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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Wednesday, 12 May 2010 16:58

Corny Approach to Promoting Wines

Rahul Mhaske, a Pune-based mechanical engineer who left his profession to grow strawberry and then become king of the corn is hoping to replicate his success formula with the vineyards in Maharashtra according to a newspaper report.

“The wine industry’s challenge is marketing,” says the 39-year Mhaske. “Farmers are destroying their vineyards due to the slowdown in the industry. Being a farmer’s son, I want to take up this challenge.” He is confident his strategy will click very well and bring good sales.  He plans to market wine as a common man’s drink unlike other wineries which he feels, sell it as an indulgence of the rich.

When corn could become a standard in the restaurant menu, why not wine-he questions?. Disagreeing with today’s marketing strategy, which includes organising events like wine festivals, which according to ET, he says, are lifted from Western culture,  he plans to show the common people that wine goes well with Indian food like dal-roti or chicken curry and rice.,”

If this plan clicks, Mhaske will open a chain of restaurants serving regional food with wine. He claims to be working on convincing the government to remove restrictions on the online purchase of wine which will make it possible for people in the interiors to order wine.

His father had started strawberry cultivation after quitting his construction business, which Mhaske decided to join. His brush with sweet corn was coincidental. Now he is the largest supplier of frozen sweet corn in India. 

The challenge now is to repeat the success in wine. He has set up a restaurant which will serve Maharashtran dishes with wine, and is awaiting the license. But unlike corn, he is not an early entrant in wine. The industry has gone through a cycle and is in rough shape. Like in many other industries, the demand did not match the forecasts. This has already led to the collapse of many in the industry.

But he believes he could succeed the way he did with popularizing sweet corn, with his idea of promoting wine with Indian food. Making Pune the corn capital was easier as he began from scratch, but in wine he has to clean up the mess before constructing a new building.

The idea of matching Indian food with wine is not new. Wineries from Latour to Laroche have been trying to change the culture. When the big city boys have not yet imbibed it with food despite the festivals he says are a western concept that won’t work in India, it would be most curious to see the denizens of Maharashtra take to wine like water. Apparently, he is not aware of the laws and unless he has direct-not media, access to the powers that be, online selling is not going to be allowed in the near future. Hundreds of retailers are sitting with their business models in place to sell their wine online!

At any rate Mhaske would have done a yeoman’s service if he can change the DNA of the locals of Maharashtra and make them drink wine with dal-roti and chicken rice. It might be easier to convert them into eating pizza with a Grillo or Nero d’Avola made in Maharashtra. But one must wish him luck. After all, he is no rookie at doing business. One of the key problems haunting Maharashtra has been the marketing and any experiment in that area should be welcome.- editor


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