observing the colorful, noisy, culturally-diverse citizens of Hyderabad going about their lives while on the way to the Tea & Coffee World Cup/ASIA 2008 exhibition and symposium (TCWC) at Hitex Center last November 20-22, a first-time visitor to India may have wondered at the amazing diversity of life in this incredible country. Hyderabad may not be India’s most architecturally impressive city – indeed, many of its low-rise, flat roofed, square concrete buildings look as though they were imported directly from a soviet-era industrial town and dumped haphazardly along the teeming, winding roads of the city. But evidence of the city’s growing prosperity and its prominent role in India’s burgeoning IT sector are clearly visible in the high-rise office blocks festooned with high-tech sounding names, and the growing number of condominiums and billboards advertising new residential developments for the city’s growing executive class as the taxi wends it dusty, bumpy, fitful way to Hitex.
Upon arrival at the venue, some visitors and exhibitors, particularly on the set-up and first days, may have been less than happy at the registration procedures. The company that was contracted to carry out these duties clearly struggled to keep up with the demands placed on it. Some local attendees, perhaps more accustomed to such logjams, were able to shrug their shoulders at the ensuing mayhem, but others, including the show organizers, were clearly underwhelmed by efforts, or lack thereof, being put into the task by the contractors. By the second day the harried but persistent efforts of event organizer Lockwood Publications’ New York-based Emily Mak and Alicia Riley resolved most of the problems and got the process up to speed.
Many wondered at the choice of Hyderabad as the venue for India’s first international tea and coffee exhibition, and, frankly, it became the most commonly asked question fielded by representatives of Lockwood Publications, publishers of Tea & Coffee Trade Journal (TCTJ) and Tea & Coffee Asia (TCA), the show’s two supporting magazines.
Even among the many Indian participants and visitors, “why Hyderabad?” was the most frequently asked question. Bangalore, a leading tea-center, seemed an obvious choice for many in the tea industry. Kolkata better suited those in the coffee industry. Mumbai qualified as a logical neutral venue for others. To repeat what became a mantra for many of us for hopefully the last time, Hyderabad won out because of the Hitex facility’s excellence and the cooperative spirit of its management compared to pretty much any other venue on the sub-continent; the city’s comparatively better infrastructure, including the brand new airport; the availability of more reasonably priced hotels (believe it or not!) and Hyderabad’s ancient and modern role as a major hub for communication and trade, southern India’s colorful, cultural melting pot.
In the final analysis, it is doubtful that any other venue in India could have hosted a better TCWC. While there were, of course, problems relating to the economic dramas unfolding across the globe last November that forced some exhibitors and overseas visitors to cancel their plans to attend, the event was, in the words of one exhibitor, “surprisingly well-attended with lots of interesting visitors.”
So, while there was a higher proportion of domestic visitors and exhibitors than would normally be the case at a TCWC, there were few companies complaining of the quality or number of the visitors, and few visitors bemoaning a shortage of exhibitors relevant to their needs.
Unique and intense
India is a very personal country in that every visitor’s experience is bound to be unique and intense. No matter how long or short a time you may stay, or how many times you may visit, India will always impress itself upon your senses and your consciousness. It will inevitably bring awakenings and awareness, often jarring with one’s preconceived notions and understandings, but invariably apt and revealing.
It is an “in your face” sort of place, a land that seems to breed character and confidence in many of its children. Together with its entrepreneurial spirit and the shrewd business acumen that increasingly fashions its economic growth, India produces some of the best teas and coffees on the planet. And Indians are fanatical about their tea and coffee. This became self-evident after wandering around the exhibition hall for a few moments.
“We have the largest organic tea farm in the world,” we were told by Rishi Saria of Darjeeling’s Rohini Tea Estate as he thrust a package containing some of the finest teas this writer has enjoyed in a long while into his hands.
“We have created our own niche with Mr. Bean coffee shops, fusing take-home roast and ground with in-house beverage sales, increasing income for franchisees and providing a highly personalized service for our customers,” enthused B. Vinaya Chinnappa, export manager for Tata Coffee.
These were just two of the many innovative and entrepreneurial products and services being presented at TCWC in Hyderabad.
Trade shows seldom, if ever, deliver perfect results for all exhibitors, although TCWC usually outperforms many other shows in this regard. It is true that some exhibitors mentioned that they felt the Hyderabad event was less rewarding than they had hoped, although there was consensus that 2008 had by then developed into a highly unusual year in all regards and factors beyond the control of the organizers were clearly at work.
More than happy
Nonetheless, by far the majority of exhibitors were more than happy with the results, including Ahlstrom, whose food product line general manager told us that “for me, this has been one of the best, if not the best, trade shows I can remember exhibiting at. The interest and response has been terrific, we have been overwhelmed at times by the number of visitors we have received.” Ahlstrom used this year’s TCWC to launch their new, environmentally-friendly fine spun web solutions, and were reportedly very happy with the response.
Glatfelter, whose experiences at TCWC Miami at the start of the year had been less than ideal, were also enthusing at the interest shown by the many visitors to their booth.
International companies, such as Scolari Engineering and Sta Impianti manufacturers of roasters of various sizes including the design and installation of complete roasting plants, and tea bag machinery manufacturers Teamac were among a number of Italian companies exhibiting. BUNN’s booth was a hive of activity rhoghout the thrtee-day event, clealry one of the most popular exhibits at the show. Several other major inernational equipment and machinery manufacturers were represented by local agents and distributors. All in all, there were over 70 booths of different sizes featuring products and services covering all aspects of the tea and coffee industries.
There was certainly no shortage of teas, presented in all possible forms, at the show – which, given India’s prominence in the global tea markets and its vast domestic market for tea products, is probably not too surprising.
Many tea plantations and packers opted to exhibit under the auspices of the Tea Board of India at the centrally located collection of booths bearing the Tea Board’s imprimatur. Many others elected to display their wares independently.
Among them, Premier’s Tea once again came up with an eye-catching booth – the company rightly prides itself on its booth design – and from its vantage point at the very front of the hall dispensed its famously tasty and delicious teas to friends new and old.
Sapat International, a long-established Indian company (since 1897) with many varieties of chai and other teas for retailed in over 200,000 outlets throughout India, used the opportunity to present its delightful range of palate-pleasing teas to new customers from around the region at its spacious and friendly stand.
A number of international brands and products were also represented, among them Vinatea Corp, whose booth attracted great interest (or was it the quality of the teas they were serving there?) and Florapharm of Germany, whose exhibit was, as usual, a riot of color with its many fruit and tisane-flavored teas on display. The exotic and enticing aromas emanating from the exhibit clearly wooed many visitors, and the company’s Norbert Kroll told us that the show had been extremely interesting and rewarding.
South African company Rooibos Ltd. Was another booth that attracted a great deal of interest, many Asian visitors were highly impressed with the clean, fruity rooibos and honeybos teas being served.
Coffee lovers were equally well served at TCWC Hyderabad, with a range of products, such as Coffee Gold’s roast and ground specialty coffee (80% Columbian, with elements of Kenyan and Costa Rican coffees blended and roasted at its state-of-the art facility in Bangalore. The product, which is frankly delicious, was specially developed with the Indian palate in mind. Coffee Gold chose TCWC to officially launch the new product, which is also intended for export to neighboring countries.
The Coffee Board of India took the opportunity to promote its own coffee exhibition and showcase Indian coffees.
Alongside the exhibition, a number of floor events added value to the event, including tea tastings by the Sri Lanka tea Board, Nepal’s HIMCOOP and the Golden Leaf India Awards. Expert barista training was conducted by Vikram Khurana, c.e.o, Kaapi Machines India Pvt. Ltd., the Coffee Board of India’s held a series of presentations entitled: ‘Demystifying Indian Coffees’; ‘Science and the Art of Coffee Roasting’; ‘The Essence of Coffee Brewing’ and ‘Coffee Retailing: Emerging Opportunity’.
India’s acknowledged Ambassador of Coffee, Sunalini Menon, enthralled attendees at her ‘Coffee Cupping Class – An In-depth Evaluation of Arabica Coffee’.
Ms. Menon was also the star of the show during the Coffee Symposium the following day. Her ‘Supply Of Microlots Of Distinct Estate Branded Coffees - A Producer's Perspective - A Presentation With Tasting Of The Various Estate Branded Coffees’ was a standing room-only event. A hard act to follow, but session chairperson Sherri Johns, Ujwala Ranade -Malvi and yours truly gave it their best efforts.
The Tea Symposium owes a huge debt of gratitude to H. A. Shah of Premier’s Tea who graciously accepted the position of chairperson at the last minute when the previously nominated host was compelled to drop out at the last minute.
As with the Coffee Symposium, the event was a standing-room only affair evincing lively topics and generating the interest of the attendees. Aparna Datta, Chayan Shah, HIMCOOP Nepal, Glatfelter, Ahlstrom and this writer made presentations to the packed house/ Basudev Banerjee, the chairman of the Tea Board of India, and his hard-working colleagues made a welcome appearance in the middle of the session, coming straight from the airport after a grueling flight schedule from Europe. Indian tea producers are indeed fortunate to have such a dedicated and hard working chairman at the helm of its influential tea board, and the organizers of TCWC gratefully acknowledge the support the tea Board has given to the show over many years.
Stimulating, rewarding, exciting and vibrant
India’s first international tea and coffee exhibition enjoyed a successful debut, and the general consensus is that the event provided a stimulating, rewarding and exciting window on India and its diverse tea and coffee opportunities for overseas exhibitors and visitors and an equally vibrant window for their Indian counterparts onto global tea and coffee opportunities and solutions.
Now the ground work has been laid and the event has proven to be a winner, perhaps the question future show organizers may face when bringing their events to India may be “why NOT Hyderabad?” as the city has certainly proven itself a worthy host for international shows.
Meanwhile, TCWC now moves on to Seville, in Spain, for its 2009 outing on June 7-9 at the FIBES Exhibition and Convention Centre. With over 300 exhibitors and trade visitors from over 120 countries expected to attend, Tea & Coffee World Cup is once again the place to see and be seen in 2009. We look forward to seeing you there!