Tea on the go

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Instea (Politician)
Instea (Politician)

(Published in Aurora, September-October 2009 issue)

By Jahanzaib Haque

In Pakistan, tea is a ritual dearly loved by all and near-worshipped by the workforce. At any given moment, hundreds of teacups are being cooked or brewed nationwide, while dozens of used teabags are tossed in the trash. It is no wonder that we rank among the top tea drinking countries in the world, with annual per capita consumption standing at an astounding one kilo per individual.

From this, one cannot exclude the consumption of iced tea, green tea, flavoured tea, herbal tea and all forms of exotic tea imports. Is there room for further segmentation in such a market? The Instea team at Tapal think so.

After five years in the pipeline, Instea entered the local market with the objective of taking “ownership” of the largely vacant instant tea category.

According to Sami Wahid, Brand Manager, Tapal, “Instant tea is a luxury product for a niche market.”

“It’s for ‘on the go’ people who can afford to pay a little extra for the time and effort saved. It also fits well for picnics, or for situations such as waking up late for work, the arrival of unexpected guests, or for people like me who can’t make a cup of tea even with teabag and milk in hand!”

Keeping this market in mind, the Instea team’s initial efforts focused on developing a ‘3-in-1’ tea, milk and sugar blend that would cater to a vast range of local tastebuds.

As Shermeen Nadir, Marketing Executive, Tapal, puts it:

“Pakistanis are hardcore tea drinkers who have strong traditions linked to tea. We cannot replace those or exactly replicate the taste of their home or office chai in a single mix. What we are trying to offer is as perfect a blend as we can, with convenience factored in.”

Apart from taste, another challenge was to generate awareness among a population that is largely clueless about the category. While most people are used to buying items such as instant noodles and instant coffee, Tapal’s research showed that 97% of consumers were not aware of instant tea as a product despite the presence of a local brand, Benlays’ Doodhpatti, in the market.

“Doodhpatti has been the only player in the instant tea category for the past two years,” says Wahid, adding that “Benlays has built its brand based on the idea of offering a particular kind of tea, and not highlighting the brand as an instant tea.”

Wahid believes that with the support of Tapal’s strong distribution network, the ongoing ad campaign will allow Instea to outstrip Doodhpatti’s sales by the end of the year.

Such ambitions call for out of the box communication and, in the traditional, family-oriented, slice of life world of tea advertising, injecting humour into the campaign has been a radical shift.

Whether in print, on billboards or on the radio, the Instea communication explains the brand’s 3-in-1 concept using humour and relevance to the medium.

“We thought it would be more engaging to develop media-specific messages for a change,” explains Zehra Zaidi, Creative Director, Adcom.

“The radio ads talk about the three qualities that go into making a good radio show; the newspaper ad talks about three values of good journalism. Every medium is different so we adapted the message accordingly. We have got a young team here at Adcom and our wacky sense of humour carries over with ease!”

While launching a tea product on the humour platform has been a first in Pakistan, Zaidi believes the risk has paid off by breaking through the clutter and providing much needed laughs.

“Times are tough, we all need to get away from what is happening around us, so anything presented as entertainment is well taken by Pakistanis,” explains Zaidi.

On a side note, despite delivering such an engaging campaign, the product name ‘Instea’ is as generic as it gets. Coined from the rather uninspiring, ‘instant’ and ‘tea’, the team at Tapal justify the choice as being logical in terms of describing the product.

On the retail front, Instea is entering all major cities and towns, and is priced at Rs 10 per sachet (available in a box of 10 sachets, or individually). In comparison, Doodhpatti is available in two variants costing seven and 12 rupees respectively.

As the average cup of cooked/brewed tea costs between six and seven rupees, and a cup made from a teabag about eight rupees, the cost of convenience averages out to be quite high, which could result in weak sales until awareness of the product grows. However, the team at Tapal remain confident of success.

According to Wahid, “The launch of Instea is less about sales volume and more about projecting Tapal as the largest national tea company, catering to every customer need.”

The extent to which Tapal is ready to commit to such an objective is exemplified by Instea’s launch in the summer, a time when tea consumption can drop by as much as 35% nationwide.

With a supportive management ready to overlook the issue of instant sales, the Instea team is planning to deploy a follow up campaign later this year, and they hope to see sales start to build up in the next one to two years.

“We aren’t going to cannibalise our other tea categories,” says Nadir.

“However, there is a one to two percent of the market that we can capture with this product. Similar to our efforts in the green tea and iced tea categories, we have been the first to recognise the potential of instant tea, and if we manage to capture even one percent of Pakistan’s massive tea market, that would be phenomenal!”

The next six months could also feature other surprise developments, with Wahid hinting that options such as multiple flavours or sugar-free Instea could be the brand’s next step forward.

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