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Has Chateau d’Ori Story gone Awry

Posted: Tuesday, 01 March 2011 12:40

Has Chateau d’Ori Story gone Awry

Chateau d’Ori, a wine project of an IT entrepreneur Ranjit Dhuru started with much fanfare and publicity with quality wines that justified the new State-of-the-Art winery that would be a showpiece of Maharashtra. Three years later, the winery is incomplete with industry watchers claiming the company is barely keeping afloat. Subhash Arora who visited the winery in Dindori reports.

You make millions in the wine industry by investing in billions, goes the cliché. While it may not hold true in the case of Ranjit Dhuru who invested only in millions, it is certainly a testimony to the passion of a man who heads a public limited company where the Rs.2 Face Value share crossed Rs.90 at one point before the recession hit and it came tumbling down to around Rs.12

The roller-coaster ride in the stock market notwithstanding, Dhuru has been a passionate wine lover who has been travelling overseas for years and not only drinking excellent Bordeaux wines but accumulating En Primeur for a decade. The passion for having his own winery always egged him on as he started wine business by importing and distributing private labels from Bordeaux. He imported wines for a couple of years before getting into the production of wine in Dindori- about 40 kms from Nashik, where he also started constructing the state-of-the-art winery. Details are available at www.indianwineacademy.com, especially an interview with him.

The recession of 2008-10 hit d’Ori from many sides- the share of Aftek tumbled as the demand for wines came crashing down making all the plans go awry, howsoever temporary.

Bitten by distribution problems in Delhi and unhappy with the business style of North Indians, Ranjit claims he lost a lot of money in the process, no doubt including the investment he made in getting the annual excise license at Rs.500,000 and registration charge of about Rs.250,000 for a couple of years. The distribution arrangement with Fine Wines N More did not work-the switch-over to Amfora was no help either, according to him.

‘We have decided to sell only in Mumbai, Pune and Goa for the moment, with Nashik being also a small market for us,’ he told me when I finally made contact with him after visiting the winery a few weeks ago. Unfortunately he had been hospitalized for a month and no one seemed to know his whereabouts. The winery was in shambles-at least it was incomplete and already undergoing more than the usual wear and tear. There was no one present in the winery-I could have walked away with the grape crushing machine installed outside, which incidentally didn’t seem to be ready for collecting grapes though the harvest time was hovering.

It would be anyone’s guess what he has been doing with the grapes for the last couple of years, with the production in the tanks not yet been completely emptied out. The first vintage had a lot of excitement and vibrancy that shook the industry with a future potential quality producer in the making, most critics agreed. The import business was folded up-partly as it was not remunerative and partly because the emphasis was on marketing high quality domestic wines which had been priced at up to Rs. 100 a bottle higher than the prevailing market price- difficult but not impossible with an astute marketing plan.

But the financial stringency-which caused the winery completion to be postponed, choked the marketing plans as well with sales stagnating at merely a few thousand cases a year when a winery of the caliber that he created, should have been flirting with the number of 20,000 by now.

To Ranjit’s credit, he has remained upbeat through the stringency. He was one of the first producers to line up for the Hong Kong Wine Show a couple of years ago by the Indian Grape Processing Board and one sees his people pouring enthusiastically at various wine fests. A few of foreign journalists who visited the winery a couple of years ago on the recommendations of Indian Wine Academy swore by the winery and loved the wines and their quality.

Despite the pessimist trade unwilling to speculate and give a thumbs up to a big jump in the sales of wines needed for the sustenance of Chateau d’Ori, it is likely to hit the sustainable levels soon. Sales have been quite encouraging, according to Ranjit who was nice enough to call back as he had just returned from the hospital.

Production, marketing, finances, the usual constraints will play the spoil sport in his quest for growth. But his commitment to quality will also play a positive role besides his passion and undying determination to make it happen in the Indian industry. He is one of the few Indian producers who openly favour the government reducing import custom duties so that the Indian producers are obliged to improve their quality and compete with the cheap foreign imports.

Hardware is no good without software, as they said in the IT industry and almost in every industry now. Ranjit is surely aware of that. But a winery of the style and standard he constructed is not being utilized completely yet. Perhaps a strategic alignment with some existing producer, marketer or even a foreign producer with enough ‘software’ could be an answer to jump start Ch d’Ori from where it fell off track in its plans and targets.

It appears the d’Ori story is still interesting and exciting. It needs the click of Ctrl-Alt-Del by Ranjit Dhuru now that he is up and around and he must get ready to write further chapters of a story which has not gone awry so far.

Tomorrow may be another story.

Subhash Arora

Comments:

 
 

Pradeep Nair Says:

Interesting reading that Ch d'Ori is in its declining phase. Since being passionate about starting a winery unit in Southern India, would you suggest some contacts from where i can source the machineries for setting up the unit or dismantling set up loss making units. Thanks n Regards, Pradeep Nair

Posted @ October 31, 2011 15:60

 

Subhash Arora Says:

Dear Raj, Thanks for your comments. Since we promote wine only, your comment has been posted after editing. I hope you dont mind. It is important point to note that the brand has a good recall value. Subhash Arora

Posted @ March 28, 2011 12:52

 

Rajesh Shahani Says:

As a brand it has a good recall

Posted @ March 28, 2011 12:50

 

Gul M Says:

Being an NRI returned. I have to tell you that I have been a regular drinker of Chateau d'Ori wines and buying the same from Godrej Nature's Basket Stores, (as the prices from their is better). Their quality has been consistent year after year and it is sad to hear that they are facing such difficulties. Wish government (State & Central) do something and quick to revive this industry. Maybe they should approach Airlines in India and give them at better prices as this would help get their brands known and help create a bigger customer base. They should also try to increase their PR, by arranging trips to their vineyards with lunch or dinner with stay. Indian Wine Consumer is very important for the Vineyards to succeed, at the same time all the consumers cannot pay the high prices (It could be because of Taxes, Exicse or Profits) we should have wines ranging from Low to High.If we need to increase the customer base. - Gul

Posted @ March 25, 2011 12:17

 

Rajiv Seth Says:

Dear Mr. Arora In the recent past many industries have got a packeged deal. Aviation industry is one such example and kingfisher was one of the benifishries. if Aviation industry can get some relief I dont think why governament will have a second thought on Wine industry.After all we all know EU wine industry has been getting such deal packeges for years now then why not our poor farmers for what ever reasons.

Posted @ March 08, 2011 10:52

 

B.Shankaranarayan Says:

Wineries need to participate in wine tasting festivals to reach out to the consumer. Strangely, Chateau d'Ori has kept away from the biggest festivals(Pune & Bandra). How on earth will people buy their wine if they cannot taste it?

Posted @ March 08, 2011 10:47

 

Subhash Arora Says:

My sympathies are completely with the vine growers and wine makers and I agree that part of the failure is due to lack of marketing strength. For years, I have emphasisedand advocated that wine is like any other business where brand building, quality, pricing and other parameters are important. But unfortunately the enterprising farmers and producers were lured by the cost of Rs.60-70 a liter and sales price of Rs.400 a bottle- with immense profitability. To them all it meant was getting the grapes, fermenting them and pocketing the profits-sans the marketing skills required. Some got lured by their compatriots buying wine in bulk at Rs.30 a liter and making windfall profits. But don't forget that failure of Indage was not due to lack of marketing skills. Sula and Grover went about the job with passion that matches anyone else that I know of, but when Grover lost the whole year's production due to a small technical problem a couple of years ago, should the government have bailed them out? If Ch d'Ori makes a winery but cannot find enough market for its wine, should the government buy the winery from them or forgo the loans? I think not. Neither do they, I am sure. We may blame the government for some antiquated policies and archaic procedures but it would be counter-productive to blame them for a liberal and easier winemaking policy. The fact is that it is a greenfield industry and many are lured into it without adequate business skills-the slower than expected growth is no help either. But I think there are wine giants already in the making. Yes, the government must give a sympathetic look like restructuring the loans and perhaps allowing them a one-off opportunity to convert the wine in the tank into alcohol. The IGPB should be equipped to give a stronger helping hand to promote their wines. Subhash Arora    

Posted @ March 07, 2011 10:26

 

Rajiv Seth Says:

Dear Mr. Arora, As wine is a buissness of passionate people and some times pure finacial calculations does'nt work here.Unfortunately for Indian wine industry barring a few almost all wineries are at a brink of collepse due to Finacial difficulties. One of the major handicap of almost all small wineries here is the lack of marketing skills.Offcource govt.policies have played a big role for this mess.It is high time the indutry leaders should raise a voice in demanding a big financial package for either debt restructuring for all wineries facing difficulties or if possible a complete debt write off plans. Otherwise this mess is going to become deeper and deeper.- Rajiv seth

Posted @ March 05, 2011 10:24

 

Dan Traucki- Wine Assist Says:

Providing that the Chateau d'Ori wines are of good quality (I have not had the opportunity to taste them as yet), Indians should actively support such a venture by buying and drinking their wines, as it is only through visionaries such as Ranjit Dhuru that India will be able establish itself as one of the great wine producing countries of the world. Australia's rise to international recognition and fame started about 50 years ago when a few visionaries started to make good quality table wines instead of the then hugely popular fortified wines. People like Maurice O'Shea,Max Schubert(who created Penfolds Grange), Colin Preece etc.If they had not been supported by Australians prepared to buy their wines, Australia's world wine ranking today would be more akin to India's current ranking. Therefore whilst trying good imported wines, it is important for India's wine future that you support your nation's wine visionaries. Cheers Dan Traucki

Posted @ March 05, 2011 10:20

 

Siyamalan Says:

OMG! its really shocking to read as I strongly believed that Ch d'Ori will be fore-runner among Quality wine-makers in India.

Posted @ March 02, 2011 15:05

 
       

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