Three Priceless Lessons from my Beloved Father.
It’s Father’s Day today! Of course, I agree with you that a single day to appreciate your parents in not enough and we can do that more often!
Like millions around the world, I too wish to take this day’s opportunity to express my deep gratitude and affection for you dad.
I often wonder as to how my life would have turned out to be, had I not been your son! I wonder if I could have ever found my calling in starting a proud Indian tea company, had you not passed on your prized knowledge of everything you knew about Tea. I am affirmative of the fact that I have never known a better role model than you, and this I shall stand by for life.
So today, I decided to pen down the three golden lessons I learnt from you that helped me become the man I am today. A man with the mission of reviving the stand of Indian teas on the global platform and with the responsibility of empowering millions of farmers along the way. I know, I have just started out with my share of learning. But I hope I can fall in your shoes one day! Here’s to you Dad.
My Father, Madhav.
The one striking thing about my dad has always been his sense of commitment to a mission, while always being cognizant of the need for a healthy balance in Life. From the time that I could fathom emotions and could trap a memory, I would always look at my dad in sheer awe. Witnessing my father handle a business, spend quality time with his wife and children, keeping fit and agile, and always finding more ways to give back to the society - He did it all! I was convinced that dad was invincible and honestly, not much has changed.
The Importance of Undeterred Dedication.
Our family has had a rich history of more than 80 years in the Indian tea industry and my earliest memories are from the town of Darjeeling, known around the world today for producing some connoisseur-worthy teas ! With sprawling green Tea gardens running down the slope and misty clouds, it was a paradise for a kid like me of 8 years. All I would do is chase my sibling up the misty slopes in his gorgeous Himalayan abode.
But I would often stop to take a look at my father. A young man, in his late twenties, my father was learning the art of growing and harvesting teas from his father. He would be up and about in the gardens at the first stroke of the sun. With the tea farmers coming in to pluck the dew-kissed tea leaves, he would follow them and observe their work in sheer silence. With a small notebook and a pen, he would scribble something in it from time to time. I would always find the workers to be happier and upbeat in his presence. They would teach my father the difference between each leaf type and what finally goes into the basket. Pacing up and down in the garden, he would then proceed to oversee if the freshly plucked tea leaves were of the standard that was prescribed as ‘acceptable’ by his father- another legend in the Indian tea industry.
Long hours in the sun with the farmers, overseeing the production and processing with an added spring in his step, and then tasting a cup from each processed batch - I remember Dad waking up to his day’s share of work with an undeterred sense of dedication and to doze off with a sense of deep satisfaction at the end of a tiring but fruitful day! The times that he would hold my hand and stroll through the estate, he would keep telling me of how great the tea plant is and how it empowers so many families in this country. A plant that will be revered for an eternity! I attribute my passion towards bringing you all the best of Indian teas to priceless moments like these.
The Need to Acknowledge a Social Responsibility.
One of the lessons that Dad would always stress upon is the need to acknowledge one’s privilege and the responsibility that comes with it. In his opinion, a business can only truly prosper when its vision lies in ‘Do Good by Doing Good’. Giving back to the society which benefits your livelihood is not be named as ‘Charity’, but rather it is a sacred responsibility that we bear. Especially speaking of tea, he would often stress upon the fact that in a country of a billion people, the Indian tea industry is the second largest entity to employ organized labor. Millions of farmers have spent a lifetime tending to these teas and toiling hard to bring tea lovers across the globe, a perfect cup of Indian tea. Their families have often taken a back seat in this arduous profession.
I also learnt from him that despite this colossal industry being responsible for 35-40% of the world’s tea production, farmers have always received the short-end of the deal. Poor wages which are barely enough to make ends meet, surmounting debts, unhygienic and hostile work environments, no job security - these have been a part of every farmer’s reality since decades. This is owing to the industry’s dependence on bulk exports to foreign brands which do not hesitate to move to inferior quality teas from other regions whenever farmers demand better prices. Owing to the lack of loyalty to these tea gardens, the farmers fail to empower their children. These children, as a result of lack of opportunities, have no choice but to join in the same tea gardens as their parents, when they come of age. Dad would always passionately advocate for the rights of farmers and the collective responsibility that lies on the shoulders of tea companies to help mend this terrible reality.
This priceless lesson resonated with me since a very young age and is one of the major reasons of why I launched Vahdam Teas. - A home grown brand with a social cognizance. On our 3rd founder’s day, we had launched our first social initiative ‘Teach Me’ under which 1 % of the company’s revenue towards the education of our tea workers’ children. We already have covered all the children at two of our partnering estates in India and Vahdam Teas is working towards bringing this humble help to many more tea gardens in the country.
I continue to consult my father from time to time on ways in which we can be of more help to the millions of farmers and he always has the response - “If you have an honest will to help and make a difference, these answers will come to you on their own.”
Always Underpromise and Overdeliver.
The third valuable lesson I picked up from my father whilst learning more about the Tea business is to base the brand’s work ethic on “Underpromising & Overdelivering”. Many a times, when I would accompany him on his business meetings, I would find that my father would never callously throw a large production number to appease the crowd in the room. In doing so he taught me the value of ‘Quality’ and how it should be paramount to any business. I learnt that setting unrealistic deadlines and promising colossal production targets never sit well for any company. Dad would stress on how important it is to let one’s actions speak louder than their words.
Hence in my company Vahdam, I have cultivated a similar work ethic of promising only what we can honestly deliver. No over-the-head promises are ever made to our customers. Since we promise within our reach, we focus our energies into improving what we deliver. Over-delivering wins us the trust of our customers and in turn the company’s credibility increases which is a priceless gift in today’s world.
These three lessons have governed how I have built this brand and the manner in which I have nurtured bonds with my customers and my team! Little did I know that what my dad was lovingly teaching me since I was a young boy, would turn out to be the biggest assets of my life!
Fathers are truly exceptional. From being the strongest anchor in a child’s life, to being their best friend and confidante, to being a valuable and disciplined teacher to being a god-send gift - Fathers enrich our lives! They deserve to know the extent of our gratitude, the respect we hold for them, and the love we harbor for them for a lifetime.
Dad, I hope so I managed to tell you the same through this letter.
Wish you a very happy Father’s Day.