The tea industry has long been Sri Lanka’s primary source of foreign exchange, representing as much as 70 per cent of the country’s total income from exports and the foundation of government revenue. Adamexpo, steered by its Chief Operating Officer, Idris Shabbir, is one such notable Tea Exporter, a family-owned company specialising in the export of tea, spices, and desiccated coconut. Idris comes from a long line of tea merchants and exporters and his family has roots in Sri Lanka going as far back as 1883. Idris endures a master’s degree in information systems and management from the University of Aberdeen. After graduating in 1997, he worked in London for a renowned telecoms company, before returning to Sri Lanka in 1998 to learn the family business. Upon his return, he was assigned to Adamexpo’s tea division, as the company’s tea manager had recently withdrawn, and his father required someone to fill in. Idris learnt the basics of tea tasting, grading, and valuation during a six-month internship at Bartleets tea brokers. Following that, he grasped the technique of blending and selling tea to the company’s distinct clientele. Given his people skills, Idris fancied overseas trips and assisted in expanding the customer base by visiting clients and participating in trade exhibitions, which considerably improved the brand image and contributed value to the company.
Adamexpo, has been around since 1973 and is one of the tea industry’s trailblazers. In 2023, the company will be celebrating half a century in the tea business, which is a tremendous achievement! In order to stay one step ahead of the competition, Adamexpo has always invested in cutting-edge tea packing machinery and produced novel goods. In the present setting, Adamexpo bears black teas from Ceylon and other origins, green teas from China, herbal teas, tisanes, and white teas, among others. Furthermore, what sets Adamexpo apart from other Tea Export firms is that they specialize in private label manufacturing and packaging including for some of the world’s most reputable grocery chains. In addition, according to Idris, they engage with several local tea companies to help them achieve their export goals by implementing a turnkey service that includes everything from storage to packing and exporting their private label tea brands. Adamexpo, an ISO 22000, Fairtrade, Sedex, and Kosher certified company, just moved to a state-of-the-art tea warehousing and packing facility in Sedawatta in the fast developing suburb of Colombo. Idris stated, “ I personally oversee all our tea shipments, and I enjoy a great rapport with my clients, which helps me give a more personalized and bespoke service to all my clients. I am also supported by a great dynamic team, some of whom have been with us since the inception of our company.”
Acknowledging the tea industry is metamorphosing, Idris has encountered several hurdles in his 23 years of experience. He communicates how the company has lost many historic tea markets to more low cost origins and international financial sanctions. With this in mind, maintaining one’s development is a perpetual challenge when vital markets might be lost suddenly. Idris is quite disheartened that several of Adamexpo’s major stronghold markets, such as Tunisia, Libya, and Syria, were lost for a long time due to economic crises and civil wars. More recently, the worldwide COVID outbreak took its toll on Adamexpo’s business, as most importers saw a significant drop in sales, resulting in several cancellations and postponements of orders. The rising packing, labour and shipping costs too contributed towards the downward trend. Nevertheless, Idris says they surmounted these obstacles by supplying a diverse range of clients in as many nations as possible, rather than relying on a few core markets. As a result, they began importing other origin teas and herbs, enabling them to tap into the potential of other, more stable markets that most tea exporters currently underserve.
To be successful in any given industry, certain aspects must be present, and in the case of the tea industry, Idris verifies that adaptability is the key to prosperity! Dealing with clients from all over the world who all have different working styles can be challenging. Notwithstanding, Adamexpo has stayed ahead of the competition by being resilient and understanding the demands of its clients. Moreover, it is also crucial to invest in new technology and create inventive items to keep and retain existing customers.
Regarding how COVID-19 has affected Tea Manufacturing activities, Idris responds that the pandemic has influenced Adamexpo’s sales in most of its markets. On the other hand, the Sri Lankan government was considerably supportive of the local export sector. It permitted them to work during the lockdown, which greatly aided this challenging period by supplying the few clients who still required shipments. In addition, considering COVID 19 did not strike all nations equally and simultaneously, some countries needed their shipments while others were recovering from their second or third waves, and the company was able to meet these needs.
Far from being just a scenic wonder, the panoramic tea gardens of Sri Lanka provide a countless number of blends and single garden teas of premium value. It is no surprise that Sri Lankan tea possesses unique and specific quality and taste attributes to geographical origin and individual manufacturing practices. Idris’s future ambitions for 2022 and beyond are to extend their presence in other parts of the world where they are not yet recognized and solidify their position in the markets they serve, as Adamexpo currently delivers to over 70 countries across the globe. Tea is one of the most extensively consumed beverages on the planet, and there isn’t a country that does not import or consume it. Idris likewise aspires to promote other Ceylon origin products like Moringa and Ceylon coffee, which he understands has much market potential. Attributable to its supreme quality, Adamexpo has carved for itself a sizable share of the global tea market over the decades. Idris ends his account with an enlightening statement, “The biggest influence in life is a habit. To get better results, adopt better habits.”