[100 Emerging Women Leaders] From an IAS aspirant to brewing vodka, meet Goa-based entrepreneur Varna Bhat
In this feature of 100 Emerging Women Leaders, we feature Varna Bhat. The Goa-based entrepreneur is the founder of Blisswater Industries, which makes Rahasya — an Indian vodka drink.
Varna Bhat is no stranger to starting up. She had founded RapidStall, an eco-friendly fabric branding company, and Tessarakt Experiential — a marketing, events, and creative house.
Once, a conversation with a friend got her thinking of the alco-beverage space, and she realised that India hardly had a signature drink.
This led her to start Blisswater Industries and a truly Indian vodka, Rahasya, in December 2020. Produced in Goa, the sippable vodka is priced at Rs 850 for a 750 ml bottle in the Goan market.
Varna says her venture into branding and entrepreneurship was serendipitous. With an aspiration to be an IAS officer, Varna was also the batch topper and had started working at the age of 18.
Varna had already learnt to do several jobs, including writing a PhD thesis and selling SIM cards, while earning an MBA degree.
“We were creating a course for creative sciences, and I got into the world of marketing and branding. That was the foundation of building my first startup,” says Varna.
While studying for her civil service exams, she was working at an organisation that had mentors from the branding world.
A journey of starting up
On the job, she spoke to several branding executives before founding RapidStall in 2012. The company made eco-friendly fabric branding, manufactured in Bengaluru, and had sales offices in Delhi and Mumbai. It also had manufacturing and sales divisions in Dubai for the Middle Eastern market.
A few years after RapidStall, she launched Tessarakt Experiential, which is still functioning strong. However, she also wanted to start in the alcohol beverage space.
“There were obviously naysayers and the usual ones with the prejudice of why I am choosing this segment. It wasn’t a good spot to be in for women…,” recollects Varna.
While Blisswater Industries was set to begin work and launch Rahasya in May 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns derailed its plans.
It took time to continue building the brand, and Rahasya was finally launched in December 2020. In fact, Varna ensured the team was ready with plans for the next year.
“I travelled across the length and breadth of the country to discover the right ingredients. Fortunately for me, hailing from Goa, and finding the right manufacturing facility wasn’t a challenge,” says Varna.
The market for homemade distilleries and breweries is growing with the presence of companies like Bira, White Owl, Makazia, and several others.
According to Goldstein Market Intelligence, the Indian alcoholic beverages market will grow at a CAGR of 7.4 percent between 2017 and 2030 to reach $39.7. billion.
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Edited by Suman Singh