Fun and uncomplicated. These are the words that former banker Ajay Shetty uses to describe how the process of making wine ought to be.

Shetty left a lucrative career with Daiwa Capital Markets and returned to India a few years ago to set up a company to manufacture and sell wines. “My love for food and wine was the driving force behind my venturing into the wine industry,” says Shetty.

His venture – Myra Vineyards – markets some of the finest wine brand varietals in the country. “At Myra, we believe that ‘wine is all heart.’ We aim to demystify wine and make the entire process fun and uncomplicated,” says Shetty. 

Shetty’s extensive travel abroad exposed him to different cultures, people, wines and cuisines. A wine aficionado, Shetty’s interest was kindled during his days as a banker in Hong Kong. A stint in the US gave him a good insight into global cuisine and quality wines. But that was not what made him take the plunge. While working with some of the leading trade banking companies around the world and living out of a suitcase for most part of his time, he realised that his job was becoming monotonous “and that’s when I decided to follow my heart.”

Once his mind was made up, Shetty travelled to Bengaluru to study the sector and meet people and connected with the wine industry, only to realise that there was a huge potential in the still nascent industry. He roped in industry veterans Nikhil Agarwal and Rajesh Rasal to ensure that his wine brands were “uncompromised’’ in terms of quality and taste.

“India was also going through a gastronomical explosion around the same time. The final trigger was when I found like-minded partners in the form of a sommelier and viticulturist who helped me set-up Myra Vineyards.”

Shortly after the company was set up in early 2013, it launched four varietals – two each in red and white. “We have a large consumer base in our country and are looking at creating a new set of wine consumers,” says Shetty.

He explains that he was well versed with the landscape while venturing into the industry. “Our intention is not to compete but to bring a paradigm shift in wine consumption through engagement, education and segmentation.”

Myra buys grapes from contract farmers in Nashik and Bijapur and gets the wine made at third party wineries. This is till it gets its own vineyard is built allowing the company to work around the five years it takes for crop production that wine making requires. Myra has acquired 50 acres in Chikkaballpur and plans to buy another 50 acres, just 80 km from Bengaluru, where it plans to set up its own vineyard and winery.

Brand strategy

To set itself apart in a crowded industry, Myra worked on the brand positioning, segmentation and price points. It is also creating varied activities and communications to promote its brands. For instance, it has created Myra Nights which is targeted at the 18-25 age group, and for the grey beards, it has associated itself with golf, sponsoring and conducting tournaments.

The brands themselves are positioned at different levels to reach out to sets of people. The marketing is based on three clear strategies – Education, Segmentation and Engagement.

Shetty says Indians have started exploring, be it lifestyle or food or travel.

“Wines are gradually becoming a people-friendly drink but they also need to know what wine is all about.”

Hence, Myra has introduced a class of wines – entry level ones targeted at new wine drinking consumers.

Myra’s target audience is between 18 and 35, which has been further segmented according to demographics that include age, gender, city, single or double incomes, sports lovers, music lovers and art lovers. Apart from engaging platforms and activations such as Myra Nights, Myra Sundowner, the Myra Golf Open Championship tournament, which are its own properties, the company is involved in art and music events besides sit-down dinners. 

Three categories

It has been able to find a niche in the South and the West. Myra has divided its entire portfolio into three categories: Reserve - premium wines, Myra Wines – mid premium wines, and Two-Headed Bird – the first single varietal brand at an entry level (price point). Recently, Myra launched a limited edition cuvee called Misfit, which it says is the first unfiltered red wine in the market.

Along the way, some of its brands have won accolades and awards. Myra’s plans, Shetty says, include expanding in the domestic market and gaining more market share in Hong Kong and London where he has started approaching distributors.

Shetty has invested about ₹7.6 crore in the venture and there is a possibility of more investments in its winery and hospitality business that are in the pipeline.

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