Gusto means enjoyment in Spanish, energy and fervour in English, and taste in Italian. Kadambari Kapoor, Founder and Managing Director, Gusto Imports Private Limited, talks to Brinda Gill about how her company’s tagline – “Share Your Gusto” – seeks to convey its philosophy of offering Indians quality international wines that appeal to the global palate.
This interview first appeared in Volume 7, Issue 3 of Sommelier India- The Wine Magazine. Subscribe today to receive the magazine as soon as it hits the newsstand. Sommelier India is required reading for Indians around the world who enjoy wine and the good life.
As an importer how do you view the Indian wine scene?
The wine industry is certainly growing every year though from a very low base. The 30% or so growth will be meaningful only when the market expands, which is presently restricted by our government’s tax policies.
Have you noticed any change in the preferences of wine consumers?
A lot of non-wine drinkers are switching to wine, there are new drinkers who are curious about wine and younger people are also trying it out. At the moment there is no significant preference for a particular type of wine or wine from a specific region or country. There is a great variety of Indian and imported wines available today, both in terms of styles and price points, which is good for the consumer.
What is Gusto’s philosophy?
Gusto only imports wine, not spirits, and focuses on importing wines from countries known for specific wines. Globally recognised, strong wine brands are sourced directly from vineyards, from family-owned wineries that have a winemaking legacy of a few generations and want to co-develop the Indian market with us. We respect the global knowledge of Indian wine drinkers and so focus on bringing wines that respect their terroir. Our wines go well with food, though this was not a pre-meditated move. We take care to maintain the integrity of the product through sensible logistics and temperature controlled warehousing. We also provide information and training to dealers, who, especially at the junior levels, are often unaware of conditions needed to store wine – unlike those who work in hotels and restaurants.
Could you tell us about your wine portfolio?
We began importing wines in late 2009. To bring Indian wine consumers something different we started with a portfolio of Portuguese wines from the prestigious house of José Maria de Fonseca. It included the first Vinho Verde DOC imported to India – Twin Vines – as well as the first single-serve packaging of imported wine – Lancers White and Rosé in 187 ml bottles, which made it a very attractive option as it cost less than Rs 300 in some markets. We also imported 375 ml bottles.
Later we extended the portfolio with Italian wines from the Sensi family and French wines from the esteemed Bordeaux producer André Lurton, always working with historic producers from each region. We now import a compact and well-stocked portfolio of 22 wines. We have a good demand for our wines; they fall in the price range of Rs 390 for a single serve to about Rs 4,800 for a full bottle. Wines like the Château Dauzac, Margaux AOC Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux are not placed at retail outlets but at hotels. This is because of their price, not because the customer doesn’t understand their value.
How viable has it been to develop your business being based in Kolkata?
Gusto did start in Kolkata but it is not based there. Getting the various permits and licences was a very interesting and challenging experience there as some archaic laws prevail regarding the import of wines. I learnt the ropes of the business, learnt that delegation does not always work, and learnt to tackle situations and people. Liquor being a state subject in India, it is like starting a new business each time you want to work in a different state. I hope the process evolves. I hope the liquor policies as well as the systems used by each state for implementation evolve. I now spend a lot of time in Mumbai to develop Mumbai and other markets.
How did you get into the wine business and how is it for a woman to be in this business?
I studied and worked in the US for 8 years, and while I was at Columbia Business School, where I studied management, I also opted for a course in wine conducted by WSET out of curiosity. When I moved to Bangalore to work I missed what I was used to as a wine consumer and that is when it first crossed my mind to explore the industry for business potential. When I moved to Kolkata in 2008 I decided to step into the business and completed Level III of the WSET course. As far as being a woman in this business, I have always gone ahead with what I want to do regardless of stereotypes. Fortunately I have never had an unpleasant experience in the wine business – though I hear there is an element of surprise and curiosity when people hear about a woman being in this field!