Women's Day 2024: Meet the women raising the spirit of the alcohol sector - Hindustan Times
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International Women's Day 2024: Meet the women raising the spirit of the alcohol sector

Mar 08, 2024 10:40 AM IST

India’s alcoholic beverage market is targeted to touch $64 billion by 2030 and is now being driven by a slew of women. This Women’s Day, meet a few of them.

In 2023, India’s alcoholic beverage market was valued at US$55 billion and is targeted to touch $64 billion by 2030, according to a report by the International Spirits & Wines Association of India (ISWAI). India is positioned as the fifth-largest contributor to global market revenues in the near to medium term. This Indian alcohol market that is projected to grow at 8.61% (2024-2028) is being driven by a slew of women - as head honchos, founders, master brewers, and brilliant bartenders. This Women’s Day, meet a few of them. (Also read | International Women’s Day 2024: These are top women entrepreneurs, their educational qualifications)

The Indian alcohol market that is projected to grow at 8.61% (2024-2028) is being driven by a slew of women - as head honchos, founders, master brewers, and brilliant bartenders. This Women’s Day, meet a few of them.
The Indian alcohol market that is projected to grow at 8.61% (2024-2028) is being driven by a slew of women - as head honchos, founders, master brewers, and brilliant bartenders. This Women’s Day, meet a few of them.

Hina Nagarajan, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Diageo India

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Hina Nagarajan, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Diageo India
Hina Nagarajan, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Diageo India

Hina Nagarajan is the first woman to not only lead Diageo India, but also a major liquor company in the country. The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Diageo India, and a member of Diageo’s Global Executive Committee, Hina has spearheaded several ‘firsts’ for the company since taking over the reins in July, 2021.

With over three decades of leadership experience, Hina was previously Managing Director, Diageo-Africa Emerging Markets (AEM), where she was instrumental in leading business operations in 37 markets. Known for building strong teams with outstanding outcomes, Hina has a proven track record in diverse power markets - India, China, SE Asia and Africa across different sectors.

Holding a Master’s degree in Business Management from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, Hina was recently recognised as the ‘Businesswoman of the year’ by The Economic Times in 2023, and ranked among India's '50 Most Powerful Women in Business' by Fortune India in 2023. Other awards include Business World’s Most Influential Women 2022 & 2023, Business Today’s Most Powerful Women in Business 2021, 2022 & 2023, and Woman CEO of the Year 2023 by ET Prime.

Ipsita Das, Managing Director, Moët Hennessy India

Ipsita Das, Managing Director, Moët Hennessy India
Ipsita Das, Managing Director, Moët Hennessy India

In her current role as Managing Director at Moët Hennessy India, Ipsita Das orchestrates the management of over 30 globally renowned wines and spirits brands in India, and its neighbouring countries. Ipsita is one of the youngest Managing Directors in both the Indian alcohol beverage industry and the global Moët Hennessy family.

Ipsita's professional journey began with her leap into male-dominated fields across shipping, logistics, and technology startups. Armed with a degree in Physics from St. Stephens College, Delhi, and a post-graduation degree in Strategy and Marketing from the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, Ipsita’s career trajectory went from managing shipping operations in Dubai at the age of 22 to spearheading groundbreaking initiatives at tech giants like Uber.

Since her appointment in the year 2021 at Moët Hennessy India, Ipsita’s leadership is characterised by innovation and inclusivity. Under her leadership, the Chandon Winery in Nashik has garnered global acclaim, earning accolades at prestigious global platforms such as the World Championships and Decanter Awards.

From being recognised as a Business World Disrupt 40 Under 40 Leader to earning accolades such as the Icons of Whisky Award and Luxebook's Top 50 Women in Luxury, Ipsita was also selected as EuropeIndia40 Leader in 2022, as one of the 28 leaders from 16 nationalities, under the age of 40 who will shape the future of India/EU-UK Relations.

Kasturi Banerjee, Founder and Director of Stilldistilling Spirits

Kasturi Banerjee, Founder and Director of Stilldistilling Spirits
Kasturi Banerjee, Founder and Director of Stilldistilling Spirits

A former banker, Kasturi worked in the financial services industry for over 16 years across various departments, in India and Singapore. However, she was always interested in wine and spirits, which led her to pursue a bartending course in 2019 to better understand the art of mixology. This experience inspired her to begin experimenting with blends and conducting more research to further understand emerging trends and evolving consumer preferences.

While exploring the spirits market, she noticed that gin was gaining popularity with the influx of homegrown brands. Recognising this future trend, she decided to enter the artisanal rum market and set up Stilldistilling Spirits in 2020, a homegrown manufacturing and blending company that produces Maka Zai, a premium craft rum.

Maka Zai has created a White Rum, which is suitable for cocktails, with flavours ranging from sweet and floral to spicy and herbaceous. It has also carved out a completely new category through its aged Gold Rum, an elegant sipping rum - the first of its kind in India. To mark its two-year journey, the brand launched its first limited-release barrel aged rare rum, MESMA,’with only 600 bottles available in Goa, which sold out in less than two weeks.

Poonam Chandel, Managing Director, NeuWorld Spirits

Poonam Chandel, Managing Director, NeuWorld Spirits
Poonam Chandel, Managing Director, NeuWorld Spirits

A veteran of the alco-bev industry, Poonam Chandel has been the person behind some of the most successful whisky and beer brands in India. She has, to her credit, launched several brands, relaunched and revitalised whisky brands and, has setup green-field project for breweries and distilleries.

Starting her alco-bev industry journey with Radico Khaitan, Poonam developed and executed sales and marketing of 8 PM Whisky. Under her stewardship, 8 PM Whisky was recognised as the fastest-growing brand in the world earning a place in the Limca Book of Records and a nomination for the prestigious Cannes award. Poonam single-handedly relaunched 8 brands with multiple SKUs of Shaw Wallace. She has been the youngest Dy. General Manager at Shaw Wallace to receive the coveted Marketer of Year award.

Undaunted by multiple challenges, Poonam launched, built and sustained Cobra Beer in India, making India as the top performer globally for the brand.

Currently, as MD of NeuWorld Spirits, she has helped the company rapidly establish itself as a prominent force in the Indian alcoholic beverage sector. At the forefront of its market presence are two standout brands - Downing Street and Royal Tribe.

Vidya Kubher, Head Brewer of Geist Brewing Co.

Vidya Kubher, Head Brewer of Geist Brewing Co
Vidya Kubher, Head Brewer of Geist Brewing Co

Originally from Chennai, Vidya transitioned from a career in programming to pursue her love for beer. In her quest to sample as many different brands and styles as she could, Vidya would frequently visit Bengaluru between 2008 and 2011 to discover new beer brands, while also travelling to countries like Germany and Belgium to experience their famed brewing culture.

Through her conversations with local brewers and other industry professionals during these trips, Vidya realised that a brewing career was the logical next step, a long-held dream. She enrolled in Siebel Institute’s World Brewing Academy Master Brewer Program – a dual-country course across Chicago, USA, and Munich, Germany that gave Vidya insight into two distinct brewing cultures. To hone her skills and gain some hands-on experience, Vidya also spent time training at various breweries and a yeast lab in Europe before making her way back home.

On her return to India, Vidya joined Geist Brewing Co as the brand began its journey of setting up its brewery and yeast lab. As a brewer, she initially got involved in Geist’s microbrewery operations at two brewpubs in the city between 2012 and 2016, before becoming responsible for overseeing beer production at the brand’s 10,000 sq. ft distribution brewery that was set up in 2017.

As Head Brewer at Geist Brewing Co., Vidya and her team have been responsible for brewing 40+ different craft beers, six of which currently form Geist Brewing Co.’s core portfolio. These include Geist Witty Wit, Geist Uncle Dunkel, Geist James Blond, Geist Weiss Guy, Geist Kamacitra, and Geist Repeat. Several others, like the popular Barrel-Aged Stout Series, have been introduced as limited releases.

Aashi Bhatnagar, Winner of Diageo Reserve’s World Class India 2023

Aashi Bhatnagar, Winner of Diageo Reserve’s World Class India 2023
Aashi Bhatnagar, Winner of Diageo Reserve’s World Class India 2023

Currently working at Pune’s Cobbler & Crew as an Innovation artist, Aashi Bhatnagar is title winner of World Class India 2023 and was also recently named India’s best bartender by 30BestBarsIndia. She also represented India at Diageo World Class 2023 at Brazil where not only did she earn a spot in the top 12 but also won the coveted People's Choice Award. Aashi's journey from World Class India 2023 to the top 12 global bartenders at World Class global finale was marked by fierce competition, where she showcased her mastery of mixology, a deep understanding of spirits, and a passion for crafting unique and memorable cocktails.

Hailing from Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh), Aashi says she never thought of becoming a bartender but during her stint in college she started to fall in love with the stories behind classic cocktails. The rest, as they say, is a ‘spirited’ history.

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