In an exclusive interview with Restaurant India, Surendra Lohia, Director, Chamong talks about his brand journey which is serving the country since the British rule.
Tell us something about yourself and your brand.
Originally from Shillong, I lived in Kolkata. Even our headquarter is situated in Kolkata itself. I hail from a business family, and am the fifth generation looking after this company. We expect to carry forward this legacy so that people can remember Chamong as a brand serving the people for decades.
Kindly reflect on your journey. How did it all start?
In the 1860s when my ancestors migrated to Assam they were into general trade business. Around 1915 my grandfather joined the business. He started off with a business where he used to provide cranes to the tea gardens. At that time, the tea gardens were under holding companies also called agency houses owned by the British. Every agency had around 30-40 gardens under their name varying from 400 to 1500 acres. So, my grandfather used to visit them and soon was fascinated with this segment of industry. Our 102 year old plantation was established in around1916 in Assam, and continued over there till 1986. An opportunity came our way in the same year allowing us to buy a tea plantation in Darjeeling.
How did you come up with the name Chamong?
In 1986 we purchased two tea gardens out of which one was Chamong. Chamong being our first acquisition in Darjeeling, we chose the name for our brand. Today, we are popularly known as Chamong group.
Enlighten us about your brand.
We have 13 tea gardens in Darjeeling, and 5 in Assam. We produce around 3.7 million kilos of tea every year. It was in 1995, the chairman of the company, my younger brother, took the decision to go organic. We visited the European, American and Japanese markets and saw that the people are coming out of the chemicals used in the food products. So, keeping the trend in mind, we decided to go 100% organic. Thus, we are completely into organic tea since 1995.
What are your recent challenges?
Nowadays, our major challenge is in acquiring the best quality of fertilizers and pesticides in the right amount.
What is the uniqueness of Chamong?
Our uniqueness is that we are 100% organic. We contribute in taking business forward along with serving people with healthy materials like tea. This group has its own production of tea, right up to the level of making tea bags.
Any expansion plans?
We cannot expand as far as the production is concerned. But yes, we have our own way of expanding the brand Chamong. We have gone for value addition by packaging and other things.
Can we see Chamong as an F&B brand in the upcoming years?
We are planning to do that but the planning is not that convincing right now. I think it will take time.