Bengaluru: India’s largest wine maker, Sula Vineyards Pvt. Ltd, has become the first non-Chinese winery in Asia to cross the 1 million case mark in sales, having sold 1.043 million cases of wine in the 12 months to 31 July, said its chief executive officer Rajeev Samant. This indicates a resurgence in 2018-19 in sales volumes which had stayed flat in 2017-18.

Like many other alcoholic beverage categories, volume sales of wine were badly hit last financial year after the Supreme Court banned all liquor sales along highways. Sula, which is the market leader in wines, was also affected.

However, the highway ban is now firmly in the past and the pent up demand resulting from the dip last year has given a significant fillip to growth.

There have been reports recently of an internal shake-up at Sula that has allegedly been a drag on its performance. However, Samant dismissed those claims and pointed to the 30% volume growth in the first four months of this year.

“For a company to keep growing at the pace at which we are growing, we have to keep bringing on people with even more capabilities—those who are able to deal with bigger projects, numbers and teams. It’s inevitable that you might see slightly higher rates of attrition but that is not to say that it’s out of control or has any impact on numbers," Samant said.

Sula has seen a string of exits since late 2017, starting with the resignation of its chief winemaker Ajoy Shaw last September followed by that of brand ambassador and marketing head Noi Cecilia Oldne in November.

At the end of last month, Sula’s chief operating officer Nick Pringle also resigned after spending just over a year at the winemaker. The exits gave rise to a belief that the company was going through a shake-up.

However, Shaw and Oldne had had stints of nearly two decades and a decade respectively at Sula. Shaw wanted to do something on his own after he resigned and Oldne cited similar reasons.

“I left because I wanted new challenges. I think it’s natural when you’ve been with a company for 10 years that you re-assess your opportunities. I joined Sula as a consultant in 2007 and did not expect to even stay in India for as long as I did," she said over phone.

Oldne, who is still a shareholder in Sula, now plans to offer her service and knowledge to other brands in India, not just in wine but also in wellness, international business and marketing.

Sula has managed to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 20% over the last five years in terms of volume sales. The company’s focus on premium categories, wine tourism, and its strong brand presence have helped prop up growth.

It expects volume growth of around 20% and revenue growth of 25% in 2018-19.

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