Ranjit Baruah, a professional tea maker based in Guwahati, Assam, has over 20 years of experience Credit: EastMojo image

New Delhi: Assam’s tea industry is recognised by tea drinkers in India and abroad. The rich and malty flavoured tea, unique to Assam has drawn tea drinkers from around the world.

Adding another reason to love the state’s tea is the concept of blooming blue tea. It is basically a perfect blending of aprajita (blue pea) flower and finest quality of Assam tea blended with hand. The flowers are sourced from Hajo, near Guwahati.

When served, one can experience the exotic floral display and enjoy the soothing aroma and flavours. Packed with antioxidants, it also has anti-diabetic characteristics and also boosts brain activity. There have been indications of its several other health and nutritional benefits.

The idea for the production of specialised teas in Assam came to Ranjit Baruah, a professional tea maker with wealth of experience, spanning over 20 years. Baruah founded Aromica Tea, a tea producing company, based in Guwahati, as a result of his passion and expertise in this field.

Baruah recently became an Internet sensation when he launched another innovative product – Aromica Fiery Tea; bhut jolokia (ghost chilli), one of the hottest chillies in the world, blended with organic black tea using a dheki (a wooden threshing tool) and dehydrated lemon and ginger powder — it’s a first of its kind experience anywhere.

Baruah grew up in Namrup, where he did most of his early schooling. He got his BSc degree from Cotton College, Guwahati, where he graduated in 1996 with first class honours. In 1998, he was trained in hotel management at Institute of Hotel Management (IHM), Guwahati. He previously worked for Wiliamson Magor Ltd, which was a big name in the tea business around 1999. After about 20 years of astute service, he was promoted to deputy manager.

Baruah resigned in November 2018, after gaining tremendous expertise in every aspect of tea planting, and went on to start his company, Tender Buds Teas & Crafts. And under the parent company, Aromica Tea was established.

For Baruah, entrepreneurship is more than just making money. It’s a way of helping small tea growers earn economic value and at the same time provide tea of high quality to the general public. Baruah says, the aim of Aromica is to promote the pride of Assam, which is its wonderful tea, as well as showcase the talent of local tea growers to the world. His motivation mainly comes from his desire to produce special blends of tea that will garner international recognition and to offer customers happiness and wellness in a cup.

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He highlighted some signature products of the company. “Some of our signature products are; Bhut Jolokia Tea, Blue Tea, Masala Tea, Rose Tea Sticks, and Valentine Tea.”

Most business owners experience a rough patch in the first few months of running the business. From ‘bhut jolokia’ to bamboo shoot, Ranjit Baruah’s Aromica Tea has it all gives an insight into the first few months running Aromica Tea and how he overcame the challenges.

“We launched in November of 2018, and by April of 2019, we had made little to nothing sales. We tried different solutions to remedy this, to no avail. The low sales were mainly because of the apparent newness of our product to the public and our very limited client base. Despite all that, we intensified our efforts and even started promoting our products on social media,” Baruah said.

“Our first break came when the CEO of My Galf; a wellness aggregator firm based in Mumbai, collaborated with us. The collaboration opened a lot of doors for us in the corporate world. Later on, we really experienced success when we started advertising on printed media and TV. We were published widely in both TV and print. Then in July, 2019, we launched the Bhut Jolokia Tea, it was an instant hit,” he adds gleefully.

The success of the Bhut Jolokia Tea brought a lot of attention to the company. Aromica Tea continued growing and even began taking international orders from Dubai, UK, USA, Canada and many others.

In August 2019, the company launched Just Tea cafe at Bipanan Khetra, in Panjabari, Guwahati, which increased the customer base significantly and was featured in Assam’s tourism information booklet. Baruah credits a large portion of his company’s growth to customer feedback. Patrons, as he fondly calls his customers, are contacted for their feedback, and their suggestions are implemented.

His advice to young businesses going through challenges is to believe, and that no matter what they go through, there is always a way out. A way to overcome each and every obstacle brought their way.

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Baruah positively brags about his team at Aromica. The company currently has 12 employees, trained adequately on tea blends, tea types basics, tea marketing and brewing. He believes in women empowerment, and that is why 90 percent of their total number of employees is women.

When the company started, Baruah invested a capital of Rs 30 lakh. After a year, Baruah recovered a good turnover from sales to keep the business alive. As with other businesses, the coronavirus has affected his business. He has, however, taken some steps to ensure his business remains relevant in these trying times.

Just when we thought there was nothing new to see, Baruah introduced three new blends, Rudraksha Tea, Moringa Tulsi Green Tea, Bamboo Shoot Tea. Baruah is also collaborating with e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Axom Haat, and Brahmaputra Fables, to ensure customers can easily get the products. He has gone on to release new products like Green Tea Hand sanitisers.

Regardless of Baruah’s recent success, expansion of Aromica Tea is still a priority to him. Some of his future plans include exportation of his products to Australia, promoting current blends and formulating new ones, spread the reach of the business through several collaborations, and launching of more Just Tea Cafe outlets in 2021.

Speaking on his preferred medium of sale, Baruah says, “Both online and offline mediums of sale have their own merit. Online mediums give you a wider reach to sell your products. While with the offline medium, you will be able to interact closely with your customers. Right now, however, with all that’s going in the world, online mediums are preferred.”

When he isn’t selling products or advertising for his company, Baruah lists activities he likes to engage in. “I love updating myself with news on TV and reading articles on teas on the Internet. Of course, playing with my three little children is something I love doing,” he said.

Running a successful tea business in Assam is not always a bed of roses. Baruah had to give it his all, and yet, there were days that the pressure was too much to handle. Luckily, he had support systems like his wife, Dolly Baruah, who stood by him when he made the transition from his job to entrepreneurship. His other support systems include the members of his immediate and extended family that have been there for him through thick and thin.

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