Brand Saga: Society Tea- Brewing successful concoctions since 1933

Society Tea advertising journey

The multi-colour teacups bursting on our TV screens till Society Tea’s blue teacup appears – a visual imprinted in our minds. The Society Tea advertising journey has been a legacy to resonate with. The brand was selling premium tea in a market where loose ‘chai-patti’ dominated. And here’s how they went about it…

“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy tea and that’s kind of the same thing,” while I failed to find the author, I can totally connect with his/her love for a ‘cup of chai’. Tea has somehow become synonymous with Indians though it’s origins come from China.

While scrolling through my Instagram feed this morning, I got to stumble upon Society Tea’s one of posts. And what better to kickstart the #ThrowbackThursday mode than a chai pioneer.

The Masaledar shuruat

In the pre-independence era, Mumbai’s iconic Masjid Bunder’s Chai Galli was where the foundation for Society Tea was laid where Hiravan Pranjivandas started as a tea wholesaler in 1924.

In 1933, with a view of selling to the Mumbai citizens as well, Pranjivandas started Hasmukhrai & Co, with its first shop in Kalbadevi. By the late ’80s, Hasmukhrai & Co had become the market leader in the tea industry in Mumbai. However, sensing that customer would prefer the convenience and would change traditional tea buying patterns, Hasmukhrai & Co launched tea in a packet form in ’91, which was available across retailers in Mumbai and later Maharashtra, in the name of Society Tea.

Naam ‘Society’

Like a society transcends all boundaries of age and gender inhabiting every species, the reason for the brand to be called Society Tea is cited to be a very simple insight that the product doesn’t only cater to the older age group but can be consumed by anyone. The brand wanted to target a wider age group and move away from the thought that tea is about middle-aged and old people to get the brand marketed further.

Making a mark with ‘Blue’

As mentioned in various reports online, the founding pillar of the tea brand,  Atul H Shah refused to go with the usual color usage of red and green in advertising and opted for blue for product packaging. Thus was born the very famous ‘kettle’ ad campaign delivering a stark messaging- “In a world full of labels, one name that sets a brand apart- Society Tea.”

It must be noted that the competitors, HUL’s Brooke Bond Red Label and Tata Tea’a packaging exhibited Red and Blue respectively at that time and still continue to.

It’s a Brand New Day

The next brand campaign for Society was headed to a healthy living where a couple is seen practicing yoga share ‘a chai moment’.

Tea as it should be with Tisca Chopra

Later Society Tea bought on board actress Tisca Chopra to market – The Tea as it should be.’

The next one featured a Parsi couple and the idea this time was to connect with different sects of people within a society and bring out the real essence that people share with Society Tea.

Local Brand v/s MNC share

An article highlights how even after spending huge dollars on advertising, MNCs like HUL and Tata were unable to get the target share in the heavily segmented and local market. It mentions, during 2010, even as Tata and HUL were losing over the past two years, regional players — such as Wagh Bakri in Gujarat; Girnar, Society and Sapat in Maharashtra; Mohani in Uttar Pradesh, gained or maintained their share.

Regional brands such as Girnar or Society sold more unit packs even when they commanded a premium of about 20 percent.

BW quoted Bakul Shah, MD of Society Tea saying that the key differentiating factor in the tea category is the ability to maintain consistency of flavor, taste, and color of each cup. Some brands say they have an edge as the people at the helm in these companies — like Garner’s Bhansali and Shah of Society — spend a better part of their days tasting tea to arrive at the perfect and consistent blend.  

At present, Society Tea boasts of being the market leader in the Tea category in Maharashtra with around 40% market share of packaged tea in the state.

Influencer Marketing was no new to Society

In 2012, when the millennial’s favorite Instagram was not under the spotlight yet, Society Tea banked on influencer marketing and went onto conducting a campaign for it’s ‘A Brand New Day’ brand proposition.

The brand’s first online campaign was designed by Smursh Media and the idea was to give people a way to explore and live a little more each day while still doing what they do daily.

Instead of just posting ideas or inspiring videos on a blog, the brand chose to bring four influencers and got them to do the activities over ten days. The activities undertaken by the participants were posted on Society Tea’s blog which is inactive currently and was shared over Twitter and Facebook.

Anubha Bhat- a brand new day-



Sharing his fondest memories with the brand,  Amyn Ghadiali, Director-Strategy, Gozoop reminisced, “My fondest memory of the brand* is the kettle ad. It was quite progressive considering the era of advertising then and the blue kettle purely basis the visual imagery plus blue packaging created an amazing distinction for the brand. The treatment of the ad and the messaging was so individualistic that it became cool to be associated with a tea brand. Atleast that’s what I remember of it as a kid. The ad is truly timeless and evergreen.”

Are you a woman for Society?

In what can be called the progressive and thought-provoking, in 2014, Society Tea launched a women-centric campaign, ‘Women for Society’,  showcasing the strong and independent women. Developed by Flagship advertising, the three videos linked creativity, unreason, and Society and narrated inspiring stories of Purva Naresh – a playwright, director, and teacher; Simrit Malhi – a passionate permaculture exponent, and Gayathri Govind –an  eminent dancer and engineer.

According to online sources, there was a fair amount of excitement flowing through the agency when the team was asked to come up with a new creative strategy for Society Tea. It mentions – the client requested them to take the brand to ‘the next level’ by doing something completely different. It was time to brew a whole lot of Unreason.

“The time had now come to gain greater engagement among younger women and the young housewife. This is because of the increasing number of nuclear families these days, where the young housewife is the main decision maker for household groceries and needs to be refreshed and reminded about Society tea.”

Insight: The young woman in India has fast progressed from being independent to influencing change. She is someone who is influencing society as a whole, with her creativity and with her passion. Not just women, but men too look up to her. Admire her.

They are the Women for Society.

Aside from the films, the concept was kept alive through press ads, hoardings, bus shelters, and a robust online initiative.

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Sabiha Khan, AVP – Account Planning and Strategy, WATConsult quipped, “My fondest memory of Society Tea has been the distinct blue packaging with the colorful teacups lined side by side and the jingle “whoawohoho society tea” accompanied with the image of a teapot. What I love about the brand is how it has stayed true to itself and retained the essence of being a premium tea brand. Even it’s recent campaign, The Tea Society Called India, there is affluence that comes out from presenting the richness of the tea culture in India, which the brand has tapped into beautifully. Moreover what’s interesting is the way they have evolved from showcasing the delight of enjoying a cup of tea to depicting the needs of the fast-paced life that we lead today (with the one-minute challenge series).

The One Minute Tea challenge

To create the digital buzz, Society tea in 2017 rolled out the #OneMinuteTeaChallenge, parallel to the launch of its product ‘Society One Minute Tea’. Since the brand claimed that ‘Society One Minute Tea’ requires only one minute to prepare, the campaign built excitement as it challenged Twitter users to solve a puzzle within a minute, while making their cup of ‘One Minute Tea’.

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The Tea society called India

Tea Society Called India celebrated the unifying and proudly home-grown tea drinking culture across the length and breadth of our country.

Chaiwala sessions

Society Tea has roped in Fruitbowl Digital as the digital agency. “A brand’s digital presence is a contributing factor to their marketing mix. What they fail to understand is that the restrictive nature of that approach doesn’t result in brand positioning and top of the mind recall. Society Tea’s digital journey was always rooted in creating a brand that doesn’t just inform the audience about tea but drives conversations and celebrates the culture that places tea at the core,” shared Dedeepya Reddy, Co-Founder, Fruitbowl Digital.

Their tagline, ‘Brand New Day’ was developed with the ideology that a cup of tea can always brew something new. It can create moments, experiences and opportunities for people to connect over their common likes and India’s tea drinking culture. Society Tea’s audience might be of all ages and groups, but their unique approach to each platform makes for a success story. On Instagram, their stories and posts are the testimony to how user-generated content can work beautifully for the right audience. Organic captures tea ‘chai enthusiasts’ are sent to Society Tea’s Instagram page daily, and they repost the one that encapsulates the beverage that collectively brings the society together.

On Twitter, their conversations are beyond the realm of ‘chai’, in that they are about the shared events that their audience can connect on. Imagine a Saturday night tweet from the page that reads ‘What’s the mood this evening, guys?’. Contrary to what one would expect, this tweet sets in motion a series of events that leads to a fan, undergoing open heart surgery talking about how the page has been a hub of positivity for him.

Reddy quipped, “Building a solid community of this nature is a herculean task, but indispensable nevertheless. But this challenge seems to be the first of many that Society Tea has managed to surpass. From acquiring new followers and creating content that keeps them engaged in making the word ‘chai’ synonymous with ‘conversation’, is what the brand has achieved over the last two years. However, the virtual world is always evolving and opening new avenues for brands to capitalize on. As long as they stay true to what their ethos is rooted in, brands will always find ways to innovate further digitally.”

Topical rules the roost

Drama and Masala Chai go hand in hand

Summing up the brand journey, Ghadiali observed that the journey of society has always been that of an unconventional and thought-provoking brand. The norms it tried to challenge were that of the very society it exists in; hence the name always had an interesting reverence. Though a little deviation from that piece was the masala chai ad. “However over the years, I believe that the positioning of Tata Tea and Red Label has really disrupted the space that Society could have naturally captured.”

While the shattering teapots still hold a special place in our mind, Society Tea’s journey has taken many twists and turns over the years…