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Delhi Wine Club
Mixed Response to Indian Participation at London Wine Show

Posted: Saturday, 15 June 2013 13:37

Mixed Response to Indian Participation at London Wine Show

June 15: A follow-up on an earlier article about the Muted Participation by Indian producers when there was a drop of 50% in the exhibitors, indicates that the participation at the whole Show was muted, with the exhibitors down by 25% at the Show and the very existence of LWIF questioned by experts, writes Subhash Arora who received a mixed response from the Indian participants and organisers

Veral Pancholia, owner of Mercury Wines Pvt. Ltd. in Ozar near Nashik, is a veteran of wine shows and a keen participant and medal winner in various international wine competitions. A sincere and passionate small wine producer, he has invested in the Show with mixed feelings about the results. That he has not been able to find a distributor despite taking part 2-3 times, may be a testimony to the fact that the UK market is tough (who doesn’t know it already!) and that ‘they are looking for cheap wines costing less than £2 which are impossible to sell from India.’

On lower participation, he said, ‘surprisingly, all the other big participants of previous years like Sula, Grover and Four Seasons were missing. Perhaps, they have found distributors and were not interested. Taking part in the Show is not cheap, you see, despite the subsidized Rs.50,000 we pay for a 9 sq. mt. stand. That is only an open space that needs to be covered and is expensive. Because of late information from APEDA and IGPB, I had to shell out Rs.100,000 for wines alone!’

But Mercury has a big positive in his pocket after the Show which ‘had an interesting feature wherein the participants were invited to carry their bottles to the Tesco buyers on May 22 and 23 for tasting. I submitted my wines and today only I received a letter from them that they have approved my white wine,’ he told delWine a few days ago.

Capt. Sanjay Gahlot, CEO of the IGPB told delWine that the Show was a joint effort of IGPB and APEDA. Denying that IGPB/APEDA had informed the producers late, he said that a general letter of information had gone out to all the producer members of IGPB that there would definitely be participation by IGPB. ‘But perhaps the permission from the government came late to APEDA and the participants had only about a month to prepare and ship their wines.’

APEDA did in fact take time to confirm participation, concedes Sunil Kumar, General Manager of APEDA. ‘Unfortunately, our system is such that we have to take various permissions and that takes time,’ ruing the fact that ‘there were producers who were still willing to come at the last minute if we made the participation free. We feel they must contribute something to feel a part of the event,’ said Kumar.

The stands are justifiably not free but highly subsidized. Out of a total area of 54 sq mt, 9 sq. mt. is sold for around 40% of the cost, at Rs. 50,000. In a sharp contrast to Mercury Winery, Krishna Prasad, owner of the boutique winery Krsma (name derived as synthesis of Krishan and wife Uma and has nothing to with miracles) Wines in Hyderabad with vineyards in Karnataka was upset that he could not get sufficient space. ‘To conduct my business properly I need a minimum of 30 sq mt of independent space where my potential clients can come and sit down and taste. After several follow ups and requests I was given only 18 sq. mt,’ said the owner of the mega pharmaceutical company Granules India Ltd with an annual turnover of over Rs. 6 billion. As Kumar confirmed, his stand was the biggest crowd puller out of the five stands under the Indian banner-including an IGPB/APEDA stand.

Unlike Mercury, struggling to find right buyers at £3-4 a bottle, who are looking at £2-2.50 a bottle in competition with the cheaper Chilean and Argentinean wines, Krsma has adopted a different strategy altogether. While both make good quality wines, Krsma has been able to convince the world about the cellaring potential and complexity of his wines. A well-travelled wine connoisseur and a collector, he believes in taking the high road to enter the wine market.

 ‘People loved my wine and asked me the price.  I countered by asking them how much they thought they could sell it for. I told them they would get their fair share of margins; I should get mine. I had different people tell me that my wines could be sold in the restaurants for anywhere between £35-60 and even £70.’ It sounds ambitious, but if he can pull it off, it would not only be a real Karishma (miracle) but it would also bring the status of the Indian industry multiple notches up. With deep pockets and a penchant for quality (he is one of the few Indian producers who admits to experimenting and learning as he goes along) he did not mince words when he told me ‘the UK market is not sophisticated enough. In the US, my wine has been extremely appreciated as they understand wines.’

Though Mercury and Krsma have different market strategy, both Pancholia and Prasad were highly appreciative of the efforts and personal interests taken by Capt. Gahlot and Sunil Kumar. 'They were catching hold of journalists and other important people to visit our stands and taste  wines. This is not normal for the government people who are totally disinterested in the proceedings,' says Veral. Capt. Gahlot, who also took the opportunity to talk about the Wine Laws that were drafted by the IGPB who are supposedly in high gear to see the implementation, was modest when he said that was part of the job. Kumar was a bit more vociferous and said that it was in their mandate to promote wine exports as a part of the food products and so they were more than keen to promote Brand India.

Would they be taking part in the London wine show next year, I ask Sunil Kumar. ‘I am afraid I cannot answer the question right now. We will make our programme for next year’s participation in September –October and then submit to the ministry.’ As you might guess, by the time permission comes, the good slots would have gone and Indians would be landed with a not-great-spot as has been happening for many years. In most shows the regular participants, book for the next year at the same stand and make some advance payments!

Fratelli was one of the four wineries participating. Last year they were not a part of the India pavilion as their importer was exhibiting too, according to Alessio Secci, the Italy based partner. This year the UK distributor did not participate but wanted to be a part of showcasing Fratelli wines. Echoing the sentiments of Pancholia, he says, ‘LIWF was very different from previous years. There was much less number of booths, especially from UK importers who for the very first year have decided not to participate.’

Alessio was quick to add that it was still interesting to be present at London. ‘I have had a meeting for a project for the UK market; so definitely worth being there. Indian booth was ok, and talking with some of the visitors was satisfactory.’ Leaving most of the booth management to their distributor, Alessio indicated that they were not sure whether they would be a part of the next year’s show. 'We will take the call later but we already have a distributor in UK, who already organizes an annual tasting; we will take a decision together,’ he said.

Dr. J P Gupta, MD of Nirvana Biosys making Luca wines from imported grape juice and fruit wines and recently, herbal wines, appears to be satisfied with the Show. ‘This time I found a greater interest from importers and distributors in Indian wines. Most showed interest in our Lychee, Mango and Herbal wines. They liked the taste and were keen to know how they could be available in U.K.’ says Dr. Gupta who is quite excited that ‘Tesco approved our Lychee, Mango and Vermouth (Sweet) Wine in their third level of screening. We had offered them 4 wines– Lychee, Mango, ‘SHE’ (sparkling Rosé) and Vermouth but ‘SHE’ was not accepted due to its colour.’

An interesting observation made by Pancholia was that there were far more visitors from Asia (to the Indian pavilion). Despite local Indian sounding brands like Namaste, Taj Mahal etc who simply import Chilean or Argentine bulk wines and put their stamp giving an Indian look to the label, people are now actually willing to buy wine from India and were discussing the possibility with us .’

For the record, Indian Wine Academy was historically the first in India to convince Indian producers to exhibit collectively  under the ‘Wines of India’ banner  and the tricolor and who participated in an international wine show - Wines for Asia in Singapore in 2005. Barring perhaps Mercury, none of the other participants even existed back then. This feat was repeated later only in 2008 when Indian Grape Processing Board organised it in 2008 at Hong Kong.

Next year’s Show in any case may have a different flavour. It is moving to the inner city-Olympia-as the participation has been going down from foreign participants; ‘there was an estimated drop of 25% in attendance and perhaps a lot more in terms of space,’ writes the noted UK writer Tim Atkin. Raju Mehtani, a London-based member of the Delhi Wine Club, has been a regular visitor for many years. ‘This year it was lackluster. Many of the big international stands were missing. The Spirit pavilion had shrunk to barely a dozen participants sandwiched together in a cramped space. I went past the India stand too but there were not too many people and I just didn’t go inside. I doubt if I would visit next year,’

The Show has been declining for many years-especially since it moved 13 years ago to Ex-Cel, an expensive, out of city center but a professionally run venue, according to many. As well known author and writer Tim Atkin says, ‘notable absentees this year include Bibendum, Enotria, Liberty Wines as well as New Zealand, Australia, California and South Africa. With high-profile companies and generic bodies like that among the no-shows, the fair has become a rump of what it once was.’

The price of stand space in a recession, especially when compared with ProWein and Vinexpo, the dwindling visitor numbers and the sense that the organizers-Brintex-weren’t prepared to change a losing formula, were cited as reasons for the decline.

LIWF will return next year on Jun 2-4 as a national Show as LWF, at Olympia (@londonolympia) as a 3-day event and will open on a Monday. Brintex, the organizers, feel that attendance will be better as it opens on a working day. This would put IGPB and APEDA in a quandary about whether to take part or not. But the home work needs to start now-with the viewpoints of potential participants taken into consideration so that Brand India is at the frontline.

Subhash Arora

Tags: Mercury Wines, Nashik, Sula, Grover, Four Seasons, APEDA, IGPB, Krsma, Alessio Secci, LIWF, Fratelli, Nirvana Biosys, Wines of India,Tim Atkin, ProWein, Vinexpo



Subhash Arora Says:

Carrie, you are so right! I have seen PreWein gain strength every time. Unfortunately, London has been going down constantly, I feel and as you see is going to be called a National Show where perhaps the distributors will take part. Hong Kong and China because of the future will keep to be more important though for India China should be a distant desire. Subhash

Posted @ June 19, 2013 13:34


Carrie Jorgensen Says:

As a Portuguese wine producer, I find this very interesting to read the experience that other national producers have at this sort of international fairs. We have over the past 15 years been exhibitors at LIWTF, Vinexpo Bordeaux and Hong Kong, and Prowein, just to name some of the big fairs. Of the European venues, the only fair which we today find worth spending time and money on is Prowein, and Prowein alone! For the Asian venues, like Vinexpo Hong Kong and the upcoming Prowine Shanghai, we will continue to participate, knowing that these markets require patience and perseverance!

Posted @ June 19, 2013 13:10


Subhash Arora Says:

Aeisha, thanks for your comments. I believe in telling it like it is. But also, I am a great supporter of such Shows-for long term interests of good wine companies they are extremely important to participate in. The government (IGPB/APEDA) are very supportive of the industry. Fortunately, the two gentlemen at the top -Capt Gahlot and Sunil Kumar are very pro-active. Keep in touch with them to get the best out of the system. Good luck and hope to see your wines at such shows (decided where to take part, obviously) and international wine competitions. Subhash Arora

Posted @ June 17, 2013 12:54


Aeisha Sahni Says:

Great article Subhash, extremely informative. Gives us a better incite on whats happening at these shows for Indian producers. Thanks for sharing it.

Posted @ June 17, 2013 12:54


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