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`Tata Tea concentrating on reducing debt portfolio'


Our Bureau

KOLKATA, Sept. 6

TATA Tea Ltd wishes to become the world's largest integrated tea company within the next five years, but for now, it is concentrating hard on reduction of its debt portfolio and interest burden to become more cost-competitive.

Mr Homi R. Khusrokhan, Managing Director, said Tata Tea was constantly trying to reduce its debt burden. He was addressing members of CII at a two-day seminar on `Competitiveness India' 2001. ``We will try to eliminate our interest burden and reduce prod uction costs as early as possible,'' he said.

The company now has a market-share of 20 per cent, and the plan is to emerge as a global leader five years from now. About a year-and-a-half ago, the company acquired the British tea producer Tetley. ``By 2006, we want to make Tata Tea the world's larges t integrated tea company,'' he said.

Mr Khusrokhan discussed at length the competitiveness of the Indian tea industry. According to him, it was now at the lowest strata of the value chain. ``We are at the bottom of the value chain because the so-called uniqueness of Indian tea has been erod ed over the years,'' he said.

He said that India's share in the premium tea market was less than 10 per cent. In this context, he mentioned about China, which produces only green tea. ``If China starts producing black tea then Indian tea will certainly face some major problems,'' he said. He also felt that the Indian tea industry was not globally competitive yet and still had a long way to go. ``So, the protection to tea industry is needed as it will serve our interests.''

He, however, felt that competition among nations contribute a lot to the long-term growth of the individual countries. According to him, India's hurdles were poor infrastructure and lack of technical knowledge. ``Our packaging also is not up to global st andards, and we have to do much better in this area.''

Pic.: Mr Homi R. Khusrokhan, Managing Director, Tata Tea, and Mr Rajeshwar B., Head (Corporate Affairs), Cognizant Technology Solutions, at a seminar in Kolkata on Tuesday.

Picture by Parth Sanyal

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