Brews & Spirits

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Big boys can dance too: Hina Nagarajan

Big boys can dance too: Hina Nagarajan Brews&Spirits Expo 2022 was inaugurated by (R-L) Dr Umashankar, Excise Commissioner of West Bengal; Hina Nagarajan, Managing Director of Diageo India; Narayan Manepally, Chairman of the Advisory Committee for the Expo and Founder of Geist Brewing; and Pradeep Devaiah, Chairman and CEO, PDA Ventures, the organiser of the show.

Inaugural session sends out clarion call for collective collaboration to infuse energy for innovation and growth of the alcobev industry

The day-long conference at Brews&Spirits Expo-2022, with ‘Grain to Glass 3.0: Innovation for Disruption’ as its theme, was attended by more than 1,000 delegates from the industry, from within India and abroad.

In his welcome address, Narayan Manepally, Chairman of the Advisory Committee of Brews&Spirits Expo-2022, explained that after two successful editions of ‘Craft Drinks India’ it has been renamed to make the trade show more inclusive and to provide a platform for Indian entrepreneurs across product categories.

He added that the platform was bringing into the limelight new collaborations, processes and fresh combinations like gin and coffee, and ageing beer in whiskey or wine barrels.

Hina Nagarajan, Managing Director of Diageo India, delivered the special address. She said the theme of the 2022 Expo deeply resonated with her because India’s leading beverage company was doing business the right way.

On innovation, Hina noted that Diageo’s decisions on new launches are now backed by sharp consumer insights: they want newer experiences, are acutely aware about sustainability, and have strong sentiments for locally made products.

“Diageo has embraced Indian craft spirits, thereby giving the entire craft spirit ecosystem in India a welcome vote of confidence. It also means that innovation is not solely for small and mid-sized companies – the big boys can dance too!” she remarked.

Diageo has set up a platform for start-ups to support their development, nurturing and mentoring smaller alcobev companies. Its state-of-the-art R&D centre in Bengaluru has opened its doors to business entities to study various aspects of liquid development through a scientific approach. “This will help entrepreneurs to fast-track their own go-to-market strategies,” she added.

Hina believes that the need of the hour is for the industry to partner and collaborate, in order to compete and place Indian spirits on the global map. It will help the ecosystem to thrive, to remove various bottlenecks, encourage consumer engagement, and urge state governments to help the industry in expanding this ecosystem.

She elaborated that Diageo’s 10-year action plan, named ‘Spirit of Progress’, spelt out some goals: focussing on water stewardship; heading to a low-carbon economy; leading India towards ‘Drink better, not more’; inclusion and diversity among women in the company’s leadership; and eliminating the use of harmful plastic.

Among other initiatives undertaken by Diageo India are: going live with block chain-enabled ‘track and trace’ applications on key brands; phasing out outer carton packaging, even for luxury and premium brands; using glass bottles made from recycled products; and community involvement in water conservation and labour up-skilling.

Dr Umashankar, the Excise Commissioner for West Bengal – a physician by education and an IAS officer – delivered the keynote address. He is credited with several government initiatives, including a new micro-brewery policy and online sale and home delivery of alcoholic beverages in that state.

“This Expo reflects the dreams of the alcobev industry. The so-called ‘sin industry’ can also contribute to the growth of the nation if channelled in a positive manner, with a proper understanding of alcohol’s blend of pleasure and pain,” he said.

“Over 200 health conditions are linked to alcohol abuse, ranging from diseases and organ dysfunction to road injuries and suicides. Since the government itself is the biggest stakeholder in the liquor business, claiming the lion’s share in the pie, there needs to be a balance among its various push and pull factors,” he noted.

The alcobev industry must take the initiative in providing less harmful options to consumers; educate consumers on responsible drinking; and persuade governments to put in place better policy interventions to promote responsible and intelligent drinking, he felt.

Pradeep Devaiah, Chairman and CEO of PDA Trade Ventures, the organiser of the Expo, thanked the dignitaries, members of the Advisory Committee for formatting and mapping of the industry ecosystem, and the several associations of distillers, grape growers and brewers, for their support.

Vikram Achanta, Founder of Tulleeho and Consulting Editor for Brews&Spirits magazine, was the Master of Ceremonies.

For the full inaugural session, visit Brews&Spirits Expo on YouTube.