The Top Ten has been arrived after compiling a list of around 50 women living in India and active in the wine industry in some capacity. One of the criteria has been that those selected should have been contributing towards the industry for the last five years or more. If their sphere of work is not exclusive in wine, they should have been spending a majority of their time and efforts in the wine activities.
An effort has been made to keep a balance (the same key ingredient as in wine quality) in selecting women from different segments of wine- like winemaking, production, sales and markeing including export and import, restaurants and wine journalism keeping in view the international exposure, wine educational background, corporate or business experience.
The purpose of this Series of articles, the first ever of this kind in India, has been to highlight that the wine industry is not a male bastion. We need to encourage women to enter the industry and recognize them for their contribution in the increase of wine consumption. Wine may not still be a full time job for most women at this point of time. We have considered those with passion for wine and devoting a majority of their time to wine related activities. In most cases, the figures and facts have been taken to be the truth since they are given by the women-we assume that they are women of integrity.
Also, it being the maiden attempt, we have not kept the list in order of merit, but rather in alphabetic order. There is bound to be criticism but we have tried to be as objective as possible. The readers are welcome to send their suggestions and any glaring omissions – in fact we encourage and appreciate such inputs.
We are starting with Dharti Desai in this volume of delWine. We shall consolidate when all the ten have been listed, in one article.
WOW: Dharti Desai of FineWinesNMore
‘I am amazed at how my company is in the midst of all such inane rumors every few years,’ is the response when I asked Dharti Desai about what was happening to Fine Wines N More, the import company she had founded in 2006. “The previous year 2012-13 saw our highest sales of 8,000 cases from only 3,000 cases in the worst year 2010! We are present in six states." Climbing slowly and steadily in the initial years, she has had a setback due to the recession and the sales had plummeted to 3000 cases, making people speculate that she was getting out of the wine import business.
Wine has been her passion before it became business for Dharti, who has been managing a Direct Marketing business in New York for a few years. During her visit to India in 1996 she decided to start the same with the help of the family she founded Regency Direct Marketing (RDM) in 1997. With an eye on the print business, Mail Order Solutions (MOS) was born-today it is printing and distributing for clients in the DM industry in 20 countries. She has sales offices in New York and Vancouver.
In early 2006, she started thinking of her original love for wines and feeling that the time was right for India, did some research and founded FWM with her brother. The challenges were plenty and she learnt quickly that she needed to invest more. Being a hands-on person, she went about learning every aspect of the wine business starting from the complicated imports structure, supply chain, licensing, excise, pricing structure, costs cards, octroi etc. Admitting to having made several mistakes she says she made some good decisions like hiring Craig Wedge and associating with fine institutions like American Express Platinum and opening their own wholesale and retail trades.
Dharti is a single mom who found it tough to be an entrepreneur. ‘When I was alone in NY I had to drag my daughter along to my meetings and on my travels as well but thanks to the family support and the resources from both RDM and MOS, I have been able to leverage well.’ Even though the struggles are still many in FWM and will be there for some time, I am continually learning and we are constantly fine tuning our business strategy.'
I cringe when I see quality wines parked on a dock for days with 40 degrees temperatures because of some ridiculous regulation. Working with wines like Caliterra, Sileni, Chapoutier, De Bortoli, Bava and Zardetto, she imports smaller quantities so she doesn’t have to deal with wines being stuck in bonds at customs warehouses. She has initiated several wine events and has co-created with blue chip brands like American Express Platinum
Dharti is a trooper who is neither bitter nor willing to quit despite the hiccups and is very optimistic about the future of the wine business.
Tags: Indian wine industry, Top Ten Women of Wine in India, WOW, Dharti Desai, Fine Wines N More, Craig Wedge