A candid interview with Sujata Patil

What challenges did you face while starting a wine consultancy in India?

No challenge. I was in sales, selling wines, knew the areas where the wine selling companies could not focus on, so I picked out those areas to work. The willingness to work with wine is very high, outlet to outlet; with more restaurants wanting to work in wine.

How popular is the wine drinking culture amongst the Indian drinking lobby as per your experience?

Going by my experience, the level of curiosity about wine is growing, I see it coming from all pockets of the society, and even women come & ask about wine with great interest. Recently, people have been keen in knowing more about wine and its production, so wine culture is definitely nurturing.

What’s the current scenario of the wine business in India?

It’s a difficult scenario due to various reasons. We have lack of framework within which wines are produced, the laws are getting ready regarding how wine is to be made and laws might roll out in 2015. Selling & marketing wine is another challenge; there is huge lack of expertise in the area. Moreover, the excise regulations don’t make it easy to sell easily.

Where do you see the wine industry going in the next five years?

Growing. With the terrorist attacks of Mumbai, the wine industry slumped and it took 4 years for it to get back to registering growth. What is however required, are better excise laws, rationalisation of taxes across states, and a lot of focus on marketing. I think the industry players should come together and chart a plan of action which will help the industry grow even further. This is the area that I believe producers need to focus on, and not ask the government for assistance. The Government is already providing assistance by setting up wine parks. I personally don’t think that selling is the government’s responsibility. The producers can do that better provided they are equipped with the requisite skill set.

In the present scenario where do you see the importance of E-Commerce in the wine Industry?

It’s a great thing. Laws should be made to help facilitate growth of any business with checks & controls. Wine Ecommerce works very well in France, US & UK; there are few very good websites there. The laws will have to change in India for a business to be able to sell alcohol online. The only thing you can do online in India, as far as any alcoholic beverage is concerned, is to give knowledge about it. I don’t think the current scenario allows for anything else.

In the present scenario where do you see the importance of E-Commerce in the wine Industry?

It’s a great thing. Laws should be made to help facilitate growth of any business with checks & controls. Wine Ecommerce works very well in France, US & UK; there are few very good websites there. The laws will have to change in India for a business to be able to sell alcohol online. The only thing you can do online in India, as far as any alcoholic beverage is concerned, is to give knowledge about it. I don’t think the current scenario allows for anything else.

Do you think rules & regulations should be same for all the states?

That would help but given the fact that liquor is state subject, the states have freedom to decide what they do but at least some sort of rationalization about taxation is required. I was comparing pricelists of wine made in Maharashtra being sold in Andhra Pradesh, these wines cost 1.5 sometimes even 2 times the price of Maharashtra in Andhra Pradesh. You actually get imported wine cheaper in Tamil Nadu than you get an Indian wine. Moreover, everyone thinks that Goa is very cheap for alcoholic beverages, but that’s only true for beer & spirits not for wine. So this just shows the incoherent way of thinking in the country as there is pricing differences state to state.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with one standing for poor to 10 being excellent, where would you rate our Indian wines?

There are about 50% wines that would rank 6.5& 7. There are roughly 10% wines that would come to rank 9. Most of them have got the packaging right but if we talk value for money proposition, many of them don’t deliver the value you pay for it. Comparing the 50% odd with European Wines they would rank 6 to 6.5. We have wines in India which are in same price segment- 1500 Rs to 1800 Rs a bottle but in terms of quality they are not par with the European wines in the same price range segment in the European market.

Where do you think our Indian wines are lagging in competing with international ones?

The smaller setup are lacking with resources & expertise, but for large setups it is just a matter of time as majority of vineyards are young while vineyards take certain time before they reach that maturity where they will start to produce fruit of good quality which can yield great qualityof wine. The only vineyard that is possibly older than 12 yearsis Chateau Indage.

Can you elaborate some issues which hinder the growth of wine industry in the Indian Market?

There will soon be a shortage of raw material as the demand continues to grow, asmany farmers converted to growing wine grapes.But when the terrorist attacks happened, there was a slump in the industry & wine companies could not afford to pay the rates that they have contracted earlier to the farmers. The farmers started uprooting what they had planted so that they can plan something that could recover their money. The only alternative is to import bulk wine to face this challenge; moreover the producers of lower quality can hand over their grapes to better wine producers. There are of course, other elements like prohibition being introduced in various parts of the country. Lack of awareness is of course the largest big issue which the industry faces.

What is your take on the recent Kerala bar ban, what if other state governments follow the cue?

It is an unwise decision & if other states follow the cue it will lead of hoarding. It is basic human instinct, if you are banning something, demand for it will grow. There will a huge drop in the tourism. For instance Gujarat is a dry state but it has largest hoards or illegal stores of alcohol. The state government will be forced to reconsider their decision just like Haryana did. For 2 years Haryana was a dry state, but when they realized that their revenues were dropping, they rolled back their decision.

How can tax rationalization change gears in wine industry & how can it encourage investment opportunities in wine Industry?

For domestic production, there is no excise duty till 2020, I believe. Custom duties reduction will affect the growth of business. Today custom duties on imported wines are at 160% of CIF value of the products. Competition will be very healthy in domestic products if custom duties come down.

How do you see the impact of alcohol awareness website such as AllAboutDaru on social stigmas & misconceptions related to alcohol in India?

It’s very useful for creating awareness about alcohol & social issues.


Tête-à-Tête with TJ`s Brew Master Ashwini by allaboutdaru’s Nupur

We would like to know your first memory associated with Beer?

Since childhood I have been associated with Beer as my mother was working in the Beer industry for 30 years. She was working in Chennai with a brand called Golden Eagle, in the admin & marketing section. So my association with Beer has been there since I was in the womb

She did her first internship with Mohan Meakin Breweries, then she worked in United Breweries, after that she worked in SAB Miller, then went to Scotland for further studies in Micro brewing & then finally started working with TJ`s. This is how her exposure to this industry started.

At one point of time I felt that Brewing was something I was always meant to do, so the transition that started from Engineering (bio technology) to slowly moving ahead & finally becoming Brew master was always a planned path for her.

She studied in Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland & then started a small Brewing business which was a 20 barrel system, after that she set up the brewery & got it fully functional.

What’s the Story behind TJ`s Brew works & why Pune?

TJ`s Brew house is a brainchild of Mr. TJ Ventakeshwaran. After a lot of research he found that increasing the per capita consumption of beer in the nation, through something that is less developed but is very promising, has a future but was not exploited enough. So he conceptualized this & set up TJ`s Brew Works.

Pune because of the licenses that are available here for craft breweries, and to create awareness of freshly brewed beers among the Puneris!

Your all-time favorite ingredient to work with to make Beer?

I have no ingredient as particularly my favorite but in my point of view beer is always a beautiful mix of Malts, water, hops and yeast that complement each other and there is never a single stand out.

What is your latest Brew; tell us a bit about that?

TJ’s Zen Wit, which is on tap, it is a wheat Beer & has a great after taste of Clove. The food that goes well with this spicy Beer is chiefly bland e.g. mashed potatoes. This surely is a great & balanced combination.

Tell us a bit about Mystery Brews & how is the response for this?

Mystery Brews is a concept wherein we don`t ever mention the style of Beer but mention only the tasting notes of the Beer, like Green Apple & Mint. That’s what which makes it mysterious. Mystery Brews keep changing as per the demands of the customers. This mystery Brew- Green Apple & Mint is such a hit that whenever it hasn`t been available on tap then customers have left the outlet, as their favorite Brew was not available.

We are keen to know a bit about your brewing style & its uniqueness?

The brewing concept that we work on- is localizing International Brew styles so that it suits the Indian palette, that’s how mystery brews, Zen Wit & Zen Weiss come out.

Your beer making mentor is?

Dr Cariapa from Coorg, he is the person who did his PhD in this field 40 years back from Czech Republic – long known for a variety of beer styles. He has been the man behind Cobra & he is one of the first Brew masters of the nation.

Ashwini connects with him every week & updates him with whatever new that she is brewing.

What’s the current scenario of the craft beer industry in India & where do you see it going in the next 5 years?

The current scenario has grown to a level where it has trained people`s palettes to know what the beer is. It has future that is good & this trend is going to be in the driving seat when it comes to the Beer Market for the bottled Beers. It might even be having a good 25% market share in comparison with the Bottled beers.

How do you see the impact of alcohol awareness website such as All about Daru on social stigmas & misconceptions related to alcohol in India?

Websites like www.allaboutdaru.com who are marketing & promoting in the right sense and creating awareness are much needed and are of great help. Definitely an eye opener.

Rapid Fire:-

Your All Time favorite Beer?  Pumpkin Ales from Brew Dogs in Edinburgh. I love real Ales.

Your All Time favorite Beer Bar in India & Abroad? Brew Dogs in Edinburgh & in India it’s TJ`s Brew house.

One place you have been yearning to visit to try the brews of? Belgium for their Lambic Ales which are sour beers & are a hit amongst people there, and I am keen to see how one can enjoy such a sour beer.

Any pointers for the young & upcoming Brew masters?

A Brewer is similar to a gynecologist as one should be able to treat every batch of beer with utmost care and bring it out at its best quality into the market being abreast with all the technical developments happening in the industry. Every batch of Beer is a like a baby & you should nurture it to make it something that is wonderful & unique.




Wine Expert

Ms Sujata Patil is a Wine Consultant at her firm The GrapeWine Consultancy since 2013.She has also worked as Wine Consultant in Fratelli Wines Pvt Ltd for more than 3 years. She has worked in Embassy of France for 4 years.

Her specialties are wine marketing, trainings on basic and advanced wine appreciation with experience of more than 15 years.




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