Wine is synonymous to be called as 'the gift of the gods' since it is the only fermented beverage found in nature.
Take a long drive into the lush green Kinvah vineyards in the Nandi Valley, a destination in the countryside of Banglore, that takes you away from the noise and madness of the city life waiting to be explored! K Suryanarayana Raju Chairman and Managing Director Kinvah wines take us down the memory lane on what prompted him to enter the world of winemaking, sharing his perspective on wine tourism, hospitality and realty sectors during the pandemic and the way ahead, in an interesting tet-e-tet with Priyaankaa Mathur. A mechanical engineer by qualification KSN Raju with his wife Bharti Raju who's a post-graduate in commerce and a graduate in fashion designing, have together explored the world of luxury and lifestyle to the T. From owning the brand Kinvah to facilitating the wine drinking culture and wine tourism in India to creating luxury lifestyle spaces, the duo has kept no stone unturned in keeping the highest standards in the world's of Reality, Tourism and Hospitality sectors. Wine is synomous to be called as 'the gift of the gods' since it is the only fermented beverage found in nature. Highlighting the popularity of wine and its benefits Raju says," Wine is consumed as part of the food culture which is emerging in India. Wine has a lot of Antioxidants, it is non-alcoholic, and is a pure grape juice converted into a wine and thus is considered a healthy drink."
Talking about what inspired him to venture into the winemaking process, Raju says," Before establishing Kinvah vineyards we were into fashion and reality sectors. At that point, the Karnataka Government charged additional duty from wines coming from outside the state, which prompted us to enter this industry since there were very fewer players in Karnataka to have wine refinery as a business. We started our journey into the winery business in 2008 in Hampi on leased premises, where we did all our branding, marketing and production. Fortunately, I had some associates in Italy and France and so we decided to build up the Brand 'Kinvah' which is a Romanian era festive drink. In 2010 we started our winery in Bangalore."
Elaborating on what makes Kinvah wines unique and it's a range of products, Raju says," Our winery is situated in 3 acres of land near Nandi hills and we have a plant capacity to produce around 100 litres per month. We select organic grapes on the vineyards and train our farmers and remaining finer grapes come from vineyards near Bangalore, Nasik, Bijapur, Latur and Usmanabad where we do contract farming. We are soon planning to establish our vineyards near Banglore in 50 acres, which is the part of our expansion."
Raju talks about a year on year growth basking on the product range the brand boasts off saying, "We have wines ranging from INR 100-2000. We produce 'Sparkling Wines' and 'Wine Coolers' which is a sparkling wine with 8-9% of alcohol and is for the people who are at an entry-level to explore wine. We are the sole producers of wine coolers in Banglore, but we do have other players in Himachal, Goa. Our range of wine coolers and honey wines is helping us penetrate the markets for younger generations as a healthy drink which is chosen over the hard liquor. Thus, we are seeing a 20-25% strategic growth year on year."
So what makes the wine tour experiences in Kinvah valley unique he adds," We are a boutique winery and we do not do mass production, as we are touch basing our brand to the customers. Pre- Covid we had approximately 2500 customers attending our wine tours. The tours include a 1 hour for a wine tasting session with 5 types of grape wines. The tour provides the visitors with an exhaustive range of unlimited food and beverage combinations with barbeques, starters, pizzas, pasta and wine and cheese sampling along with main course meals. For those who want to educate themselves on the process of winemaking, we provide an educational tour of 4 hours duration designed to educate the tourists about our brand, our USP and what makes our wines and products unique, our product differentiation, how to make wine and the entire wine production process. While an audio-video presentation is shown on the winemaking processes, the tourists also get to visit the wine factories where they can see a live demonstration of winemaking, bottling and labelling."
Elaborating on imparting wine tasting training to the hospitality sector Raju says," We conduct batches for Retailers, Hotel Managers, Sommeliers and F&B industry professionals who also spend family time at the vineyards while receiving training on winemaking process so that they can explain their customers about Kinvah wines and the food pairing along with them."
So what makes Karnataka a potential Destination for wine tourism in India, he says," There is a huge potential for wine tourism in Karnataka and especially Bangalore which is a metropolitan city with 1.3 Cr. population, which doesn't have the privilege of neither the beaches nor the mountains, so the only entertainment they have is to go for a long drive or shop at the malls. Wine tourism gives them an alternative option for spending time with their families and loved ones amongst nature. Also, people are adopting the new lifestyle of drinking wine, since the social stigma about wine drinking is also vanishing. Thus, many people love to have vineyard experience while they want to come and stay, and spend time to taste wines and delicious foods. While they also get to educate themselves and their children on the winemaking processes on the weekends. There are presently three wineries in Karnataka owned by Sula, Grover's and Kinvah which makes it a potential Wine Tourism destination in India."
How supportive is the government towards Wine tourism in the state, "The Karnataka Government is giving a license in 6000 rupees to establish wine taverns and wine boutiques in the state, where visitors can have wine bottles at discounted prices and can open up the campaign with friends and loved ones and enjoy the drinks. Since the license cost is very less and norms are simple, so in Banglore itself, we have around 500 wine taverns and wine boutiques."
Throwing light on the way ahead and expansion plans for the Kinvah vines Raju says, " We want to expand our boundaries to southern states of India and also look forward to exporting our wine to different countries. Thus, we are planning to collaborate with Enarr Capital to be our strategic and financial partners to expand our business in the southern states of India, and also globally as India has the potential to tap the space in wine consumption."
Banglore is known for its wine festivals, so what was the impact on the wine scene due to Covid 19 pandemic, replies Raju, " Before the pandemic started, we had two wine festivals, but we don't have this year. Post-2021 April we can see a new era. But, unless the vaccine is available and lockdown gets over, the market will be slow. Practically one financial year is gone in terms of business turnovers, hampering sales in a big way."
Talking about his real business and luxury properties, Raju says " We are basically into villa plotted development and bungalows and have done 400 acres property in Bangalore and 200 acres in Mysore. We build large gated community plots and then start establishing villas to the taste of customers. They are affordable luxury plots and customers can also build the villas according to their taste and convenience."
Tapping in the price range and the scope of reality sector and property prices he adds," Villa plots start from 20 lacs - 50 lacs, and villas range from 70 lacs -2 crores. While the customers choose to buy land, we give them basic parameters and the construction needs to be followed within those parameters, to customise the villas. Right now real estate is in a tough space because of the economic slowdown. We too are not expanding since 2018 onwards, since we are refurbishing and clearing the inventory. Probably by 2021 April onwards we will start our new projects. The pandemic has effected purchasing decisions due to financial uncertainties, while only end-users who are staying in rented properties and feel the need to move to a gated community are considering a purchase because work from home is the new normal. One advantage I see is that since the interest rates are very low so the customers can think of going for a 3 BHK apartments instead of 2 BHK whenever they plan to book. Although new inventories are not going to come forward in the next year. Since people are jobless, there is an insecurity and salaries have been cut from 20-30%."
Talking about the sustainability aspect of are the properties, Raju says," We work on three principles based on Conservation of water in ponds and recycling of rainwater in our storage establishments. We build the gated communities in a way that zero wastage is produced and whatever we produced is re-circulated within the project. We have established check dams, wherein we use natural water to garnish vestibules, while the bore-well recharging is done with solar power. Thus, it's very holistically done to keep the environment in mind, to create self-sustainable gated communities."
Adding about the facilities he says," The community has a lot of open areas, parks so that a customer can build a weekend home to enjoy nature as compared to the life in the cities which has more closed congested apartments. They can spend weekends, grow organic fruits and vegetables, the premises have a play area for children and pets too."
Raju concludes with a positive note saying," Post Covid the hospitality industry will pick up the first since now people are spending more time with the families so they would like to go out and spend quality time. While the real state will take another two years to come to its terms. We have already seen 5 years of stagnation since 2015 no property prices have gone up, still hoping for the best!"