In high spirits: These 5 women are making their mark in the alcobev industry
The vibrant alcobev scene in India is seeing a number of women at the helm. As brewers, blenders, and entrepreneurs, this is another male bastion women have broken to reach the top. Their participation in diverse functions such as marketers, consultants, and CFOs makes the alcobev space, an exciting place.
Here are five women who are disrupting the industry with their work and ideas.
Lalithabai, United Breweries
After completing her microbiology course and putting in a stint in a hospital, Lalithabai’s move to the alcobev space was quite unconventional. But she’s quick to point out that it’s not quite removed from her area of expertise.
As a microbiologist, Lalithabai was intrigued by the science behind making beer. At UBL, she started by learning about the overall brewery laboratory setup and analytical techniques in brewing. She was then promoted to senior microbiologist, taking charge of the laboratory, and subsequently promoted to Quality Assurance Manager.
As a quality assurance manager, Lalitha supervises several processes across different stages —from receiving raw materials to dispatching the final product.
Vaniitha Jain, The Perfect Pour
Mumbai-based Vaniitha Jaiin is founder of wine, spirits, and lifestyle consulting firm The Perfect Pour.
One of the few trained alcohol aficionados in India, Vaniitha has worked with industry players like the Suntory Whiskey group in Japan, the Four Seasons Hotel, and the Taj Chambers. She has collaborated with brands by mixing exciting flavours - whiskey with coconut water, and whiskey with green tea - to familiarise Indians with signature flavours from around the world.
As a consultant, she also works on educational training, wine and spirit-based bespoke experiences, advice on building importer portfolio strategy, brand management, designing food and beverage programmes, and the curation of drink menus for a variety of events and experiences.
Sonal Holland, Master of Wine
Sonal Holland is India’s first and only Master of Wine, a coveted title in the world of wine. She is also Founder of Sonal Holland Wine Academy, India’s first wine education institution; started the SoHo Wine Club; India Wine Awards; and Vine2Wine, a retail outlet business for wines.
She passed one of the “toughest exams in the world” to receive the title of ‘Master of Wine’ from the Institute of Master of Wine in London. Sonal has launched an online course, 60 Minutes Wine Pro, for wine enthusiasts and hospitality professionals. The SoHo Wine Club is a consumer led platform that organises host tasting events, dinners, and experiences for lovers of wine.
Julieann Fernandes, Master Blender
At 30, Julieann Fernandes is one of the youngest master blenders in the world. She works with the Distell Group where she oversees the portfolio of distilleries to help produce some of Scotland’s finest award-winning whiskies. Recently, she led the creation of 25 limited-edition whiskies and two additions to the core range of Bunnahabhain, Tobermory, Ledaig, and Deanston malts, as well as Black Bottle and Scottish Leader blends.
Julieann has worked on Scottish Leader Original, an award-winning blended scotch whisky. This is currently being introduced to the Indian market by Aspri Spirits and Distell Group.
Varna Bhat, Blisswater Industries
A serial entrepreneur, Varna Bhat started Blisswater Industries and launched Rahasya, a truly Indian vodka in December 2020.
In an interview with HerStory, Varna said that the team sources the highest quality of grain and raw materials for the vodka.
“The bigger time spent was on creating the secret sauce, as that’s what makes Rahasya. There are very few people in the organisation who know what that secret sauce is,” Varna says. This ‘secret sauce’ is made separately and sent to the units. It then is infused in the vodka and rested for 35 to 40 days, after which it goes into bottling.”
Being a Goan, Varna says it was easy for her to find the right partners for distilling and bottling.
Edited by Teja Lele