THE SUIGENERIS INC: SELLING SMILES THROUGH CC TEA
The SuiGeneris Inc. is a privately owned sustainable development enterprise based in Manipur, one of the least economically developed states of India. Ragesh Keisham founded the company on the principles of a triple bottom line organization, equally committed to planet, people and product. SuiGeneris means unique or “of its own kind” in Latin, and Ragesh says he chose the name because that is what he has set out to achieve with his venture. Under the brand name of CC Tea, the company sells a new variant of organic and naturally caffeine-free instant tea made from lemongrass aka Cymbopogon Citratus (CC).
Ragesh strives for a better tomorrow for Manipur. The unemployment rate, especially for youth, is high in Manipur and people are highly dependent on government jobs. As many as 188 out of 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 29 years in urban areas of Manipur are unemployed, compared to the Indian average of 139 people per 1,000 — a challenge in a state with 23.3 per cent of its population between the age of 18 and 29 years. Next, the company is operating in a state which has a history of social and political instability due to militancy. The state has normalized to a great extent, but due to this long conflict and social war the livelihood opportunities in the state are non-existent. The condition of women and children in the state is very challenging as most of them have lost the bread-earner in the family. The company provides employment opportunities to these women who, otherwise, would have been lost in their war of survival without a trace. Working for The SuiGeneris Inc. means the women don’t need to migrate to another location to secure a decent livelihood.
To address these social problems, the company also provides an alternative for people involved in illegal plantations like poppy and cannabis in the hills of Manipur. It promotes livelihood diversification to the rural poor by improving access to farm and off farm income generating activities. The greatest impact it has triggered is the creation of 500+ jobs for the underprivileged men and women of Manipur bringing stability to thousands of households. Not only that, the gender disparity problem is addressed by keeping the minimum wage level equal for both male and female.
Ragesh has come a long way. On his quest for an inclusive business idea, he learned about the numerous therapeutic benefits of CC, leading to the incorporation of The SuiGeneris Inc in 2007. Next, he imported 10,000 saplings of superior quality CC from Indonesia. With the aid of his parents and wife, support from volunteers and money from his family he was able to make the first 200 packs of CC Tea in 2011, which were sold in 10 minutes on the launch date.
Today the company owns and manages a pristine 250-acre plantation and has acquired an additional 500 acres for cultivation as it is expanding production. The company adheres to organic farming policies, and the produce is grown and packaged without any pesticides, fertilizers, colouring agents, flavours or other additives. With the current machinery the company is producing about 30,000 units of CC Tea.
The SuiGeneris Inc strong marketing strategy - not just selling a product, but selling the story of the people of Manipur - works well for the company. The moment a client places an order through their website, a CC Tea employee will call the client, explaining to the client that he or she just bought a smile for someone in Manipur and providing delivery details at the same time. Another unique marketing strategy is that every tag in each of the tea bags in 100 piece packet is different and tells something unique about the state. It's uniqueness also lies in the fact that the company not only aims at promoting a healthy life through the beverage but also provide solutions to mitigate the social issues mentioned above which out class it from other beverage companies. Furthermore, the company has successfully revolutionized the way people drink green tea, by introducing an exclusive range of luxurious teapots and a unique CC Tea cup is on its way.
By promoting a healthy life style - through the beverage – and providing solutions to mitigate Manipur’s social issues at the same the company was able to outdrive other beverage companies. The new and innovative product with proven market traction and the strong marketing strategy in combination with the potential social-economic impact made us decide to invest in the company in 2017. With our support the company has been able to increase the plantation area. 70% of the investment amount is intended for factory to increase production capacity, and 30% for the plantation cost for the additional area under cultivation.