More than a Cup of Tea | Danajaya Silva
Mr. Dananjaya Silva (Managing Director of PMD Tea) shares his perception of Ceylon Tea and the tea industry’s global context. He shares valuable insights on different strategies, marketing best practices, and success factors applicable in an international/domestic context as a part of this Expat Insight supplement.
The essence of Ceylon Tea
As we all know, tea has been one of the most popular drinks (second after water) and has been around for more than 5000 years. Notably, the demand for tea has sustained even through tough times of crisis. Dananjaya added, “There is something heartwarming and comforting about having a ‘cuppa’ with loved ones during times of crisis.”
Ceylon Tea has managed to remain at the top when it comes to quality and ranks 4th in tea production but ranks in 2nd place in tea exports in the world. The quality-conscious consumers choose Ceylon Tea for its premium quality, aroma, and taste.
Did you know that most Sri Lankans have not tasted premium quality tea because much of it is exported to the global market? The ones that do not get past the borders are pushed into domestic markets. Dananjaya adds, “Ceylon Tea was a success in the global market before becoming a success in the Sri Lankan market.”
This situation has slowly improved over the years, with the Sri Lankans growing quite conscious about tea, exploring different flavors and purchasing premium quality tea in tea shops. However, most tea brands show consistency in packaging but not in the quality of the product.
According to Dananjaya, “PMD Tea stresses on the consistency in packaging and quality of tea regardless of where it is purchased to promote a standardized and premium consumer experience, which is regarded as a critical success driver for PMD.”
Does Sri Lanka have the potential to be No.1?
As mentioned earlier, Sri Lanka ranks 4th in tea production but ranks in 2nd place in terms of tea exports globally. Dananjaya expresses his perception that Sri Lankans are focused on the wrong areas (quantity). India, China, and Kenya, which are the key competitors of Sri Lanka, have a larger population and landscape, enabling them to produce and consume more tea.
He adds, “Hence, it seems impractical for Sri Lanka to aspire to reach No. 1 in production unless it conquers land to grow tea. However, Sri Lanka can aspire to produce the best quality tea in the world by paying close attention to plucking cycles and labor retention.”
Dananjaya is concerned about the increased labor migration issues in Sri Lanka because all talent is being lost to foreign countries, leaving Ceylon Tea producers handicapped. This issue needs to be addressed and acted upon if Sri Lanka wishes to grow its tea export potential and produce the best tea in the world.
Another concern raised by Dananjaya is that brands that build themselves up through Ceylon Tea migrate to foreign countries due to restrictions in the Sri Lankan market. He says, “Almost 90% of the brand is created by us Sri Lankans, but we lose them for the remaining 10%. They move to different countries that do not produce even a kilogram of tea but facilitate international trade and opportunities. If the same was done in Sri Lanka, we could sustain most of the brands and exponentially grow the tea industry of Sri Lanka”.
Perception on technology and digital marketing
Dananjaya believes that, “We should be able to do more than our ancestors because the technology available today is greater than any other generation. A small-scale tea producer can reach potential clients from his/her backyard through technology. This wouldn’t have been possible a few decades ago, which provides an abundance of opportunity to achieve great things”.
One of the most excellent tools that are available to businesses today is digital marketing. Dananjaya shares an experience on PMD Tea amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, “The demand for tea was halted entirely due to travel restrictions and lockdown. Hence we shifted our efforts towards digital marketing and engaging with customers directly through the website, social media, and email marketing, which exponentially grew sales and enabled PMD Tea’s sustenance during the pandemic.”
He shares some of the strategy used by PMD Tea that entrepreneurs could follow on social media to boost engagement, interest, and conversion:
- Know your market and customer – before implementing any strategy, it is pivotal to understand who your customers are and what they are looking for. Knowing this can make all the difference.
- Share genuine information for free – now that you have a great understanding of the market, you use genuine information to help customers gain insights and solutions for their problems. This entices engagement and interest of consumers, who eventually convert to consumers with time.
Strategies to enter global/domestic markets and be successful!
The generous entrepreneur, Dananjaya, shares more insights on strategies that entrepreneurs need to successfully enter a global/domestic market.
- Know your why – a strong sense of purpose drives strategies and success. If you do not know why or your purpose, you will not sustain through challenges and obstacles.
- Adapting and change management – it is crucial to always adapt and change your ways to suit the dynamics of the market and consumer needs (which are ever-changing day-by-day). This combines with the strong sense of purpose drives innovation, which is key to sustainability and penetration into a market. PMD Tea wouldn’t have adapted to digital marketing strategies if it weren’t for their adaptive nature and a strong sense of why.
- Market research – critical analyze and collect data on the market/industry you want to enter. Try to understand them from A to Z and identify their pain points to provide effective solutions.
- Making a market visit – if you aspire to enter a global market, pay it a visit. Although it is not feasible due to the pandemic, once the opportunity arises, go for it. Dananjaya adds, “When we launched in the UK, the initial plan had to be changed entirely because the loose tea packs were more successful than tea bags.” Therefore, he stresses that even though research can show many things, physically observing the market can provide crucial insights for success and sustainability.
- Culture is key – study the global/local culture because it makes all the difference. This decides what their core values are, influences behavior, and especially purchasing decisions. Hence, this is most important. Dananjaya warns you to look out for regional differences too.
- On the ground partner, it is vital to have a trustworthy, competent, and knowledgeable on-the-ground partner with whom you like to work to oversee operations and manage the location effectively.