April, 2021: Rajeev Samant was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by The International Hospitality Council (IHC) London on 24th April 2021 which was chosen as International Hospitality Day in 2016 by the IHC Council.
Founder and CEO of Sula Vineyards, Samant received this prestigious recognition for putting India on the world wine map and his outstanding contribution in the field of hospitality and tourism. The Council also recognised others from the F&B sector who were felicitated for their outstanding contributions to the industry. This year, over 80 countries and some of the world’s premier hospitality institutions and icons celebrated their organisation and people in a virtual ceremony.
Speaking about receiving the award, Rajeev said, “When I started Sula a little over 20 years ago, lots of people thought, “Who is this crazy guy?”!
I have to admit it hasn’t been an easy path, but when I look at what Sula has achieved, what my team has become, I feel super happy and proud. Receiving this award today by the respected IHC is an honour.”
Rajeev Samant’s introduction to wines took place during his early years studying at Stanford University and working at Oracle in California. But neither grapes nor wine were at the top of his mind when he returned to India in the early 1990s. A chance visit to his family’s land in Nashik in 1994 led to the seed of an idea about the possibility of growing wine grapes in Nashik, a region well-known for growing table grapes. His curiosity piqued, back in the US Rajeev spent three months at a small winery in California that belonged to his friend and mentor – and now Sula’s master winemaker – Kerry Damskey.
Working on the frontlines of wine production gave him an inside look into the world of wines, and an understanding of the industry. In 1999, Samant established Sula Vineyards, overseeing its development into India’s leading wine company with a strong commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly practices. Inspired by Sula, almost 35 other wineries followed suit in the region over the next decade.
A pioneer and vocal advocate of India’s wine industry, Samant is actively sought to represent the interests of Indian wine producers and farmers at national and state government levels.