toast: Kunal Chug owns Virgin Hills, a 20 crore business
Nagpur: Perhaps a government agricultural college would be the last choice for someone with a dream of a chic lifestyle. Back when Pune started the journey of growth, it was hoarding with the image of a woman holding a glass of wine that inspired Kunal Chug. The advertisement was for an entirely different product, but Chug saw this glass of wine as a symbol of a lavish lifestyle. This eventually led him to pursue studies in winemaking. The journey started from the Government Agriculture College in Pune.
Later it was education in the homeland of France for winemaking – the Erasmus Mundus campus. He also pocketed a Rs50 lakh purse for the course, which has also made headlines these days.
The Chug’s Virgin Hills brand, which had participated in the Nagpur Wine Festival, is now a rupee 20 million business, he says. Coming from a family business running a retail grocery store, his father wanted him to pursue a more conventional career.
âI joined the agricultural school and got a specialization in viticulture (science of growing vines),â he says.
âFor most other agricultural colleges, the goal was to pass the MPSC exams. It was easy to do with topics related to agriculture. I am perhaps the only one of the lot to have chosen entrepreneurship, âsays Chug.
Chug says he started in 2014 with the creation of a wine store. She sold exclusively wines, but of all brands. Slowly, a cellar about to close was rented. This followed by the purchase of land for a vineyard.
The brand is available throughout Maharashtra and was recently launched in Nagpur. It is expected to expand into other markets like Hyderabad and the Northern States.
Nagesh Pai’s family owns a chick (sapod) orchard in Dahanu, on the border between Maharashtra and Gujarat. In 2006, incomes were declining as farmers realized that the price of fruit was low. Pai was then working as a mechanical engineer in the United States. âLife was good, but a little too mechanical,â he says. It was planned to return to India and explore new routes.
âMy wife came back first and I joined her in 2012. At that point, we had some knowledge about fermentation.
âWe tried it with chicken wine and quickly got it right. He has now won the Maharashtra market. We’re the first in the world to make wine from chicks, âsays Pai, who owns the Hill Zill wine brand which was also featured at the Wine Festival.
The range now includes wines in pineapple, strawberry and most recently jamun. âThere are also plans to offer orange wine. The work took place during containment and the results are good. The fruits would be bought in and around Nagpur, âPai explains.
The company which plans to expand its presence outside Maharashtra is also in talks with the authorities to launch the wines in Gujarat.
âWe are in talks with the authorities in Gujarat. There is a licensing policy for wine shops where consumers with a drinking license can come and buy, Pai said.
For Pai, advice also came from Canadian Dominic Rivard, known as a veteran of fruit winemaking.