The One Stop Wine Shop
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Synonymity is possibly the greatest aspiration for any brand and when it comes to Indian made wine, Sula is easily the foremost vinery which occurs to one's mind. Dominating both the market for domestic wine as well as imported wine, Sula in its short fifteen year run has managed to refine a slice of the Indian consumer's palette and plant the seeds of a possible threat to the seemingly invincible spirits business.
BW | Businessworld talked with the brand's VP of interntional business and public communications, Cecilia Oldne.
Oldne played a vital role in building the wine maker's international portfolio and its presence in 30 countries. She, however tells BW, "India is our top priority and that will continue being our focus," despite Sula's growing popularity abroad among the Brits (their largest international market), the quality conscious Japanese and the Americans.
Rather than focusing on exports as a strong revenue base, Oldne says that the reason for their importance is "to build a true global brand." This month they are launching in Jamaica and Australia is next up on the calendar.
When asked about the reason for Sula's success, she says thanks to the sheer number of offerings the company has, not just in terms of alcohol, but things that create a holistic experience, something intrinsic to the very nature of wine drinking.
"What has happened to Sula as a wine producer and a wine importer is that we have become a one stop shop for many because it is so convenient. We have the domestic wine brand in all different styles and imported Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, etc," says Oldne adding that their resort, tastings and internationally accredited courses all go a long way in building a wine culture and expanding their consumer base among those seeking an experience. Testimonial to this is the fact that their Nasik vineries had over 2,50,000 visitors last year and are gearing up for an even bigger boom this year.
The only possible complaint that Oldne has is the industry-wide exasperation with the stringent government noose on advertising. She believes that it stops Sula from educating people about wine as a better and healthier alternative to hard liquor, something that is not beneficent to the consumer. In terms of marketing, this leaves tastings as the primary means of roping in new customers.
"There are many things that we could do, but there's not much that we can, when compared to other countries. So we talk about products, we're trying to reach out with the message of what we can do. The Sula music festival attracts about 15,000 people a year. We put a lot of effort into wine tourism- they can talk about Sula vineries, come visit them and then possibly be brand ambassadors for life", she says.
Another thing that is important in expanding the palattes for wine is being on the wine list of various establishments. Even more effective is when wine is served by the glass, something which encourages people to try it. Oldne believes that if this happens wine sales will automatically jump and "everyone will be happy-- the customer, the outlet and Sula".
On a parting note, being a trained sommelier, she suggests pairing palak paneer with Sauvignon Blanc and gulab jamun with Sula's Chenin Blanc.
(Sula will be launching their premium limited edition 2013 Rasa Cabernet Sauvignon in Delhi. A mere 700 cases are expected to hit the market this August.)