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Female wine drinkers in India are on par with male drinkers: India’s Master of Wine



Sonal Holland

Women are an increasingly important market segment of the wine industry, making wider lifestyle choices with a propensity to spend marginally more than men on a bottle of wine, says Sonal Holland, India’s first and only Master of Wine (MW), one of the most prestigious titles in the world of wines with a count of 370 Masters across 30 countries.

“What I have observed is that women represent an increasingly important market segment for the wine industry. As successful leaders breaking gender barriers, women are increasingly making wider lifestyle choices as do their global peers.

“They view wine as a classy, empowering, healthy beverage and are experiencing fewer cultural inhibitions when drinking wine in the presence of their family members or the society at large. Ladies are purchasing wine as often as men across all occasions with a propensity to spend marginally more than men on a bottle of wine,” Mumbai-based Holland, who on Saturday night released the India Wine Insider 2018 report, told IANS in an email interview.

“The female wine drinkers in India are on par with male drinkers, on consumption frequency, propensity to spend on a bottle and attitudes towards wine drinking, drawing allegiance to the growing popularity of wine among female drinkers in India,” says the report, prepared by Holland in collaboration with London-based Wine Intelligence, a global consumer research leader.

According to WHO, per capita alcohol consumption in India has increased from 2.4 litres in 2005 to 5.7 litres in 2016 with 4.2 litres being consumed by men and 1.5 litres by women.

Noting that “in this bucket, wine, though now a mainstay drink, is minuscule”, Holland said: “Wine is popular with women and men and the young and old alike. People drink wine whether at home or at restaurants, over a myriad of occasions and for reasons so unique to wine, indicating its acceptance as a sophisticated, nuanced beverage. But compared to whisky consumption in India, wine has a long way to go.”

Last year, while working on the first edition of the “India Wine Insider”, the first comprehensive survey of the urban Indian wine consumer, “we discovered that the Indian drinker’s understanding of wine is limited. But, as awareness grows, so does consumption. Other than colour, there is very little awareness about other wine styles — names of regions and grape varieties remain under-developed cues”, Holland explained.

For Holland, it’s been a long and arduous journey to become a Master of Wine, one that has been “infinitely rewarding”.

“Gaining this title seriously tries your patience, demanding commitment and sacrifice at every stage; but, in turn, it rewards you with a tremendous sense of gratification, pride, credibility and confidence.

“As an Indian on the programme, I was perceived to be at a disadvantage, given the limited availability of wines and tasting opportunities in India. To gain first-hand global knowledge of wines required a significant capital outlay on my part, as well as time and a great deal of self-motivation.

“I was on the move constantly, meeting viticulturists and winemakers, attending international wine trade shows and fairs, taking every opportunity to taste wines blind and practicing writing accurate tasting notes after every tasting,” Holland explained.

“I spent so much time travelling, being away from my home and family for prolonged periods. As a woman and as a mother, this sacrifice weighed a lot on my mind, but it also strengthened my resolve to become a MW, to justify the sacrifices,” she added.

The MW exam process is no doddle either: There are five three-hour theory papers. These cover viticulture, vinification and pre-bottling procedures, the handling of wine, the business of wine and contemporary issues in the industry.

The practical sessions include three sessions of blind wine tastings where you try 12 wines each. They last for two-and-a-quarter-hour, in which wines must be assessed for variety, origin, wine-making, quality and style.

Finally, you must present an in-depth 10,000-word research paper which must be “a rigorous interpretation” of a specific wine subject of your choosing. (Holland’s was on Awareness, Attitude and Usage of Wine among Sec A Urban Indian Wine Consumers.)

“But, here I am. I am proud to represent India as the country’s first and only Master of Wine. It has been a fantastic experience. I’ve made friends across the globe and have had the opportunity to visit some of the world’s best wineries and estates. I hope to bring all the knowledge I’ve gained to the wine industry in India, while helping develop the country’s wine culture through various initiatives,” Holland said.

Another exciting initiative, she said, is the partnership entered into earlier this year with Wine Intelligence to launch Vinitrac India, a survey of Indian wine consumers that monitors and tracks the attitudes, behaviour and consumer relationships with wine in the country.

“This will give stakeholders an in-depth insight into the psyche of the wine drinker, a first-of-its-kind effort for the Indian wine industry,” she said.

Holland is also involved in a host of other initiatives.

“Through The Sonal Holland Wine Academy we focus on wine education and also offer a 360-degree suite of services to wine- and spirit-focused professionals, institutions and connoisseurs of wine. On the consumer side, my endeavour is to develop a culture of enjoying wine through the SoHo Wine Club, a subscription-based platform for oenophiles.

(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at [email protected])

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Indo-Russian collaboration in AI, IoT to take-off in 2019: Zyfra CEO



India-Russia relations

New Delhi, Jan 24 : Indo-Russia joint projects in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are expected to take-off this year according to the Finnish-Russian digital solutions provider Zyfra which has joined hands with Indian companies to provide IoT and AI-based solutions for the industrial sector.

In an e-mail interview with IANS, Igor Bogachev, the Chief Executive of Zyfra, which has supplied Indian manufacturers with AI and IoT-based solutions, as well as autonomous vehicles, said the Indian sectors with most potential to adopt such solutions are metallurgy, transportation, aerospace and petrochemicals.

“India is of great interest to companies in the field of the industrial Internet of Things and this year we hope to see first projects in this area being implemented jointly with Russia,” Bogachev said.

“Innovations should become a point of growth of Russian-Indian relations. We see significant potential for introduction in such industries as construction of machine tools, mechanical engineering, metallurgy, the chemical industry and the oil and gas sector,” he said.

Last month, Zyfra announced it has managed to reach $3 million in contracts with its Indian counterparts in 2018., and the company plans to reach the target of $50 million in India-related deals by 2021.

The company has already signed agreements with various Indian companies, including Spudweb, Abcon Group, Parivartan Automation, Agaram Infotech, Wimerasys, Nortech Trinity and Mascot Tools.

Zyfra is implementing 7 pilot projects in collaboration with its Indian partners and plans to launch five more joint projects including for production of farm machinery, as well as for manufacturing components for aerospace divisions of both Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

According to Bogachev, cooperation between Russia and India in AI and IOT will be much more than a buyer-seller relationship and will involve sharing best practices, knowledge and innovating jointly.

“We truly believe, that we will be able develop products with our Indian partners, probably with joint ventures, to export to third countries,” he said.

The company has already signed agreement with various Indian firms accounting for around $2.5 million in contracts, the Zyfra CEO said.

Last year, Zyfra unveiled its manufacturing data collection (MDC) plus system in India which performs real-time machine monitoring with customizable reports and charts that can be used to track jobs, parts, operations, work centres, scrap costs, downtime and people, he said.

Zyfra recently also released a report which ranks India among the most advanced countries in terms of development of AI technologies and IoT. The survey ranks the US first, followed by China, while India ranks 13th, after Canada.

The company has started the acquisition of the VIST Group, one of the industrial leaders in development and implementation of information technologies for digital mining.

“Through the acquisition of these assets, which will be finished by 2020, the company is planning to occupy a significant share of the global market and to compete with Catarpillar, Komatsu and other majors,” the CEO said.

According to Bogachev, who also chairs the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Subcommittee on the Digital Economy and Innovations, “there is tremendous opportunity for disruption in the industrial IoT and applied AI space, although it is still a nascent market to a larger extent.”

Founded in 2017, the private sector Zifra’s clients in Russia include giants like Gazprom, Chelpipe, NLMK Group and United Engine Corporation.

(Biswajit Choudhury can be reached at [email protected])

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Madhya Pradesh farmers hopeful of being ‘debt-free’ as loan waiver scheme kicks-off



Earth Climate

Bhopal, Jan 22 : A week after the launch of the loan waiver scheme in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress government claims 19.54 lakh farmers have filed their applications in the six days till Sunday.

While the opposition BJP has been calling the “Jai Kisan Rin Mukti Yojana” a trick to cheat the farmers, the question is how the farmers of the state perceive the entire exercise.

Kailash Chaudhary, a farmer from Mandsaur district’s Babulda village, said: “About two years ago, six farmers sacrificed their lives for their rights in Pipliya Mandi. This is the beginning of the victory of their fight.”

“Forms are being filled for waiver of loans up to Rs 2 lakh. We feel that the government is taking our demands seriously,” Chaudhary told IANS.

Mandsaur was the centre of farmers’ agitation in 2017 when six farmers were killed in police firing in June, 2017. After the incident, the farmers’ movement had taken over the whole state, which then spread to the whole nation.

Farmer’s leader Kedar Sirohi said: “Farmers in different parts of the state are excited about the loan waiver. They are filing applications in large numbers.”

“To ensure they don’t face any difficulty in filing applications, leaders and workers of farmer organisations are helping them. Government officials is also alert to help out the farmers. Colour coding of application forms has made it easier for farmers to fill out the applications,” he said.

According to official figures, out of the 19.54 lakh forms filed till Sunday, around 60 per cent were green forms, 35 per cent were white forms and 5 percent were pink forms. The farmers are hopeful of becoming debt-free through this exercise.

As per the scheme, the farmers of the Aadhaar seeded list will have to submit green applications and the farmers of non-Aadhar seeded list will have to submit white coloured applications. Farmers have to submit a pink application to file an objection or claim against information provided in the green or white list.

However, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been accusing the Congress of misleading the farmers and terming the scheme a trick to cheat them.

Former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan said the Congress promise of a loan waiver won’t be fulfilled by a mere announcement.

“The Chief Minister (Kamal Nath) and Congress leaders are saying they have fulfilled their promise of loan waiver to the farmers. But the promise has not yet been fulfilled. An announcement does not mean fulfillment of the promise,” he said, adding the Congress was misleading the farmers.

Congress spokesperson Syed Jaffer responded that 55 lakh farmers will get their loans waived of under the scheme, for which the due process needs to be followed.

“No matter what charges the BJP makes, the truth is that farmers are happy and they trust that the Congress is fulfilling the promise that they made to them,” he said.

“Those farmers who are in debt, neither are they now receiving notices from the banks nor is their property being seized. Under BJP rule, farmers had to go to jail and lose their property just for not paying their power bills,” Jaffer told IANS.

Calling the scheme pro-farmer, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Sharma told IANS that political parties were creating doubts about the scheme.

“Farmers were reeling under debt which had increased manifold over the last one-and-a-half decade. Now they are getting waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh. The government is new and one should wait before making adverse comments,” he said.

Kamal Nath had signed the farm loan waiver file soon after taking oath as the Chief Minister. The filing of forms for the waiver started from January 15 and will continue till February 5.

According to the government, farmers will start getting the money in their loan accounts from February 22.

The Chief Minister had said that the scheme would benefit around 55 lakh farmers by waiving their loans worth Rs 50,000 crore.

(Sundeep Pouranik can be contacted at [email protected])

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Entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia: Pahlaj Nihalani

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.



Pahlaj Nihalani

Mumbai, Jan 22 :Govinda, “Rangeela Raja”, Pahlaj Nihalani-backed comeback vehicle for Govinda, did not open well. Nihalani says it is because his film did not get the theatres required as the entertainment industry is run by a “glamorous mafia”.

“I am being targeted for my blunt views on the workings of censor board, and because of me, my leading man Govinda is being targeted. If you ask me, Govinda and I have the maximum number of enemies in the film industry,” Nihalani said.

Lamenting the lack of theatres for “Rangeela Raja”, Nihalani says he was refused a release in places like Bihar and Jharkhand.

“These are traditional strongholds of Govinda. And not a single theatre in Patna or Ranchi agreed to play ‘Rangeela Raja’. Why? Because my film is bad? Are only quality films released in theatres? And who decides that my film is substandard? A handful of critics for whom I did not have a press show, so they are upset with me and they are taking it out on my film,” he said.

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.

“I know who they are. I know the people who want to finish off Govinda and me. The entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia. They all sit, eat, sleep and make movies together. Solo producers like me with no corporate backing are being pushed out of the film industry in the name of corporotization,” he said.

But Nihalani says he isn’t going away anywhere.

“I belong to this industry as much as those who are currently monopolising the A-list stars. I will make another film with Govinda and prove he too is an A-list star.”

Nihalani says he has always believed in introducing new talent and will continue to do so.

“I introduced Govinda and Chunky Pandey. In ‘Rangeela Raja’ I’ve introduced Mishika Chourasia. I am confident she has a very bright future. Unless the industry will punish her for being Pahlaj Nihalani’s protege.”

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