In business, innovation and success, contrary to expectations, do not necessarily go hand in hand. Great ideas fail to get capitalised and successful empires are often built on the shoulders of creators who came before. To take an idea and turn it into a successful business is a combination of hard work, pure luck, strategy, curiosity, vision and skills.
Israeli-born Ido Berger started his young life pursuing a career in drama, his natural creativity propelling him towards the stage. But life had other plans for him and when his family bought one of the leading food companies in Israel, Vita Foods, Berger found himself being groomed for the business world. Not believing in silver spooning their son, his parents made sure that he worked the company from the ground up, starting off as a salesperson and moving his way up the ladder from there, earning his stripes along the way. It wasn’t long before it became clear that Berger was a natural born businessman and he soon found himself vice president of Vita’s Business Development and Marketing department, developing a new brand of cakes and desserts partnered with a global leader of non-dairy toppings. Through his work, he travelled the world, making deals and forging partnerships. Then, in 1999, Berger found a new calling – travelling around Asia representing high tech western medical device companies in the Asian markets.
“I had it all back at home,” says Berger, whose latest venture now brings him to Chiang Mai. “I had the family business, masses of connections and all the added support and safety net which comes with working in a successful family business. But I wanted to challenge myself. So I took myself out of that comfort and started to work in countries with no common language to my own and cultures beyond my understanding. I decided to become a one man show, selling and exploring the world.”
It was during these travels that Berger discovered Thailand, which he fondly calls the “dessert of Asia.” Here, he began an ongoing project investing in an eco-friendly urban village in Bangkok Noi.
“After that, every time I travelled in Asia I would make sure that I spent most of my time in Thailand. Soon it just made sense to stay here!”
While contemplating his next venture, Berger developed a great concern for the number of long tail boats he saw creating both water and noise pollution throughout Bangkok’s canals and Thailand’s many tourist destinations. “I realised that it wasn’t in the Thai nature to complain about the noise, even though boats generate such noise as to fill passing houses. So I decided that if you can’t complain, then fix the problem at the source.”
And so he embarked on a one man mission to source environmentally – and audibly – friendly electrical engines at a reasonable price.
He then travelled Thailand trying to explain (with no Thai language skills) to boat drivers why they should change their engines from diesel to electric, and began working with banks to sort out reasonable, long term, low interest lease arrangements for boat drivers who can now pay less per month for a better engine than they used to. Today, thanks to Berger’s efforts, massive changes are being made amongst a growing number of boating communities to switch to electric engines.
“I wanted to do more for society,” he says. “Although I was proud of my achievements, I was more proud of the fact that I had beaten the big corporations all on my own. I’m a one man show.” An interesting take for a man whose family owns one of Israel’s largest food corporations!
But after all this, Berger decided to refocus his energies once again. His new passion? Tea.
“I wanted to invent something unique and market it internationally. Anyone can make high quality niche products, but to create a commercial product that sits on the shelf next to multi-million dollar corporation products, that’s a hard feat for someone who doesn’t even have a secretary,” laughs Berger.
“Thai people love fruits and they also enjoy drinking tea, so I thought to combine the two,” he recalls. “I had a dream one night about my grandmother. She was always telling me to wake up and get going and that dream was what finally pushed me ahead with this tea. Basically, two sachets are attached together, one containing tea leaves and the other dried fruits. It’s like having tea and dessert in the same cup!”
Once the product had been created, tested, branded and packaged, Berger went back to his business roots and visited all the major outlets to make sure that his products were on the shelves. It was only one year ago that his tea arrived in Tops Supermarket; today, Berger’s product, called simply Tea & Fruits, can be found throughout Thailand, and is stocked at most major grocery outlets including Rimping, Villa Supermarket, Big C and The Mall.
With help from social media and Thailand’s largest supermarkets, Berger’s teas, which are good for health and contain low levels of sugar (each bag of dried fruits contains 15 grams of local produce like pomelo, orange, pineapple and a few cranberries from Canada), Berger’s company boomed.
“Once you have the DNA of a company, you can then add to it,” he explained of his next steps. “I plan to start exporting next, taking on the world. For this I will need help, but now I have the DNA; nothing can break it down.”
Berger ends his story with a little unorthodox secret that has, in his words, been invaluable to his development as a business man. “The secret to my success is that I have visited a medium, a good friend who is also a telepathic communicator, or what Thais call a fortune teller, for over ten years now,” he explains hesitantly. “It’s like new old age. Sure it’s not the norm but it really works. The fortune teller can guide me, for my self-development but also for practical advice – I would always consult my fortune teller when I have a big decision to make.”
So maybe Berger is not such an alien to this land after all. His “new old age” practices has served him well so far. His tea has proven a great success across the country and there is now serious interest from buyers all over Europe.
Here in Chiang Mai you can find Berger’s Tea & Fruits in all major supermarkets and in a selection of coffee shops throughout the city. More exciting than your standard cup, it certainly lives up to its motto: “Tea and dessert in a cup, krup!”