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Delhi Wine Club
CWG: Crying Wine Grouch

Posted: Wednesday, 06 October 2010 17:47

CWG: Crying Wine Grouch

Common Wealth Games began in Delhi on Sunday on a much better note than the media feared a month ago, but the Indian wine industry has missed a golden opportunity to showcase the wines that are supposed to rock the world within the next few CWG, writes Subhash Arora who claims no efforts were made from any quarter to promote Brand India in wines

This is in sharp contrast to the well established wine producing nation South Africa which hosted the mega World Cup only three months ago. There had been similar cries of shame by several citizens including opposition parties about the wasteful expenditure, corruption, inefficient execution of projects and many predicted a doomsday. At the end, they pulled off the event with great aplomb and the world cheered them for a job well done!

In preparation of the historical event, they had started wine promotion activities two years earlier. A campaign with Fundi wine- a specially created domestic label for wines which they sold and used the profits to promote wine as also to train sommeliers and wine waiters, was quite successful and was a focused attempt that will go a long way in promoting Brand South Africa for wines.

A chat with Jagdish Holkar, President of All India Producers’ Association confirmed my fears. ‘I know we as an industry are not doing any promotion. I don’t know much since I took over as the President from Mr Sham Chougule only a couple of months ago. But as you know that there are not too many producers marketing in Delhi. DelWine has already highlighted the excise problems several times.’

Excise complexities are the crux of the problem. This is crying shame that due to the rigid laws (we are not talking about the strict laws or dogmatic policies) the producers were not given a chance to showcase Brand India. During the opening ceremony of the games sarees, classical dancers, folk dancers and music was pan-India to project Brand India. In Delhi, the presence of just the few existing 3-4 producers to sell wines implies we did not showcase the full range of our wines and wineries and our capabilities.

I would blame the whole industry for this lethargy-All India Producers’ Association included. DelWine had been harping on this golden opportunity and I wrote several times about how it was slipping away slowly. One needed to lobby with the Delhi government which was having its own problems with the main project and wine promotion would be the last thing on their mind. One needed to take up the issue through proper and strong channels and reason with the excise department. All that was required was to convince the department to assess the situation fairly and allow tastings at various places where wine was already on the Menu. All the unregistered producers would still pay the excise duties on every bottle but could have been participants.

Excise would have had to be lenient in overlooking the Registration process and annual charges for a certain period, at those venues. As an example, the producers could have come with their wares and have the delegates, athletes and officials taste different wines at several venues as much as possible. They would have been happy to give the wines free of cost and even pay for the vend fees which even Mr Suresh Kalmadi could have otherwise paid from several heads of legit expenditure available to him.

While the producers may be blamed for selfish interests, Producers Association for inefficiency and being nonchalant, but the responsibility should equally be shared by the Indian Grape Processing Board. They are an apex body that should have twisted the hands of the FPI ministry, if needed and got the permissions from the Delhi government to ensure that the tastings took place. Indian industry has 20-30 serious and passionate producers and they should have all been showcased.  Apparently one tasting had been  tentative planned but somehow got shelved.

It is not that there is no wine available for the athletes. The games village has mercifully allowed wine and beer to be served. In fact, Sula, Grover and Nine Hills are already present there. Rajeev Samant, CEO of Sula confirms, ‘Sula is the preferred wine of the CWG athletes’ village and they have chosen our Chenin Blanc and Satori.’ Over a 100 cases of 5 labels of Sula have already found their way into the village besides Madeira for cooking. Nine Hills Chenin Blanc and Grover’s La Reserve have also been selected and a few cases of each have been already supplied. Interestingly, the contract for selection and wine supply has apparently been given to an Australian firm, in the true common wealth spirit. 

Wines from UB have not been involved in the selection process, apparently. Abhay Kewadkar, Head of UB’s Wine Division says, ‘to the best of my knowledge there were no special efforts made to promote Indian wines,’ adding, ‘however, we have made sure that we are well stocked and stacked in the duty free section at the new Terminal T-3 at the Indira Gandhi airport.’ UB has had an enviable position to be the only supplier of Indian wines at the duty free shop in Delhi and have made the most of it by organising a beautiful display before the competitors arrive on the scene.

The 5-star hotels in general are smiling because of the wines sales getting propped up along with the room occupancy. A general survey of three hotels indicated 95-100% occupancy with over 60% tourists being CWG related. Indian food is more in demand suddenly but Indian wines are not, says the spokesperson of a hotel, explaining, ‘our customers prefer to have Indian food but want imported wines-from their own country.’

This is another area where Indian wines could have been promoted by making sure that 5-star hotels were giving special offers on Indian wines, with a little help from the friendly tourism ministry which could have made sure that Indian wines got their due share of display, and at least we could send a proper signal that we not only win gold medals in commonwealth but are capable of winning Golds in our wines too. This may be  just a matter of time.

By missing out the opportunity India has perhaps pushed the clock behind by one Commonwealth Game-or two. This was an important step in learning how to walk in the world of wine where exports play a significant role.

Subhash Arora




Subhash Arora Says:

Thanks Omar. I am so envious of you guys. I was in Cape Town in August and the buzz created about South African wines at World Cup was amazing. Subhash

Posted @ October 11, 2010 15:40


Jardine Omar Says:

What a pity. An opportunity lost indeed! I for one, hosted many wine drinking South Africans in Delhi over the last week and was lost for words when asked about quality, availability, etc of Indian wines.

Posted @ October 11, 2010 15:30


Subhash Arora Says:

Coming from you, the compliment means a lot to me, Charles. Thanks very much. I appreciate it. Subhash

Posted @ October 08, 2010 16:45


Charles Metcalfe Says:

Dear Subhash, You are right. This has been an big opportunity missed for the Indian wine industry. The South Africans took maximum advantage of their hosting of the World Cup, both for visitors to their country, and evangelising in their export markets. Whether the blame lies with insufficient enterprise and energy from the bodies representing producers or the various Governmental organisations you are better placed than I to say. From an outside perspective, though, it has been an opportunity wasted.

Posted @ October 08, 2010 16:30


Subhash Arora Says:

Dear Rajiv, Unknown to many people new to the wine trade, Mr Sham Chougule is a man of great vision. It is a pity his company has got into rough weather. Twenty years ago he would have done what I suggested single-handedly! Be as it may, pamphlets are ok but only when you have a glass of wine in your hands. Without that, they are meaningless especially to people who are not in business and who just need to be given a good experience with indian wines so they can talk about it in a positive way to dozens of people they come across when they go back. And again, the main issue to tackle was convincing the authorities that this was not a promotion for sale in Delhi but showcasing INDIA in the name of which the government has apparently spent Rs.70,000 crores!! Subhash Arora

Posted @ October 07, 2010 16:00


Rajiv seth Says:

Dear Mr. ARORA At this stage I would like to inform the viewers that prior to the CWG, I was asked to prepare a feasibility report for showcasing Indian wines in CWG village by none other, than the Chairman of IGPB , Mr. Chougule himself. At that point I cited L-49C, as one of the hurdle in going ahead with the plan. Later he asked me to come up with more Ideas so the wines can be showcased, since it could have been a good opportunity. After a considerable thought I conveyed to the chairman that IGPB can pursue the wineries to design educational Leaflets, (NOT PROMOTIONAL since it is not permitted) highlighting Indian grape varietals, Indian wine with Indian food, Indian wine producing areas etc. Which can be placed in CWG venues and some of star hotels. But the plan could not take off probably because it was too late to react.

Posted @ October 07, 2010 15:30


Subhash Arora Says:

Rajiv and Gianender, As you have rightly gauged and I have written specifically, the crux of the problem is excise department. I am sure they have their reasons-Gandhian or otherwise, to behave in this seemingly illogical fashion- by framing new policies at a tardy pace and then making them complex and impossible to follow. But we all have to constantly persuade them. In specific cases like at CWG, they could have allowed the tastings from producers without registration-provided the excise duty per bottle was paid. They do allow it for many events where foreign producers come for exhibitions or special tastings. The role IGPB could have played was to convince and cajole the department to allow this- specifically for the CWG. It HAD to be through a wine producers’ Association or an organisation like IGPB, whose charter is to promote Indian wines. You and I cannot pressurize the government but they could. As I said, I am looking at the big picture- INDIA and not the commercial angle of procuring and providing wine at the venue from a couple of suppliers-which has been done and would have been done anyway-even if there had been only Golconda or Bosca as Indian wines. Look at the positive side- the powers that be have allowed serving wine at the venue! I wonder if it was done in Asiad ’82. Subhash Arora   

Posted @ October 07, 2010 14:50


Gianander Dua Says:

I complete agree with you Mr.Arora that the Indian Wine World has left the clock behind by one CWG, but if all you have written a simple step by the Indian Grape Board should have leverged all the wineary by alloting them One single day to showcase there wines and taste with the Athletes would have not only given a differnt taste of the wines but also and equal oppertunity for the all the wines produceers to prve them selves at the International level. Pitty that there is no advise from so many legends in the wine board in India

Posted @ October 07, 2010 12:30


Rajiv Seth Says:

Dear Mr. Arora, Well said, you have raised an excellent point, on the other hand I will like to draw attention to some of most impractical rules which mindlessly being implemented by Delhi Excise department. Now consider this, Delhi Gazette part-4(finance) dated 12/4/2010 issued directives that License in the form of L-49C WILL BE GRANTED for liquor exhibitors for a fee of Rs.25000/- and other than this a vend fee may also be charged at the whims and fancy of the Excise commissioner, On top of that total no. of Brands and their quality shall also be approved by Excise commissioners, and last but not the least IMFL/IFL cannot be exhibited at all, and License fee is only valid for one event only. Now do you think that our wineries are capable of paying such hefty fees for just one event, consider CWG, where they will not be allowed to sell and only can display their Brands? Well I don’t think so. What is most amazing to me is that a no. of these stupid and mindlessly applied rules are routinely being disobeyed, may be in consideration of some underhand dealings. Take the case of Grant of L-56 License which is granted to Retail Vends of Foreign liquor and imported foreign liquor in shopping malls. If you go through these rules you will discover that it is mandatory for all the applicant that the proposed premises should be located 75 Meter away from (a) major educational institutions (b) Religious places (c) hospitals with 50 beds and above. Now I can cite a numerous places in Delhi where these regulations have simply been ignored. What was the interest? I am sure everybody understands

Posted @ October 07, 2010 10:55


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