We spoke to Pranav Chopra, founder of NEMI Teas, a London-based tea company and a social enterprise that offers a variety of whole leaf Organic and Fairtrade tea blends both as loose tea and in plastic-free biodegradable tea bags whilst providing job opportunities to refugees living in the UK.
'The social mission of the business is to lower the unemployment levels amongst the refugee communities, which sits at nearly five times the national unemployment level. Specifically, NEMI Teas is tackling SDG #10 of Reduced Inequalities by employing refugees across its business, this allows the refugees to boost their English skills, regain confidence and work on skills required to enter the UK job market. More specifically, the refugees are involved in running events, warehousing, packaging, social media and research work. This gives them the ability to have a UK company on their CV and a local referee who can vouch for their work ethos and ability.
A huge driving force that drove me to set up NEMI Teas to tackle inequality amongst refugee communities in the UK is really well captured in this quote by Pierre Omidyar that “everyone is born equally capable but lacks equal opportunity”. I am a migrant myself to the UK and I have seen how people have an unconscious bias about certain groups of people so it has been an area where I have always felt a pull towards making a change and ensuring we all in the UK have access to equal opportunities.
From a commercial perspective, NEMI supplies its teas at both a retail and a wholesale level across the UK, Germany, France and Scotland. NEMI’s core focus is the food-service industry and it is currently supplying to large corporates including PwC, Ernst & Young and SAP, as well as restaurant chains including Leon and Gaucho along with 300+ cafes and delis across the country.
NEMI Teas is also a leader within the sustainability movement as both its teabags and packaging are 100% plastic-free and compostable. Even the string attached to the teabag is by ultrasound and not traditional glue which has plastic. All the teas are Organic, Fairtrade and Rainforest-Alliance certified thus ensuring the farmers are paid a fair-wage.
The tea sector within the UK is very saturated however in comparison to our competitors and peers, I feel it is our three core values that we live by that make us exceptional:
- Positive impact: we conduct our business in a positive manner in all aspects be it the high-quality of tea; compostable tea bags; or the recruitment of refugees within the business.
- Financial success: we have a strong focus on business sustainability, as we won’t be able to make a positive impact on the community if we are unable to fund our operations and pay our employees.
- Product focus: we have a strong focus on ensuring that our products are unique, high quality and on-trend with speciality tea.
However we have faced several challenges along the way including funding, recruitment and most recently the pandemic. We have worked our way through these hurdles as a team and come out much stronger on the other side. And we are now at a stage where we have significant growth plans over the next few years to achieve our social mission target of empowering 1500 refugees by 2025.
NEMI Teas has been a proud participant of the Innovating for Growth program where we have received significant amount of business and legal support including IP as we looked to protect the recipe for our traditional Spicy Chai Syrup. Business strategy and marketing expert advice has also been invaluable as we looked to nail down our long-term business
My advice for any budding social entrepreneurs would be to really focus on clearly defining the vision of their enterprise along with developing a theory of change to map out the steps that will lead them to have the intended positive change on society. Lastly as part of Refugee Week 2021 NEMI Teas is partnering up this year with some amazing organisations such as Choose Love, Solidarity and Breadwinners, to showcase the talent of refugees living in the UK.'