industry.’
Initially Shariq had sought to import Inés Berton’s tea into India, but could not bring the idea to fruition due to complications in exporting them from Argentina. ‘I put the idea on hold until early 2016, when I met my business partner Bhuman Dani in London. Like me, he had a background in consulting at The Boston Consulting Group. Bhuman had recently quit his job to start his own tea business, but was struggling in areas that I had expertise in. We joined forces, and TGL teas was born.’
Looking towards the future, Shariq is confident that TGL teas is well placed to take advantage of what he describes as a booming market for premium products in India. ‘If you take premium coffee for example, a decade ago this market would not have existed, but now it is going through the roof. People in India are also becoming more health conscious, and so green tea provides a fantastic alternative to beverages like chai tea that are often mixed with milk and sugar.’
Shariq believes that the entrepreneurial aspects of his Oxford MBA were particularly useful in the development of TGL Teas. ‘I came from a traditional family business background, and so I had a limited understanding of concepts like venture capital funding before I came to Oxford Saïd. Listening to the real life experiences of other entrepreneurs was also an invaluable learning experience.’