From the land of Howrah bridge to the land of Harbour bridge: A first-hand experience of establishing tea trade relations

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Trade, as we know, is a basic economic concept that involves the exchange of capital, goods and services. In simple terms, bilateral trade relationships takes place between two countries when there is a demand (of goods, services, capital, technology, labour etc.) in one country and the other has the capacity to supply and cater to such demands.

Australia-India trade relations: then and now
Indo-Australia trade relations can be traced back to early 1800s. Back in the 1800s, the British Empire had a strong presence in the region especially in east of India. With the establishment of a colony in their new found land -Australia, trade and communication between these colonial cousins were established. Ships sailed between the two continents. The trade was built initially under a monopoly arrangement with the East India Company. Calcutta- the then British capital of the East, authorised all movements. In 1801, the first Australian ship laden with coal sailed to India. These ships imported Indian goods to Australia including candles, soap, sugar, rice, tea, shoes, rum, cotton textiles, clothing, tobacco, leather, canvas, rope, iron and other general household goods. On the other hand, Australia exported coal to India.

Inauguration of steam engine driven ship communication between India and Australia in 1852 further facilitated trade, commerce and people-to people links between the countries. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) regularly and reliably delivered mail, passenger and cargo services between Australia and India (P&O, 2010). In the later years, there were increases in trade as large proportions of goods were shipped directly to India instead of via England. Watt (1889) notes, “this direct shipment is of great value, as it means that the commercial relations of India with Australia are becoming more intimate”.

Australia-India trade and bilateral relationship started further reviving since 1940s. India opened its trade office in Australia in 1941 while appointing its first High Commissioner to Australia in 1945. On the other hand, in 1944, Australia appointed its first High Commissioner to India (DFAT, n.d). The bilateral relations between the two countries have grown manifold in the recent years with multiple diplomatic visits and the prospect of encouraging business opportunities. As at December 2015, Australia’s total investment with India stocks at 22.2 billion Australian Dollar.

Our unique experience of establishing Organic Darjeeling Tea trade relations between Australia and India
Early this year,Maya of Australia®(a brand of Aei4eiA) was launched to import and introduce Organic Darjeeling tea from India to Australia. What is so unique about this experience?

Let’s explain- Darjeeling tea, which has a world-wide acclaim of being the ‘Champagne of teas’is a rare, coveted and exotically flavoured tea, is grown only in Darjeeling, India and cannot be grown, manufactured or replicated anywhere else in the world. The unique agro-climatic condition of the region contributes to its distinctive flavour and aroma. According to the official sources, each year, around 10 million kg of tea are grown in 87 tea gardens spread over 17,500 hectares of land in Darjeeling, India but over 40 million Kg teas are sold worldwide as Darjeeling.

We are perhaps one of the few Australian brands to have collaborated directly with the plantations to source the Organic Darjeeling tea- straight from the gardens, cutting all the middle-layers. This helps in not only benefitting the consumers in terms of assuring quality of the product but also minimising the price of the product.

All our products are packed at source (i.e absolutely ‘Made in India’) and air-freightedto Australia. This is to preserve the freshness of the product while putting a check on quality- as no other ingredients are mixed or blended with the products and the products are just as pure as and when they were plucked from the gardens.

On the supply side, the regulators in India have put in place a number of quality control initiatives during harvesting, processing and pre-shipment inspections through enforcement of Plant Protection Formulations (PPF) at the garden level and Food Management Safety System/HACCP/ISO 22000 at the factory level. The ‘Darjeeling’ (Word & logo) are registered in Australia as the Certification Mark, which is a strong Intellectual Property in Australia. Moreover, ‘Darjeeling Tea’ is registered as Geographical Indication (GI) under the Indian Law.

So far, establishing the above bilateral tea trade relations has been quite stimulating with activities ranging from evaluating the product, making investment decisions, understanding the country legislations, trade incoterms, managing the multi-level conflicts of interests, competitor analysis, assessing consumer sentiments, product branding, making the product shelf-ready and many more. At various stages of our tea trade journey thus far, we came across manyinteresting experiences ranging from denial of presence to attempting to interrupt the supply chain process and many more. It was like living through the bookish examples while translating them into actions- which, by no means is an easy task.So is the dynamism of international trade.

Overall, our convictions were reinstated that any international trade relations can be made successful-
# When a level of trust is established between the parties involved;

# When a common language is spoken with an effective pro-business mentality;

# With proper process control and

# Where mutual benefit co-exist with the greater good rather than forever ‘work-in-progress’ projects feeding the middle-men who are mainly bothered to keep the ‘new initiative’ funding channels alive.

While our long journey lies ahead, we now have garnered first-hand, end-to-end experience of establishing trade relations- starting from market research to putting the product on shelf and importantly, we have put in our toil and capital in it. What better way to understand the changing landscapes of cross-border trade and people-to-people links….

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) (n.d), India Country brief, DFAT, Canberra.
Peninsular and Oriental Team Navigation Company (P&O) (2010), Shipping company: Brief History, P&O Steam Navigation Company.
Watt, G. (1889), A dictionary of the economic products of India: Cabbage to Cyperus, Volume 2, Cambridge University Press.

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