IndianWine.com chats up with Viral Pancholia, CEO (Chief Evolution Officer) Mercury Winery Pvt. Ltd. ...
1. Please tell us about your education and background...
MBA from UK , and a professional background in banking, with expertise in strategic management & marketing.
2. Where did you pick up the interest in wine?
The passion for wine runs in the family! I got interested in wine through my grandparents interest in them. IT has been three generations of family interest. In my grandparents era, when wine was certainly not a common commodity, to my surprise, we had French Wine at home. This was pre-Independence India.
How I wish that had he kept some bottles from that period, I would have certainly been a known face in at the auction houses! :-)
My parents too are highly passionate about what wines they drink and this is how I got into wines as well! Not to mention my underage wine-tasting!
Later the passion grew as I've been travelling around the globe and meeting people. It may sound surprising but until I ventured into my own winery project I had never really tried Indian Wines. Even as I travelled I heard no mention of Indian wines. And if I discussed them I was greeted by surprised faces. Indian Beers - certainly Cheers ! But people don't generally imagine wines from India. Believe me, this notion has not changed yet.
3. What made you begin Mercury Winery Pvt. Ltd.?
The concept behind Mercury Winery came up over a dinner discussion when my parents & myself were at our farms in Nashik, surrounded by vineyards and enjoying Cloudy Bay (Sauvignon). In the green setting, we naturally questioned ourselves, 'why not create wines locally that would establish Incredible India, and which could also be one of the leading premium wine producers at par with wines from the New World? If we Indians have marked achievements globally in the fields IT, Automobiles, BPO, etc., then why not in Wines?'
We still have a long way to go, but the journey of a million miles begins with a single step! And from that day till now, in a span of two years, what Mercury Winery has achieved is certainly remarkable. This sounds very exciting but setting up the winery has not been a smooth ride by any accounts. But again it is the support from my parents and blessings from God, that has been with us in this venture.
This is how the passion of enjoying & appreciating fine wines, picked up from my grandparents and parents, got converted into passion for producing the finest & best wines from India!
It’s important to mention that I do take some premium wines as a benchmark. But, I would like to point out that it is quite wrong when people compare wines from different countries. Just as no two individuals are the same how can wines produced from two countries be the same! It is different people, soil, terroir, climate, etc. The idea should not be to compare wines, rather enjoy the flavours...
4. What is your role in your company?
CEO – Chief Evolution Office! Dare to challenge everything, apart from good taste.
5. How successful are you?
The term success or successful is very subjective. Well, our wines have received very positive comments for the first year vintage from International Wine Experts & Wine gurus! Apart from that I believe we are the first winery in our country to have won Decanter Worldwide Awards in its first vintage. Which means, the credit goes to my team at Mercury Winery.
When I see our Mercury Winery from India recognised as a premium wine producer at par with other such in the new world, that would mean 'success' for our India & me. This is only possible if we keep trying to achieve better quality year after year at Mercury Winery and let the quality speak for itself !
5. What are Mercury Winery's plans for marketing and introducing new products?
We are promoting our wines aggressively in European markets. It’s not an easy task when competing with wines from Europe as the price variance is very significant. The basic cost of raw material (wine-grapes) in India is far too high when compared with that of France or Australia. But again at Mercury Winery we don’t compromise on the quality of the wines we produce.
We are trying to gain foot in foreign markets and so far we would say it’s been a good experience.
As for the domestic market, our wines are currently selling in Mumbai and Pune region, and we are looking for distributors in other regions of India. We need to put in more marketing in North & South of India. Since, the hotel industry is booming in our country, trade is definitely interesting here. I do hope that in the near future different states have a unified policy on wine. That would boost the entire business working in Indian wines.
6. What is the response to your wines so far?
Until now we have been well accepted by the people in Mumbai & Pune who appreciate fine things in life and quality products. In terms of sales we see things moving in the positive direction. In terms of pricing we are priced in the medium segment -- Rs. 400-500 per bottle, which is, very well priced for the quality that we are currently offering.
7 Please tell us more about your company...
Our winery is well equipped with top facilities of international standards. Our winery has a built area of about 35,000 square feet, which makes it one of the biggest constructed wineries in the region.
We have strict quality controls from the raw material to the finished product stages. Maintaining hygiene in the entire process is our utmost priority. Currently we have the capacity of 200,000 litres, which can be expanded to five times its current capacity in the current setup. Our state of the art bottling line is equipped to bottle 2500 BPH -- completely automated and with on the line labelling. Our chilling plants run 24x7. We are particular that the cooling is not effected even during power cuts. Although the power bills are very high but again compromising on these things would have immediate effect on the quality of the wines.
8. What does the Indian Wine industry need to develop further?
India has a good potential to develop wines as the weather is also suitable to grow some good wine-grape varietals. What we see is that more trained human resource is required in our wine industry in all areas of the process. Right from qualified Viticulturists, Winery Managers, Wine Makers, Plant operators and experienced Sales people are all very limited in the current scenario. Since the demand is high the retention of the people is becoming vital.
Currently we do not have any good university or colleges, which are training people specifically to cater to this industry although there is a good number of trained people required.
In regards to the marketing what I see is that in the near future, specialized off-trade for exclusive sales of wine would be developed along with the retail boom we are experiencing and with the relaxed policy in Maharashtra for wine & beer. But again the logistic needs to be addressed. Currently there is no proper system in place to transport & store wines at correct temperatures across the nation and thus the wines which are excellent in wineries turn out to perform poorly when transported through different temperatures.
Finally there has to be a joint effort by wine producers & govt. bodies to promote the Indian Wine industry and build Brand India wines for the international platform.
At the national level, I would certainly like to see a unified policy across the country on duties and taxes as this would help our Indian wines' accessibility in all cities in India.
In the current scenario, I have been told that it is much simpler for importers to promote foreign wines in various states, than it is for Indian companies trying to sell its Indian products in different states of India.
for indianwine.com Venki