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 Pioneering Initiatives

 The Breakthrough

 Assam Company

 Tea Travels

 Early Entrepreneurs

 Memorable Heritage

 Making Waves

 Laying the Foundation

 A Time for Cheer

 Mergers & Acquisitions

 Core Values & Culture

 Loyalty & Commitment

 A Tradition of  Excellence

 Research &  Development

 Innovation &  Modernization

 Excellence the  Watchword

 Consistent Quality

Excerpts from "The Heritage of Indian Tea" - D.K. Taknet

Innovation and Modernization:

Innovation, expansion and modernization are of course integral to corporate success. This has meant ongoing research into production systems and processing methods to enhance the quality of the products for consumers. The managers of the tea estates strictly adhere to their manual, literally treating it as their Bible. It contains detailed instructions on matters relating to the field, factory, stories accounts and other related topics to running the garden and factory employing the best and most efficient means. The standing instructions also cover policy statements for managers. The manual has been compiled on the basis of the collective wisdom of planters accumulated over more than a century. The group has switched from seeds to clonal planting and has developed twelve new clones. It has developed proper tracks, drainage and nurseries and adopted a policy of uprooting tea bushes over 50 years old: this puts the estates of the group far ahead of the competition. Overseas buyers are provided with the facility of independently auditing the Williamson Magor tea estates.

Managers have deployed modern agricultural practices, using the latest scientific methodology and technology with a long-term perspective. Williamson Magor can claim well-deserved credit for introducing many path-breaking practices and constantly improving processes in the tea industry. It has contributed many new techniques in planting, cultivating and manufacturing, which have now been adopted by the entire industry: one such example is the drier and the dehumidification plant. The group has created and gifted to the tea industry the withering system and fermenting units. Williamson Magor's J.M. Trinick introduced the 'Trinick Sorter' and Probir Das invented the 'Probir Weigher', which are now used by most of the industry's tea estates.

The group has replaced cane baskets with nylon bags for carrying leaf, developed enclosed withering troughs, Jumbo CTCs, the Vibro Fluid Bed Drier and was among the first to use computers to record the weight of leaf and in the field, electronic bird repellers; it devised the Sinar moisture meter (a system for continuous sorting), the miracle mill-dust collecting system and the Thermas OBT-75 burner. It has also developed a system for vacuum packing of bulk tea to enable it to retain its freshness over a longer period. All these developments in Williamson Magor have undoubtedly benefited the tea industry as a whole in the form of demonstration effect.

Excellence the Watchword:

The workforce takes immense pride in producing the finest teas and consistent quality has been the group's watchword for over a century. In its broadest sense, the term 'quality', in tea, is used as a description of all the characteristics on the basis of which a tea acquires its market value, namely, appearance and cup character: in other words, liquoring qualities such as colour, brightness, strength, briskness and aroma. The percentage of good teas produced by the group is go high that they are considered a benchmark for judging quality teas. To sustain such quality standards year after year, great commitment and skill are necessary.

After all, as John Ruskin said, 'Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort. There must be the will to produce a superior thing.' The Bukhial, Hunwal, Partabghur, Dekorai, Pabhoi, Tezpore, Gogra, Margharita and Namdang tea estates of the group have been assessed as providing teas which fall into the premier market segment and have been designated their preferred tea suppliers by Premier Beverages Ltd, UK.

At the heart of quality tea is the natural leaf. The tea needs to be carefully nurtured and tended, from the initial planting of the seed to the final packaging of the tea leaves. Today, the group's tea estates are far in advance of their competitors in terms of every aspect of making quality teas. This has meant that it continues to produce some of the world's finest teas.

J.M. Trinick, an internationally renowned tea taster, concludes, 'Williamson Magor is producing the best quality tea in the world and exports more teas from India than anyone else and is therefore better known internationally. I don't think there is any buyer in the world who is not aware of Williamson Magor and its reputation.' Errol O'Brien, former senior tea buyer of Tea Trading Corporation of India, tells how he bought quality tea for a special occasion. 'In June 1981, the Indian Tea Board in London had requested the Tea Trading Corporation of India to provide a black, well-curled Assam tea filled with tips and with a good strong liquor to supply tea for a special caddy to commemorate the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. The caddies were to be prepared and marketed by Martin Gill of London Herb & Spice Co. In order to procure a suitable Assam tea for the royal blend, I contacted Michael Rome of Williamson Magor and he provided me with an excellent invoice of tippy teas from one of the company's prime properties. These were the teas that went into the souvenir caddies. Within a week of the marriage, the caddies were a sell-out.'

Consistent Quality:

The group has created a culture in which innovative professionalism earns both respect and reward. The fact is that it has over the years not only been able to maintain high standards of quality but has also pioneered new innovations and techniques on a regular basis. This reveals the importance of organizational culture as a prerequisite for innovative practice. The knowledge and expertise gained over the years in tea has been utilized to design, develop and install integrated quantity and quality improvement programmes.

According to Tushar Kanti Dhar, a former senior manager of Bukhial Tea Estate, 'For quality control we have to take a lost of care from plantation to plucking, manufacturing to packaging, paying full attention to even the minutest details. We call it "A to Z care" for quality.' The human factor is paramount in establishing and maintaining quality standards. At all times, employees need to ensure that production is geared to suit the type of green leaf being harvested and to meet the various market requirements, including price.

On the tea estates it takes years to train the managerial, field and factory staff who will in turn gradually motivate the workers. A very strict disciplinary regime has to be followed by managers and workers at all times to ensure that the right leaves are plucked and the most efficient machines are utilized in the factories. The advisers of the group supervise the entire process, keeping a watchful eye on the minutest details. Quality performance also needs to be regularly monitored through quality evaluation reports by experts. As a natural corollary, the vast tea gardens have been maintained in prime condition by the planters over decades.

The tea estate managers of the group are always keen to interact with overseas buyers. 'They are ever willing and eager to show off the new things that are happening on the estate; very proud to show us around and Premier functionaries are delighted to go out there and see these things in action. In that way our relationship in completely different from that a normal buyer has with the growers, because the average person's attitude is to go to an estate for two to three hours and then move on to the next. A Premier executive, on the other hand, stays around chatting, looking inspecting everything and that can only come about from years of trust that we have built up with Williamson Magor,' says Philip Mumby, former chief buyer of Premier Beverages Ltd, UK, a leading British tea-packaging company.

These efforts have obviously borne fruit, as the chairman of J. Thomas & Co. Pvt. Ltd, the country's oldest and the world's largest tea broker, wrote to the group, 'During the non-quality period, your tea has been of a very high standard. Teas were brisk, full with brightness and generally well above the standard produced by other major groups.' Many domestic and overseas tea blenders use Williamson Magor teas as an essential component for their blend throughout the year. Similarly, the managing director, Carritt Moran & Co. Pvt. Ltd, wrote in April 1991. 'The excellent quality of teas made by your group has received overwhelming support both from the internal and export sections of the trade.'

Perhaps the most significant testimony to the consistent quality of the teas supplied overseas is that many buyers have been buying tea from Williamson Magor for over a hundred years. Said a buyer from Rotterdam, 'What is amazing is not just quality, but the consistent quality that Williamson Magor is able to deliverů. it is like a Rolls Royce amongst teas'. The tea factories of the group are known for hygiene and automation. There is no tea lying around on the floor of the factories, otherwise a common sight in the industry. Controlled by machines, the manufacturing process takes place under the best hygienic conditions, with every precaution taken to ensure safety. According to A. Monem, 'We invite our customers to visit our gardens and factories to get a first-hand experience of the high standards of cleanliness and hygienic conditions that are maintained by us and these have resulted in the group's highest exports sale of over 20 m. kg during 2000'.

Williamson Magor tea has introduced a radically new method of packaging that preserves the full freshness of the tea all the way from the estate until it is finally packed for the consumer. In 1987 Williamson Magor conducted experimental trials in Assam using vacuum packing as a method of eliminating even the slightest loss of liquoring characteristics during transit and storage. The success of these trials led to two vacuum packing machines being installed in Assam and in Kenya. Today, of course vacuum packaging is common practice.

Courtesy: The Heritage of Indian Tea - D.K. TAKNET

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