Despite the multitude of options available in the beverage industry, tea remains the drink of choice for Pakistanis in both urban and rural areas. However, Pakistan has a variety of ethnicities and taste preferences are hugely varied.
According to the Pakistan Tea Association (PTA), total consumption is estimated at 200,000 tonnes, with a 50:50 split between branded and unbranded tea. The tea category consists of leaf and dust variants; leaf dominates the cities, while dust owns the rural market – primarily due to the karak (punch) each cup is said to deliver, and the PTA estimates that approximately 30,000 tonnes of dust tea is consumed, of which 10,000 tonnes is the unbranded loose tea available at most dhabas in the rural areas. In terms of brands, the dust market is more or less a duopoly between Pearl Dust (Unilever) and Mezban (Tapal), both of which are premium priced brands. According to Khurram Koraishy, GM Marketing, Tapal, Mezban is the market leader, accounting for a 90% market share.
Tapal’s Chenak falls into the lower end of the dust market. The brand was launched in 1986, focusing specifically on the Thar region in Sindh. Until 2006 advertising was restricted to BTL activities and then in 2006, Chenak came out with a TVC and positioned itself against Unilever’s Red Rose (now defunct) with the theme: Himmat walon ji chanh.
Colloquially, chenaks are the metal containers used to pour tea in the dhabas. The name is said to have struck a chord with the target audience, due to its association with their customary tea drinking habits.
Koraishy classifies dust tea as “the poor man’s tea” and price is an important consideration, as most users are daily wage earners. Faiza Ziaullah, Brand Officer, Tapal Tea, further adds that “dust is approximately 20% cheaper than leaf. Also, it diffuses quickly and is stronger, so you use less tea and it lasts longer.”
Currently Chenak sells for Rs 108 and Rs 54 for the 190 and 95 gramme packs respectively.
In November 2013, the brand repositioned itself with a new TVC (produced by IAL Saatchi & Saatchi) that brought in an aspirational angle. Until the launch of this TVC, the split between ATL and BTL media remained at a constant 20:80 ratio; this has changed to 50:50, with the TVC aired on PTV’s regional channels, Sindh TV and Kook.
Moving away from the notion of Chenak as a mere source of refreshment, the brand positioned itself as a means to celebrate the homecoming of the men in the family after a long day’s search for work. To give an authentic flavour to the campaign, Chenak’s team went into Thar to experience a real taste of the life there and the social norms of the region. Avoiding the stark realities of desert life, the campaign focuses on the preparations for the homecoming, with women colourfully dressed preparing tea in the time honoured way.
Whether the shift to a more aspirational positioning and a heavier tilt towards television will translate into sales is too early to call, especially given the realities of the harsh climate and poor living conditions in the region where people travel miles to access bare necessities such as water and where televisions tend to be a luxury. However, according to Ziaullah, people in Thar live in a communal system with shared televisions.
Despite the repositioning, Chenak’s packaging remains the same, a decision, says Koraishy, that was based on feedback from retailers in rural Sindh, who emphasised that given that the target audience is largely illiterate, Chenak’s distinct saffron packaging is its USP; in their view even a slight modification would raise doubts about the brand’s authenticity (counterfeits are a very common phenomenon).
Koraishy and Ziaullah are optimistic about further growth given the increasing number of rural consumers opting for branded dust tea. At the moment, the new campaign has succeeded in creating a buzz on social media, with some people questioning the aspirational positioning of a low end brand aimed at audiences with no easy access to TV; others have been impressed by the quality of cinematography in the commercial. Clearly, and at least for the moment, Chenak’s campaign is set to be a talking point and not only in the deserts and dunes of Thar.