Rodolphe Lameyse, CEO of Vinexposium, speaking post Vinexpo India in an interview in Mumbai, said “By merging these skills and expertise, we can offer the wine and spirits industry a major partner to provide it with support all year round and across the globe, so that it can expand its sales reach” 

What were your impressions of the Indian Wine Industry?

The Indian wine industry is already quite rich by the scope of product available. Although lacking awareness of the global wine market, Domestic and imported wine brands in India have a bright future ahead of them as cultural shifts create beneficial consumer trends and penetration into less tapped demographics, such as younger LDA drinkers and men. In 2020, when we decided with our partner to organize the 1st Vinexpo India in New Delhi, it is because we had this belief that India would be the next big thing post COVID.

How can France and India collaborate to grow the industry?

Vinexpo India, a French based company, is here to emphasize the business opportunity, appetite for learning of the Indian population towards wine and spirit. Our long history of more than 40 years of event organisation enables us to capture and provide a stage for the whole wine and spirit industry. We are here to raise the Indian Wine product to the forefront of market visibility but also to open wide the door of Indian consumer through the right reach of importers/retailers. Our approach has always been to equally serve local and international brands, preceding the implementation of a potential FTA.

Is there a possibility of an India FTA agreement especially for spirits?

It is always better when there is a FTA agreement in place that has been negotiated. I hope this will happen in the short term enabling major trade opportunities for both export and import. It is true that today imported wines face familiar hurdles in the shape of high taxes and tariffs, and a cumbersome regulatory system.

What is your gameplan to grow the Vinexpo brand in India?

We have two shows in India, New Delhi and Mumbai. They are a good supplement to each other and offer a fantastic opportunity for our partners to reach the best business channels in India. Our vision is a long term vision where both Indian brands will come in a larger number accompanied by an international pavilion. It will take time but I am convinced that Vinexpo India will be a major show by 5 to 10 years.

Do you see a marked improvement in the quality of Indian wines?

During the COVID pandemic, in India like in the rest of the world, Domestic brand owners had an opportunity to rethink their strategies. In the end, they all decided to give more attention to the higher-margin products, which comes with a higher quality wine. And this is driven by the compelling demand of consumer to get every day a higher level of understanding through their wine education. And don’t forget that the top category has attracted new consumers within more affluent, metro households with more spending potential. Noticeably female customers will become important consumer drivers.”

How do you reckon India can become a major wine producer?

As a first step, never forget that domestic producers account for 70% of still wine consumption, 80% of the sparkling wine category, and over 80% of the total wine category in India. India, due to the size of the continent, is already a great market opportunity to be served before considering exporting. In general, it is very important to be a market leader in your own country before you are willing to go abroad. That being said, to be export ready, this will required an increased focus on higher quality offerings by the dominant domestic wine industry and increased consumption

What are the challenges for international investors in the Indian wine industry?

Nonetheless, international wine companies are eyeing growth in India as a key strategic goal in the longer term, with the country named as a target market in trade body Australian  It identifies India as a “significant growth opportunity” for Australian wine, which it says is “already the primary importer of wine in the relatively small wine market”, outlining a 10-year plan of short-, medium- and long-term objectives.

Which are the best export markets for Indian wine?

That market will answer in 5-10 years from now. At the moment, I think it’s a bit premature to answer without risking any mistakes (laughing)

Do you see scope for more French wine companies participating in Vinexpo exhibitions in India?

We already had a few French exhibitors attending Vinexpo India in Mumbai and they were quite pleased with the result. I am sure that will generate word of mouth and soon, more and more wineries from France but not only, will join the show floor of both Vinexpo India

What according to you are the most promising wine markets?

India obviously! But at the unique condition that we understand that the most important is to collaborate with India’s domestic wine industry, rather than compete with it. As long as all parties – domestic producers, imported brands and their distribution partners – get the balance right between educating consumers and offering choice at accessible price-points, and invest in distribution – both at home and overseas – the prospects are bright for growth.

Vincent Fernandes