Who doesn’t love coffee? The aroma, flavour, and of course, the caffeine kick. Coffee in India dates back to the 17th century. We have perfected the art of making South Indian filter coffee. However, the diverse coffee varieties of the developed nations have only recently entered the Indian market and the industry has remained male dominated for decades. But now we see women entrepreneurs operate some nifty coffee brands in India.
Women’s engagement in the coffee business has clear, business related impact such as increased price returns, product quality, a rise in incomes, productivity, and long-term sustainability for the coffee industry, and added benefits such as social, economic and skill development of women. Involving women in leadership roles leads to newer leadership styles and initiatives and additional market opportunities like the inspiration factor of drinking women-grown coffee. There is growing evidence to show that when women are included in training initiatives, coffee productivity, and coffee quality improves.
Here are some of the women entrepreneurs who were successful in finding a niche in the Indian coffee industry.
Kariappa ladies, Halli Berri
The House of Halli Berri is an inheritance cherished by the Kariappa ladies, handed over to them by their great grandfather. Nalima Kariappa, Maanavi Kariappa, Anusha Kariappa and Tejini Kariappa have striven hard to build a success story for themselves, having been raised in the plantation for years under their mother, Neelima’s determination and guidance. Halli Berri has emerged to be a responsible and luxurious brand. The brilliant combination of AAA-graded coffee beans, the Rainforest Alliance certification and the unique natural honey-dew flavour has made Halli Berri coffee, a premium brew.
Halli Berri is one of the most sought after single-origin coffee brands in the male-dominated sector. Halli Berri is a socially conscious enterprise and not just a revenue-generating business. They ensure the workers in the estate have proper hygiene, nutrition, and education. Children of the workers up to age 13 receive free education and assistance to enrol in high schools. They have fought life’s many odds as coffee planters and emerged as a successful brand as they carry forward a legacy. Their motto is “when strong women come together, miracles can happen”.
Tapaswini Purnesh, Classic Coffees
Classic Coffees is all about five generations and 150 years of heritage. Tapaswini Purnesh, and her siblings, are carrying the legacy of their ancestral business and making it more than just that. Aiming to build a sustainable model in the coffee business, she aspires to educate people about coffee brewing and blends through workshops and create a coffee network in India.
Classic Coffees’ pure arabica and robusta blends with sweet notes of chocolate, caramel, or nuts are favourites among its consumers. The brand is continually expanding in the retail sector. Tapaswini Purnesh, a culinary student by background, encourages the idea of having coffee as an accompaniment with desserts, a personal choice of Westerners, among Indians. She draws her inspiration from her father’s advice, “Just be passionate about what you do and don’t give up”, as a woman entrepreneur. She enjoys what she does and is determined to follow her passion for setting up a renowned brand, a favourite of all coffee enthusiasts.
Hamsini Appadurai, Sangameshwar Coffee Estates
Sangameshwar Coffee Estates have created a niche market for coffee in India and abroad. It provides the popular Attikan Coffee; a brand preferred by many coffee lovers. Hamsini with the support of her husband, Appadurai has taken pride in developing Sangameshwar into some of the best speciality coffee grown on Indian soil. Their robusta blend was awarded the Flavour of India Fine Cup Award in 2009.
Appadurai inherited the estates from his grandfather, the founder of Sangameshwar. The couple explored many coffee plantations and roasters overseas and built a market for speciality coffee in India. Hamsini also believes in social empowerment. There is a hospital with a doctor and nurse on the estate to attend to patients. Free housing and medicines are provided for all staff members, and a fully functional creche is provided for the children of workers. Hamsini is also a board member in the Women’s Coffee Alliance, a charitable trust founded to recognise women in the coffee industry for their immense contribution to the industry and society.
These women entrepreneurs are perfect examples of women supporting women and advocate gender equality in the coffee industry. There is a high demand for the female labour force in large-scale tea and coffee plantations. Charitable trusts organise social initiatives to motivate female workers and their families. For instance, the Women’s Coffee Alliance holds the Coffee Santhe every year to help the less privileged coffee women plantation workers and their girl children by generating funds.
It’s also worth taking a look at the involvement of more women in the Indian tea industry. In contrast to the 3.65% global coffee-planted area, tea has a significant stake in the global market as India occupies about 17 percent of the international tea-harvested area. As most of the tea production is sourced from estates and tea plucking is preferred by women added with the advantage of accessibility for work, women’s employment is found to be high in tea plantations. As more women choose to work in tea estates, women entrepreneurs with a family history of maintaining tea plantations prefer to venture into the tea industry due to the availability of skilled labour.
(Edited by Neha Baid)