The rebel with a big heart

A start-up that knuckled down on becoming profitable quickly. A founder that refuses to take venture capital even when the funders come calling.  A founder who does not hesitate to call time on customers that give volumes but very low margins. A company that chose Goa as its base even when the founder did not know any one in the city. Who is this rebel – an anachronism in today’s time?

Let us take you to meet Snigdha Manchanda – the founder of Tea Trunk. So what does make for a good rebel recipe– you start with a large stockpile of self-conviction,  add to that an eye that is firmly set on the long term, take a childhood passion and brew it for a good twenty years, stir in refinements to this passion by working under an established master, and finally a dash of sunny optimism and a smiling visage- and there you have it. The ever cheerful Snigdha. A rebel – just for adhering to views that are now judged old fashioned.

The seeds of Tea Trunk were sown early. In a trunk as it were. That is where she stored teas that her father brought home from his travels.  The collection grew – became a 100 strong. A chamomile from Egypt rubbed shoulders with a rooibos from South Africa and they both were tucked under the Darjeeling in a corner of the trunk. A hobby that was to morph into a profession had taken root.

Her formal initiation into tea started in Sri Lanka.  The intention was a 10 day class with the Japanese Master, Nao Kumekawa. Those ten days stretched to six months. She understood the underpinnings of a quality finished product, ended up tasting a good 2000 teas.  What the stint also did was to make her realize that single origin teas was not her calling. Blending and making a mark with her own creation, now, that she had an inclination for. A stint at the Specialty Tea Institute in New York and she was ready.

With her immediate family being Mumbai based, setting up Tea Trunk in Mumbai would have been only smart.  With their large orders, catering to hotels and restaurants would have helped Tea Trunk establish itself. Snigdha did neither. Goa has become its home base and its primary target market is retail customers. Both are inspired choices – Goa is an excellent logistics hub given the food (and other product) exports from its port; retail customers might take a while coming but they offer much the company much better margins.

The large hearted Snighdha is ever available for advise – be it helping a national premium food chain curate their tea collection or be a sounding board for entrepreneurs setting up tea ventures – ratifying their ideas and approach, connecting them to global tea sellers and even advising them on branding.

With a strategic tie up with one of India’s largest tea plantation owners in place, we will be hearing a lot more about Tea Trunk and Snigdha. Maybe a blend that takes you back into the magical world of nature – just the way, the books by her favorite author,  Ruskin Bond do. And perhabs, her favorite – green tea infused marigold and lemongrass does just that. Why don’t you take a sip and let us know?

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