Tea Smaks’ way
AT SOME POINT in their lives, most people around the world will drink tea.
And Kiran Akal, creative director of Smaks, a Trinidadian tea company, is constantly searching for new ways to innovate and reinvent the aromatic beverage.
Smaks emerged the first winner in the recently launched Caribbean Export Break Point programme, a regional business competition to get CARIFORUM companies and enterprises into the European market under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) framework.
This new competition will, among other things, provide opportunities for the winning companies to build business-to-business relationships and explore investment and distribution partnership in EU territories.
Break Point was launched during the seventh UK-Caribbean Forum in Grenada last February. The second company to be chosen was David Weekes & Associates from Barbados.
Akal recently spoke of his experience and shared some advice with other small business operators.
Noting that significant amounts of money had been given to the Caribbean in the form of grants for the development of small and medium-sized enterprises over the years, he said: “Aids and grants are not a given from any organizations or associations. They are an extension of good will.
“And it needs to be met with results and with the demonstration of initiative by the people who are recipients of that aid.
“So I think it is very important for those of us who do receive it to show that initiative and make the best of the opportunities that we are given”.
Smaks, a high-end specialty tea company, was formed over a year ago out of a business his parents started over 30 years ago selling “luxury goods mainly from Europe”.
The passionate tea seller said he believes tea was “a sustainable” industry and “an extremely attractive proposition” given the current global economic climate.
“There is a whole new trend in tea; people are not just drinking traditional teas, they are now drinking blended teas,” he said, adding that he was about to “reinvent tea completely for the world market”.
“There is, of course, a huge demand for [tea]. Statistics show that it is one of the fastest growing divisions of the food and beverage industry and the opportunity is vast for anybody who shows a little bit of innovation with it.”
He said expanding his reach into other parts of the world would not be difficult since most people were already familiar with tea. Therefore he would not need a massive “education curve” – something that could be costly and may not succeed in the end.
“People are already familiar with tea, familiar with drinking tea, but we are going to do it differently.
“I think the important thing is timing . . . . We are taking tea to a new world and looking at how we can reinvent the experience for people.
“We want to create the next finest generation [of] tea experience in the world. The whole idea is that we are combining things from the old world and the new world in this new tea experience,” he said, making mention of some popular herbs, spices and plants widely used in the region.
One of the key things to having a successful product in any market, said Akal, was “to demonstrate brand appeal, make sure there is demand for the product, speed? and ability to enter a market, and good management”.
The entrepreneur said since Break Point there have been some major developments with his company. Opting not to give details, Akal said “come October, we will be making some very big announcements in terms of value innovation with tea”.
Lauding the Caribbean Export Development Agency for its initiative, he said Break Point had allowed him to approach “larger legacy companies” in the Caribbean and garner well-needed support.
Akal along with other successful companies will be going to London to showcase their products, network, and explore business options.