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MAKE IN INDIA - Vikram Achanta, Co-founder & CEO, Tulleeho

Thursday, February 5, 2015, 17:00 Hrs  [IST]

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Few months ago, I hosted a panel discussion at the Food and Grocery Forum. The subject was factors constraining the increased presence of Indian wine on the wine lists of top drawer hotels and restaurants. I had with me an esteemed set of panelists, representing the wine and hospitality industries. From the wine industry, we had Cecilia Oldne, the Global Brand Ambassador/Head - International Business, Sula Wines and from the hospitality industry we had Sonal Holland, who is Corporate Head, Wine and Beverages for ITC Hotels, Gauri Devidayal who runs The Table, a fine dining restaurant in Mumbai and Chef Sabyasachi Gorai, owner of Fabrica, a food consulting venture.

When I look at the parallel of beer, where most foreigners who visit India, have an urge to drink the local brew, then I assume the same would apply with wine, wherein at least a curiosity value would apply to trying Indian wine on their part. However, if you open most menus of 5-star hotels or even some fine dines, you’d find them heavily weighed towards imported wines. And, if out of 50 wines on the list, there are only two from India, it can act as a deterrent to anybody who’s thinking of going ‘native’. But of 50, if there were at least 10 wines from India, then it’s a respectable number for someone from outside our shores to feel that they can take a punt.

Holland indicated that ITC was in the middle of a revamp of their wine list, with the intent being that the best Indian wines across varietals are showcased. She also was aligning the wine lists of each individual restaurant with the cuisine, and in this process felt that several Indian wines would work well here, given the number of restaurants that focused on Indian cuisine within the group.

make_in_india_2.jpgDevidayal already has a head start, as she has wines from 5 Indian wineries already listed on her menu. As she said, 25% of their wines are Indian, with wines selected on the basis of quality as well as cost. She did feel however that there didn’t seem to be any reason why Indian wines cost so much, and that in some part, it appeared to be an ‘ego game’ on the part of the producers.

Sula Vineyards has possibly been amongst the most successful in building their brand and being present on wine lists, with also fairly high brand recognition amongst foreign visitors. According to Oldne, the considerable amount of work done by Sula in boosting wine quality has led to much higher acceptance by customers. Of course, if other Indian wine companies besides Sula, also start appearing on wine lists, it’s going to give the whole category of Indian wines a boost.

Chef Saby opined that the curricula followed at hotel management colleges, needs to include information and details of wines from India, apart from what they already have on the wines of the world.

It comes as a complete shock to know that India also produced wines, and wines which are aged 10 years are quite drinkable. The wine industry in India has undergone a substantial transformation, with wine sales growing exponentially, wine exports on the rise, and most recently Moet Hennessy India has displayed a massive vote of confidence in Indian wine making, by uncorking Chandon locally.

I could go on with this list for a while, as regards the way the wine industry has changed in India, but I think the point which is clear is that the industry has grown, and matured, and has even had a shake-out. As a result Indian wine makers focus on a higher quality of production. It seems only right that the hospitality industry starts to be extra loyal to products  ‘made in India’!

(Vikram Achanta is Co-founder & CEO of Tulleeho - www.tulleeho.com)

 
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