Imphal: Settling in a fast-paced country with a plum salary is every person’s dream, but not for Elizabeth Yambem. A native of Manipur, Yambem quit her cushy bank job in Singapore to come back home and pursue her passion of promoting local strengths and creating a sustainable livelihood called Dweller Teas.
Yambem’s start-up received immense response from the public so much so that around mid-May this year, she opened another Dweller Teas outlet in Imphal; this comes within two years of opening the first cafe.
Yambem worked as a financial analyst at a reputed bank of London for two years and subsequently moved to its Singapore office. With the help of company sponsorship, she obtained a chartered accountancy qualification (ICAEW) during her tenure at the bank. However, she knew that something was amiss.
She wanted to do something at home, so she started saving, and once she had enough, Yambem was back in Imphal studying through the market for a feasible business opportunity. After consideration, she decided to put her focus on local tea, not the traditional chai, but the authentic Manipuri one with spices and herbs, to make a delicious and healthy cuppa!
A firm believer of sustainable livelihoods, she saw that based in Northeast, she was very close to the source. Being a native, Yambem knew that horticultural produce occupies a unique role in sustaining many local livelihoods, but the seasonality, perishable nature and lack of proper post-harvest management result in loss and unrealised potential.
Dweller Teas tapped on this potential of traditional herbs and started the business in 2017. She said, “Value additions such as developing fruit and herbal infusions not only help in extending the shelf life, but also allows Dweller Teas to offer natural, delightful sips to customers and create new livelihood opportunities in the community we operate in.”
On the choice of name for the brand, Yambem said, “Dweller is someone who dwells or lives in a particular place, and since the tea blends and the ingredients are all centered on Manipur, the name fits right.”
Yambem said, “Sipping Hei-mang, a hot-selling brew, brings back childhood memories of growing up in Manipur, especially of my grandma, who soaked Hei-mang overnight for refreshing sips the next day. Traditional herbal healers in the state believe the fruits have antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial and digestive properties.”
Another drink which takes her down memory lane is Nong-mang-kha. It is a herbal remedy, traditionally known for antiviral and antibacterial properties, and is Dweller’s herbal treatment for cold, cough and more.
All the flavours at Dweller are made in-house using naturally and locally grown ingredients, and no added colour, flavour or preservatives.
Yambem sticks to her vision of a sustainable venture, as; Dweller Teas is not just health conscious, but also environment conscious. They use bamboo trays with banana leaves for service and paper products for takeaways. Also, they mostly employ homemakers to uplift and empower them.
In five years, she sees Dweller to be a company positively impacting the lives of over 100 team members, from the current 12-member team. She said, “I imagine Dweller will be like a friend to a customer, always offering what’s best for the customer.”
Her gamble on local produce has fared well, as her start-up today is shipping tea not just within the state, but also outside. “However, I believe there’s a lot more to be done to expand our reach and achieve the right growth,” she added.