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Your cup of tea

While sipping a cup of tea in the morning, have you ever wondered how the tea you are enjoying is grown? How is it like working in a tea garden? Syed Amir Ali Hashmi tell you.

education Updated: Apr 28, 2010 09:39 IST
Syed Amir Ali Hashmi

While sipping a cup of tea in the morning, have you ever wondered how the tea you are enjoying is grown? How is it like working in a tea garden? How does it feel to exist in a tranquil environment far from the madding crowd? People who are working as tea estate managers say it is the life of a sahib (from the Raj days/a boss). You get to manage a whole lot of people; you are given a bungalow to live in with servants to take care of your needs. They say that the English culture/way of life is still prevalent in tea gardens of good companies and that is the reason why only students from public schools are preferred for the job or so till a few years ago.

Pranav Chatterjee joined a tea garden in 1983 and has since been living the good life. “As a manager you are the boss; and have to handle a number of responsibilities. You have to look after the tea processing units, the garden and around 1,000-2,000 labourers,” says Chatterjee, a senior planter in Darjeeling.
A tea estate manager has to control the tea gardens with the help of junior assistants and assistant managers, depending on the requirement of the garden. Their work involves supervision of all plantation work — from planting to plucking, processing to packing and transport of tea to auction houses.

There are other aspects also that a manager has to look into. “Tea gardens come under Plantation Labour Act and a manager’s job is to see that the welfare schemes for labourers are implemented in their true spirit. Along with the medical officer he has to see that medical facilities in the tea garden is in good shape. As you are based in the tea garden itself, you have to attend to anything that happens there,” says Chatterjee.

Most of the tea gardens are in a secluded place and for people who are not outdoor types it can be a problem. “One is mostly busy clubbing (most of the tea gardens have clubs), horse riding, trekking, etc. We always look for sports-oriented youngsters, people who are fond of sports. We do not need brilliant students but we need people who are good administrators and have a good personality,” he says.

He goes on to add that one faces a lot of challenges when working in a tea garden – equivalent to what a corporate executive might face in a in a company or a firm. Add to this the grand old customs – a leftover from the Raj days. “As many companies adhere to old traditions left behind by the British, you have to have good table manners, you must know how to speak impeccable English, you must know how to wear a tie and things like that. These things are part and parcel of a tea estate manager’s job,” says Chatterjee.

What’s it about?
A tea estate manager is a one-point contact for everyone involved with tea garden work. As he stays in the tea garden he has to look after each and everything taking place there. With the help of junior assistants and assistant managers, depending on the requirement of the garden, he has to supervise the plantation work, from planting to plucking, processing to packing and transport of tea to auction houses

The Payoff
.
Assistant Manager: Rs 3.5 lakh a year
. Senior assistant manager: Rs 7 lakh a year
. Deputy Manager: Rs 8 lakh to Rs 9 lakh a year
. Manager: Depending on many factors it can be Rs 12 lakh to Rs 15 lakh a year
. GM: Salary depends on skills and experience

Clock Work
6 am: Wake up
9 am: Reach office
10 am: Check the day’s worklist. Take a round of the garden
11 am: Sort out issues of the day
12 pm: Meetings with vendors, staff, authorities follow
1.30 pm: Lunch
2.30 pm: Take a round of the garden, interact with labourers and staff there. Also solve issues related to labour
3 pm: Check the processing unit
4 pm: Prepare next day’s to-do list
5:30 pm: Leave for home

Skills
. Knowledge of the tea market
. Knowledge of labour laws
. Ability to communicate with labourers and workers
. Have sound leadership qualities
. Presence of mind, quick thinking, courage to face and settle labour disputes
. Fair knowledge of the topography of tea estates

How do i get there?
One can get into a tea estate after graduation and pick up skills while working in a tea garden. However, these days, a degree in agricultural science or a BSc in botany, food sciences, horticulture or allied fields is preferred. Candidates who have specialised in business management or marketing are recruited for marketing jobs. Then there are many institutes that give training in tea management. There one can learn about tea production, processing, finance, marketing and sales

Institutes & urls
. Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat, www.aau.ac.in/
. Indian Institute of Plantation Manag- ement, Bangalore, www.iipmb.com
. Dipras Institute of Professional Studies, Kolkata, www.dipsschoolofmanagement.com
. Birla Institute of Management and Futuristic Studies, Kolkata, www.bifsmgmt.org
. Assam Darjeeling Tea Research Centre, Kurseong, Darjeeling

Pros & Cons


.

A sense of pride when it comes to being associated with a good tea brand


.

By the time you become a manager after 16-20 years of experience, you become so used to life in a tea estate that you cannot work in cities


.

Looking after workers/labourers in a tea garden is a demanding task and risky at times

Demand will last till people drink the brew

A senior professional talks about the scope and opportunities

What are the responsibilities of a tea estate manager?
A tea garden manager is a person wholly and solely responsible for running the tea estate.

His area of activity encompasses production management, tea husbandry involving plant physiology, entomology, industrial relations, labour management, liaison with various government departments. He even has to oversee purchase of materials, do financial management, cost management, collective bargaining with unions, factory management, etc.

How strong is the demand for tea estate managers? Will there be a steady demand in the future (say the next five years)?
Till people drink tea, every tea estate will have to be run by a techno-commercial person who would be a tea garden manager.

What advice would you give to someone just entering this who wants work in a tea estate?
The person should have a love for the outdoors, love for human beings, love for nature, (be) comfortable staying alone, hard working with good team spirit and a penchant for leading the good life — frequenting clubs, playing sports, etc.

What are the growth prospects?
You can start as trainee assistant manager, and after 1-12 years you can become an assistant manager, after 12-16 years a deputy manager, and then manager. After having put in around 10 years as manager you will become a senior manager. Then with experience you can become a visiting agent/ executive director.

Are there any changes that could affect the industry/profession in the near future?
Weather, natural calamities, and the day when people stop drinking tea.

S.Mohanakrishnan, senior manager, Moraghat Tea Estate, Jalpaiguri, Interviewed by Syed Amir Ali Hashmi