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TWG Suite Talk

Suite Talk: Taha Bouqdib, TWG Tea

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With tea in his blood, discover how Taha Bouqdib, president, CEO and co-founder of TWG Tea, built this business from scratch, and why he encourages his staff to work towards what they love.

What inspired you to set this business up?

TWG Tea is a story of personal destiny and passionate creativity. Tea always had a very important place in my life, especially growing up in Morocco where tea is a very important component of the social life.

Everybody is always welcomed with a cup of tea with mint wherever you go, whether you are family, friends or business partners. We could almost say that tea has always been in my blood!

After being in the tea business for more than 20 years, and leading Singapore-based TWG Tea for the past eight, I am proud to have founded one of the fastest growing luxury tea brands in the world.

What’s your take on leadership?

I believe in a hands-off approach by allowing my team to take up the challenge of being responsible with their day-to-day activities – to have them shine and be creative with their thought processes.

I personally feel that if someone did something well, it would be an achievement and if someone failed doing a task, it would be an opportunity to learn.

A strong leader stands with his team, not on the sidelines giving out orders. This is how you build a strong team.

What’s been your most memorable moment at TWG Tea in the past eight years?

Starting out as Asia’s first luxury tea brand. Setting up headquarters in Singapore was an important move, as it is not a tea-producing country. This made it the perfect neutral base to do business with plantations across Asia.

Strategically, we are also geographically closer to our sources, allowing us to receive the teas faster and in better condition compared to European or American teahouses.

Founded in 2008 as a luxury concept, launching TWG Tea has been an amazing experience. We have expanded ourselves internationally and are now available in London, New York, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Thailand and more.

TWG Tea continues to strive to be the leading purveyor of exquisite teas in Singapore and around the world, and I am proud of our achievements thus far.

I personally feel that if someone did something well, it would be an achievement and if someone failed doing a task, it would be an opportunity to learn.

What challenge did you face in setting things up here?

Since everyone in Asia is born with a proverbial cup of tea, we knew that it would be challenging to create a new luxury tea brand here and, more importantly, get Asians to embrace it as their own.

The only way we were going to achieve that was by offering the very finest quality teas available – rare harvests, exquisite varieties and exclusive blends. The rapid expansion of TWG Tea in the region is, for us, proof we have succeeded in doing just that.

What gets you back in the groove after a tough day at work?

My favourite way to de-stress is to spend time with my wife and son, watching a movie, cooking, or going on a holiday.

Delving into antique shops and wandering flea markets around the world allows me time for myself to collect my thoughts. However, I also take solace in my tea tasting room where I can experiment with different tea blends.

When it comes to your staff, how do you motivate them?

It is necessary to recognise your staff’s achievements, what they have done and are doing to add to the success of the company, and to reward them so they are motivated to keep up the good work.

I also believe that spending time with family and having a work-life balance is key for positive morale and the success of the company. We encourage our staff to take time off especially after they have worked long hours.

Since everyone in Asia is born with a proverbial cup of tea, we knew that it would be challenging to create a new luxury tea brand here and, more importantly, get Asians to embrace it as their own.

Where does the HR function stand at TWG Tea?

I am very strict about the company’s know-how and product quality, but in terms of human resources, I am quite flexible, allowing team members to thrive in what they do best.

I believe the company will benefit from letting employees find their own place in what they do best rather than forcing them into a position that does not suit them. The secret is that people work best at what they love.

With that in mind, how can the HR function add more value to the business?

One of the most important aspects of our human resources strategy is the training and flexibility offered to our employees. Good training is the key to a long and successful career and it is important that our staff fully understand and enjoy our products to be able to pass this excitement on to our clientele.

We also believe that people are best at what they love, and we encourage internal moves for them to discover different aspects of the company.

I believe the company will benefit from letting employees find their own place in what they do best rather than forcing them into a position that does not suit them.

Do you believe HR leaders can come up to the C-suite level?

The talent crunch has indeed become more acute, and it is always good to train people to operate outside of their comfort zones.

Anyone with the right attitude and gumption can leverage their personal experience and understanding of healthy business practices to drive positive change within an organisation.

You’ve been in this industry for two decades now. What do you love about it?

I love the tea business because I don’t feel like I am working; it is my hobby and my passion. All those years in the tea industry and I don’t see it as work. Tea is a lifestyle.

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