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On October 22, Parag Desai, the executive director of Wagh Bakri Tea Group, passed away in Ahmedabad at the age of 49. Tragically, his untimely demise resulted from an accident that occurred during his morning walk on October 15, leading to a brain hemorrhage. After several days on a ventilator and struggling with multiple complications, he eventually succumbed to his injuries.
Just two months prior, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Desai while working on Forbes India’s family business issue that focused on scions hailing from Gujarat. During our conversation, he shared his personal plans for diversification into new areas of interest, with education being a recent fascination. He stated, “I personally have a lot of plans. I see a lot of potential in infrastructure development, the packaged food industry, and education. So many things can be done in India now. We’re spoiled with choices. We have waited long enough as Indians.”
Parag Desai joined the family business in 1995 after completing his master’s degree at New York’s Long Island University. At that time, the company’s revenue was less than Rs100 crore. Under his leadership, the revenue grew to over Rs2,000 crore by 2023. He played a pivotal role in expanding the business beyond Ahmedabad and introduced the e-commerce platform buytea.com two decades ago. As the son of Rasesh Desai, he was responsible for launching more than 70 tea lounges and tea worlds across India. He also had plans to expand Wagh Bakri, the third-largest packaged tea company in India, particularly in the eastern region.
Parag Desai was well-known for his innovative ideas and straightforward approach. He encouraged his teams to provide critical feedback and not be “yes-men.” During our conversation, he emphasized the contribution of professionals in the smooth running of the brand.
As a key member of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Desai will be remembered for guiding the company towards numerous accolades by implementing innovative marketing, branding, and packaging strategies, and expanding the legacy brand to more than 60 countries. He leaves behind his wife and daughter and had a passion for travel, wildlife, and global environmental sustainability projects.
The day-to-day operations of the 131-year-old business are now overseen by Paras and Priyam, representing the fourth and fifth generations of the family. Third-generation veterans Rasesh and Piyush have taken a step back and primarily focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.