For India, Chile was possibly not the first name that came to our mind when we think wine a few years back. The scene has drastically changed now. Take a look at a quick fact –25 Chilean wineries exported to India in 2017 and the list included some of the finest wines in the global market. Chile indeed has a long history with wine making, having absorbed the European nuances from their Spanish colonizers in the 16th century and later from the French. Today Chile is the fifth largest exporter of wines and the 7th largest producer in the world. Carolina Vásquez, Director Commercial, ProChile India, at the Chile Embassy in India, has been working diligently to promote Chilean wines in India. A business engineer & MBA with extensive experience in international trade negotiations and partnerships, Carolina has been making sure that Chileans wines are available across India – from Mumbai and Delhi to Jaipur and Dharamshala and many more cities across India. Bishan Kumar traces her relentless pursuit in making Chilean wines the most preferred wines for Indians.
For someone who began her career as a professor for post-graduate courses at Universidad de Chile and lecturer for undergraduate subjects at Universidad Mayor, it has indeed been a long and eventful journey. Since May 2015 Carolina Vásquez is working as Trade Commissioner-Director of ProChile’s trade office, Embassy of Chile in India, promoting exports from Chile to India, overseeing the execution of promotional activities and creating channels of interaction between Chilean exporters and Indian importers. Her plate is full and task big enough to keep her busy all the time. With commendable achievements behind her, Vásquez has enough reasons to feel upbeat about her India stint. Says she, ‘The three years of heading the commercial office for Chile in India has been fantastic for me. I have learnt a great deal and though there had been many hurdles along the way,they only made the journey interesting. What makes it even more interesting for me is that I was part of the India-Chile Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and having achieved that goal, it feels fantastic getting an opportunity to work in the same market.’ Vasquez adds, sharing her insights, ‘On ground, the situation has been different from what we understood in theory. During these years, having been part of the market — working with the trade and literally walking through the streets and corners — I have realized how organized the apparently unorganized market in India is. I’m understanding the way businesses and negotiations are done and I can see all the potential that this market has to offer.’ One of the highlights in the last three years for Vasquez has been strengthening the Chilean positioning and make it recognized among the private sector, especially among importers. ‘The private sector has shown a lot of confidence in us and that is very satisfying as it allows us to improve the promotion of Chilean exports.’ Other specific achievements for Vasquez include the continuous promotion of Chilean wines. ‘From small tasting sessions to Master Class, the promotions have helped us make Chilean wine known to the consumers. Also, observing the presence of Chilean wines in retail stores across different cities has given us great pleasure. We have seen it not only in cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai, but also in Jaipur and Dharamshala.’ Apart from wines, Chilean walnuts and Kiwis have also got a boost in the Indian market, informs Vasquez. And it is mainly because of the promotional campaign launched in Mumbai with the involvement of the Chilean Kiwi Committee, Indian importers and the Chilean government sector, who helped turn it into a milestone, says Vasquez. In the last three years, trade between India and Chile has also seen good growth,
according to Vasquez, with both countries seeing a corresponding increase in their respective exports. ‘Chilean food products and wines have also witnessed their fair share of growth in their exports to India. In food sector we witnessed a major increase in trade of walnuts. As the consumption of walnuts in India increased by 15%, the imports from Chile also increased almost by 200% from 2016 to 2017.
This year it is expected to further increase by 50%.’ What’s more, 25 Chilean wineries have already begun exporting to India in 2017. These include names like Viña Tarapacá, Viña Miguel Torres, Concha y Toro, Viña Cono Sur, Viñedos Emiliana and others. Carolina points out that at least 10 more wineries are interested in the Indian market. She says,speaking about the scope in the Indian wine market, ‘The wines sector also saw decent growth for us, but a lot of potential still remains to be exploited here. One reason for limited trade growth in wines is that the drinking culture in India is still evolving. In general consumers buy wines only for gifting and go in for the cheapest option available. Also, because of the nature of long shelf life, the wine imports see slack years as many importers have stocked piled up from the last year.’ Vasquez thus clearly has her work cut. ‘If we see the growth in trade, the numbers are satisfactory, but there still remains a lot to do in terms of establishing Chile as a brand in itself. When it comes to wines, a lot of effort is required to establish Chilean brands on top in the Indian market. For this we have to fight our way through from the cheaper options available and rely on our superior quality and taste. Consumers need to be introduced to a broader pallet of Chilean wines and slowly we would like to bring in more premium wines to this market. There is a whole lot of wine variety we produce and it would be a privilege for both the countries if we can introduce them in the Indian market.’ Well, Vasquez and her team have left no stone unturned in carrying out various promotional activities for Chilean products including wine, olive oil, spices and blueberries in the last three years. These include Masterclass sessions, seminars, tasting sessions and round-table conferences. There are plans to conduct similar events this year in Mumbai to promote Chilean wines, kiwis and walnuts. Says Vasquez, talking about their future focus areas for India, ‘After working hard and achieving our primary goal of making ProChile and Chile visible in the Indian trade map, we are now focused on developing Chile as a brand for Indian consumers. Our objective is to make our flagship products known stand out with their Chilean identity in the Indian market. To achieve this we are focusing on conducting various promotional campaigns.’ But the India journey ahead comes with its own challenges. Says Vasquez, ‘The main challenge for us has been the nature of the market and the consumption patterns of consumers in India.
The purchase temperament and market dynamics of India are very different from anywhere we have worked in; they cannot even be compared with the rest of Asia. But that only makes it more exciting for us. We worked hard in understanding the workings of this market and accordingly focused our efforts on building promotional strategies that would work best in this scenario. The second most important challenge has been the cost factor, as India has traditionally been a price-driven market. But consumers are changing. They are going beyond the price factor and becoming more aware about quality. So we take efforts to differentiate Chilean products from other products.’ Finally, sharing her outlook for the Indian markets for the next five years, Vasquez says, ‘Reports clearly show that India will continue to grow in the next five years. We also hope that the middle class gets bigger, leading to greater consumption. We see a lot of potential in product segments like premium wines, walnuts, kiwis, cherries, seabass, blueberries, salmon and mussels. The growth is of course dependent on the evolving tastes and openness on the part of the Indian consumers to try new exotic flavors. What is particularly interesting is the evolving wine culture among the Indian consumers.’
Well, how about a dose of Chile to your Indian toast?And, also a toast to Carolina’s untiring efforts for promoting Chilean products in India !