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Posted: Saturday, 18 August 2018 11:18

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Grover Zampa plans Ambitious Growth from Bangalore to Burgundy

Aug 18: Grover Zampa Vineyards, the second largest Indian wine producer based in Bangalore and Nashik, plans to grow at a much faster pace with new investments and making different alliances, writes Subhash Arora who chatted with Vivek Chandramohan who was promoted from COO to the CEO position in April this year and was in Delhi to meet the trade and journalists and share some of the vision of the current Board of Directors, keeping in mind that they wanted to stay premium wine producer only

The plans include a brand new State-of-the-art winery in Bangalore for which the land is in the process of being acquired and partnering with the financially troubled Charosa which has developed a stellar market for high quality wine at reasonable prices. They are also partnering in the historic winery Château d ‘Etroyes in Mercurey, Burgundy bought by their French partners, among other plans that focus on wine tourism, an area that has been relatively weak so far despite their being the oldest wine producer in India.

Vivek was not comfortable talking about investments in the Four Seasons Winery which has been doing the rounds, as the grapevine has it. There was a talk once about Alpine Winery also being a part of GZV but that has been now ruled out with the owners apparently planning to convert the lands into a real estate project.

Meet the CEO Vivek Chandramohan

Vivek Chandramohan hosted a dinner at Kofuku Restaurant Delhi where 4 of its premium wines were served to the small group of journalists invited to welcome him for the first time in Delhi  since he took over the reins of the company as CEO after Sumedh Singh Mandla left in November last year to join back Aspri Spirits. A product of   Bishop Cotton and Baldwin College Bangalore, he held various positions in non-wine alcobev industries before joining Grover Zampa Vineyards (GZV) in May 2012  as National Sales Manager- shortly after Grover had severed its relationship with Brindco; marketing was in shambles and the sales came tumbling down. ‘In fact, my first few meetings with the distributors were horrific, with all of them overstocked and wanting to have nothing to do with Grover Zampa,’ he says ruefully. He was promoted to VP Sales in 2015 for his performance.

In 6 years, with his starting from nadir of 40,000 cases sale after peaking at around 90,000 cases and no data or history of the consumers left by Brindco, the erstwhile marketing partner and despite perennial cash flow problems, he has managed the sale of 115,000 cases of premium wines and over 75,000 cases of ‘port’ wine last year, still way behind the million case mark that Sula crossed during the same period of 2017-18. “Unless we have sale of half a million cases, it’s no fun doing wine business,’ he says, indicating the internal plans of the second biggest wine producer.

He expects a growth of over 50% this year, partially due to new investment through Ravi Viswanathan’s group which has reportedly committed Rs. 150 crores, making his investment PE Company Visvires play a major role in GVZ expansion. A substantial part of the commitment has already flown in the umbrella company Grover Zampa Vineyards (GZV)

Wider Export markets

Vivek expects efforts in exports to intensify with Sumit Jaiswal, Head of Marketing and Exports, given the additional charge of exports. Last year’s export of 18,000 cases might see an increase to 22-24,000 cases this year, he feels. 4 new countries have already been added- Poland, Finland where they have recently won a tender in the local Monopoly, Norway and Singapore. Hungary will be a part of the export portfolio soon. Dubai has been a bit of a laggard but efforts are being made to increase sales there.

The sale of super-premium wines is also on the increase in the domestic market. ‘Chene’ sales doubled last year in Mumbai with similar results in Delhi. Sale of Insignia, the most expensive Indian wine- a shiraz selling at Rs. 6,000 a magnum and 3,000 for a regular bottle added last year, touched 600 bottles last year, compared to the 300 bottles when it was launched a couple of years ago.

Charosa pe bharosa

One of the milestones achieved by GZV is the finalisation of a deal with Charosa that will give it full control of operations of the winery and a gradual change of ownership over the next few years. Being near Nashik will help it streamline the operations with extra production capacity available. The Nashik winery will become a boutique winery with Art Series production shifted to Charosa, says Vivek. Charosa labels will become a part of GZV’s portfolio and will also give them wines in the price range of Rs. 1000-1200, which is not there at the moment.

The grapevine has it that talks are on with Four Seasons also for a similar deal with Diageo but Vivek neither confirmed nor denied it. But with money in their pocket, one has to wait to find out what happens. Ravi Viswanathan, the Singapore based Indian managing the PE Fund Visvires and a serious investor in both GZV and Sula, has been in touch with the ailing wineries for several years and is a firm believer in the future of the Indian wine industry.

Château d’ Etroyes in Burgundy

The Labruyere Family with interests in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, had invested in GZV a couple of years ago through Visvires and Edouard Labruyere is already on the Board. Visvires has bought a 400 year old Domaine Protheau  in Mercurey in Côte Chalonnaise in South Burgundy-renamed as Château d’Etroyes, acquired in March this year will have GZV and Labruyere as partners. The winery plans to create La Reserve de Bourgogne, a label named after its world famous La Reserve brand and will export wines to India and the countries where GZV is already exporting wines.

Wine tourism

GZV has been a known laggard in this area,  due to paucity of funds and a different vision of the management. Plans to make a boutique hotel at the Nashik winery have not fructified so far despite their serious talks with the government authorities and a few hotels interested in joint collaboration. But it is very much a part of future plans, admits Vivek.

The tourism focus will be on the proposed new winery in Bangalore. The existing winery in Bangalore will have a La Reserve Lounge for wine tourists. Nashik will remain low-key in this area though. The management is of the serious belief that they are wine producers and not a food company, so they seem to be averse to expanding in that area unlike Sula and now its neighbour Somanda which is coming up fast as a wine tourism destination, overtaking York in the process.

La Reserve Aged sparkler

One of the new labels to come out is an aged sparkling wine, where the base wine will be fermented in oak and aged on lees in the bottle for a longer period. GZV hopes to be a pioneer in this area as well.

Making amends

Grover Zampa Vineyards had a golden opportunity to take the lead as an Indian wine producer in 2008-2009 when Indage Vintners went under but due to financial constraints and the management philosophy to stay with premium products only, this initiative to become the biggest wine producer was lost to Sula which quickly grabbed the opportunity by filling in the gaps left by Indage and took a massive lead by pumping in more money and increasing production and capturing the market.

GZV appears to be a sleeping giant waking up to show the world that it is still the giant. Vivek Chandramohan hopes to be a part of the change it plans to bring in. It is a good sign for the onward march by the Indian wine industry and a slap in the face of those who believe the Indian wine industry is in a bad shape.

Subhash Arora

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