The Coffee Connoisseur & Sommelier

Tapaswini Purnesh, Director – Marketing & Promotions at Classic Coffees

Tapaswini has a strong background in culinary sciences and coffee. The former is as a result of her education and interest and the latter as the result of the fact that she comes from a family of coffee planters, with a strong legacy of having grown up around coffee.  She’s also a foodie and a trained chef from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, the most prestigious culinary school in the world from where she did her Diploma.

Tapaswini took over the responsibility of steering the marketing vision of the 150- year –old company to take gourmet coffee to a larger audience in India. Now combining her passion for coffee and food, she’s experimenting with myriad online and offline platforms that promise to change the way Bengalureans (and the rest of her compatriots) drink coffee and dine. Tapaswini Purnesh, heir to the renowned Bengaluru-based Classic Group, which has interests across real estate, hospitality, retail, distribution and coffee. She is a food and beverage aficionado, who is committed to promoting the coffee consumption and appreciation culture in India.

This 5th generation coffee scion combines her culinary knowledge and understanding of flavor patterns with her expertise in brewing techniques to craft coffee that appeal to the Indian palate. Tapaswini travels the world in search of interesting brewing and marketing techniques to promote pure coffee grown in the lush coffee growing regions of India. A frequent visitor to coffee festivals around the world, Tapaswini is also actively involved in promoting the only coffee festival in South India “Coffee Santhe”. In addition to her passion for exploring brews, Tapaswini works on discovering new foods and flavor profiles to create interesting pairings for coffees.
Her professional assignments include Patisserie Internship at Blé Sucré in Paris, Patisserie Internship at the Ritz-Carlton, Bangalore, Co-founded Berries & Barrels, a coffee & wine lounge in Bangalore, Executive Management team member for the gourmet food division of Not Just Wine Cheese, a premium food and alcobev retail chain and Director – Marketing & Promotions for Classic Coffees.

Here are some more insights from Tapaswini, as shared with team ABT.

The legacy & history of coffee business in the family
The legacy of the Devarunda family interests in coffee go back 150 years, when the family nurtured plantations in the Chickmagalur area, which lies in India’s coffee heartland. Subsequent generations took forward the business quite significantly, including getting into consulting on coffee growth practices and gaining a strong foothold in the export sector over the last couple of decades. The family’s holdings have grown significantly to include, today, the premier Harley Estate in Sakleshpur and Kalladevarapura Estate in Chikmagalur. The quality and premium grade of coffees cultivated at our estates is admired the world over and have won several awards at leading international forums recognize specialty coffee. Today, in addition to our coffee cultivation and export operations, the company is actively involved in building and promoting high grade coffees through our own brands for the Indian domestic market.

On transforming the business into a niche in today’s times
There is a growing consciousness and demand for prime grade coffees amongst consumers today. Across the world, people are getting very conscious about the blend, quality of coffees they consume and are focused on experimenting with new blends, brewing methods, pairings and extending their knowledge about coffee in general – a trend that is led by the younger demographic and by South / South East Asia in particular. Through our product innovation, marketing & communications strategies and overall approach to product development & channel building, we are creating offerings and access points which the digital economy customer finds of appeal. For example: rather than promote products based on ingredient profiles (Arabica / Robusta blends), we are moving our product positioning to an easier-to-understand reference (time of day, consumption preference, brewing equipment preference, etc.) to broad-base our customer appeal.

Technology playing a role in enhancing business
Technology has changed our retail strategy quite significantly. Today, we rely quite significantly on e-commerce to create scale & breadth for our customer outreach. This has ensured that we are able to reach a very broad customer base, spread across conventional and non-traditional markets, in a cost-effective manner. Further, technology tools help us ensure that the logistics for order fulfillment are tracked closely – leading to a complete customer experience where the chance of failure is minimized. Technology, in particular digital marketing initiatives, are also helping us easily identify and communicate with the ideal target audiences to help us build our customer bases exponentially.

Challenges faced
The primary challenge in our sector is the lack of awareness about the category and the fact that it involves a basic change in people’s taste and preferences. From being perceived as a luxury and a niche gourmet product category, we have had to convince the Indian consumer about the sheer joy of consuming pure coffee in a brewed format. As part of this, we have also had to aggressively promote the concept of brewing at home. Our approach to addressing this challenge has been to build the right marketing imagery to promote sampling and experimentation; backed by a robust channel strategy to ensure ease of product access. Further, a large part of our marketing outreach is focused on knowledge and awareness building to bust myths around the category – for instance, showcasing through instructional videos, the ease of brewing coffee at home, traditionally considered to be a time-consuming and complicated process.

Most cherished milestone

Some of the cherished milestones achieved personally include graduating from the world’s leading culinary institute and a cafe I founded winning a silver award for best standalone cafe in India. However, my most cherished milestones remain the awards that Classic Coffees wins. We take great pride in ensuring that the quality of our produce at the estates is the highest and that our coffees are continually considered to be the best in our categories. Each time we win an award for our coffees is a reason for pride – this includes the most recent instance of being awarded the Best Robusta in India for the fifth year in a row in 2016 at the Cup of India awards.

On Being a Woman Entrepreneur
I believe that the world is moving towards a completely meritocratic outlook – and that quality of offerings are the sole measure the market evaluates – irrespective of whether the driving force behind it is male or female. Of course, some of the finer aspects inherent in a woman’s personality – eye for detail, focus on perfection, sensitivity towards all stakeholders from customers to team members – do help; but largely, I do honestly believe that we live in great, gender-neutral times.

Goals ahead
My primary focus remains making a success out of the coffee drinking culture in India and helping in building this niche category of domestic consumption, in very exciting macroeconomic environments. Once this milestone is achieved, we do have our eye on entering international markets with branded products; but the primary focus for the short and mid-term is to build and cater to the exponential demand for fine gourmet coffees in India.