Last year, when we moved into our new office, one of the first things that came up on the wall was a large map of the world. Little pins starting going up on it to mark the countries we were shipping to. And we set ourselves the 100-country milestone.
The United States, India, the UK, Russia, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong… the usual suspects were all there. Neighbors Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka were quickly added. The old Soviet countries, known for their love of smoky black teas, were also added. The Middle East too became part of the Teabox network of countries, no surprise given that Dubai is a major center for tea.
It became a ritual of sorts – every time we added a new country, we stopped to celebrate by marking it on the map. And sometimes, it was truly deserving of a celebration. Like the time we got an email from Peter, a regular customer from the UK. He was writing to say he’d now moved to Iraq and wanted to order his usual Assam and Darjeeling blacks. Could we ship to Kalar in the Kurdistan province, he asked. There was so much political unrest in Iraq and it looked like a fairly complicated undertaking. First, we said we’d leave nothing to chance and got the requisite government clearances and paperwork before shipping the order. Peter had probably not expected his tea to arrive – or arrive quickly and without hassle – and when it did, he was thrilled. And so were we.
Some brought a lesson in Geography. Like Kiribati. The pin went up on a dot in the middle of the Pacific. How would we ship to Kiribati, we wondered. Fedex initially refused to take one small package all the way from India to Kiribati but we managed to convince them otherwise.
The challenge is not merely in shipping to a far-flung country but in getting it done in the shortest possible time. Quite like Santa and his logistical nightmare of taking a toy to kids all over the world in one night, if you ask me. The Teabox brand promises the world’s freshest tea. We get our teas from gardens within 72 hours of production, often sooner. So the logistics of maintaining this freshness is critical for us. Shipping to Russia by Airmail takes 25-30 days. Today, our teas reach Moscow and St Petersburg in six.
At the heart of this logistical efficiency is a nimble and proactive team that is regularly working with shipping partners and customs departments to remove roadblocks at every step. So, when Spain and Italy began returning tea and coffee because they were conduits for drugs, we worked on getting our clearances in order. When orders come from small island countries like Malta, Moldova, or Micronesia we attach a self-use declaration form so that our customers are spared of extra duty fees. And so, we’ve learnt to make this experience pain free for the customer, no matter where in the world they live.
The pins on the map have been fast adding up. Europe is looking very crowded with a pin on nearly every country there, both the western and eastern sides. Asia too has a mass of pins. South America was a pleasant addition and we’ve shipped to Columbia (where you have to hire a broker to collect your parcel from Customs), Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru there. Africa too has a few pins as do a handful of islands in the Indian Ocean.
Recently, we hit our first milestone – 100 countries. As it turns out, we’d been too busy to count but at the end of last year, when we decided to stop and check, there were 109 pins on the map!
I am reminded of our first order for tea. Mr. Williams of the United States wanted to buy some Darjeeling autumn flush teas. The invoice was for 56USD. Teabox, at that time, was a 2-man team running a new business in the bylanes of Siliguri. What an incredibly exciting journey from there to 109 countries.
So, as we start a new year, with new goals, new milestones, I’d like to reaffirm my commitment to bringing the freshest teas to customers no matter where in the world you live. And in the shortest time possible.
Happy Sipping in 2017!