Tell us a bit about your journey since arriving in the UK.
I was 18 when I came to the UK. I landed at Heathrow airport, alone, for the first time on a plane, let alone a foreign country. I wanted to study viticulture and viticulture and found out that the University of Brighton had an agricultural college – Plumpton College in Ditchling which offered a BSc course in viticulture and oenology. I spent three amazing years studying in the south of England, traveling to Champagne and Montpellier in France, working a crop in Cyprus and another in Marlborough, New Zealand. Although I loved traveling and making wine, I really wanted to learn more about the wines of the world and came back to the UK to study the Masters in International Retail Management at Brighton Business School. This propelled my opportunities to get involved in the UK wine trade and business.
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I worked for Grover Zampa as a UK Brand Manager for two years and working with Kapil Grover was a highlight of my career. My most important role has been as head of tastings at the prestigious beverage awards – International Wines and Spirits Competition (IWSC). For four years, I was responsible for over 10,000 wines and spirits year over year, as well as numerous trips and contacts with beverage producers. I turned 30 in 2021 and it was during the second lockdown, where we all had too much time to think, that I decided that for the next 10-20 years I was going to work for myself and for my dreams.
What inspired you to start your own business and what attracted you to this industry?
Even when I was studying to be a winemaker around 18-19, I had this rosy idea of having my own beverage store. I have worked part time in a few independent wine shops in the UK and remember being very happy when a customer bought a wine I recommended and came back saying they loved it . Knowing that retail was going to be end game, when my dad offered to pay for a master’s degree, I chose accordingly. When it came time to start my own business, the idea had been in my head for several years and I had been tweaking it since. The biggest change from the seed of the original idea to what you see today, even something I didn’t see coming, was my passion for flavors and the people who make great tasting drinks – not just wine and with that, All Things Drinks was born.
What were the challenges you encountered in your journey and how did you overcome them?
Living in the UK without my family for those early years was quite difficult. Plumpton College is in a remote location and without a car I was kind of stuck. But what amazed me was the support and generosity of the British people – fellow students gave me countless lifts, helped me understand my course work, taught me the polite way to say things and, overall, took me under their wing. Some of my best friends today are the ones I met in college and even ended up marrying one. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that you have to have the courage to be vulnerable and to accept that you don’t know everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and let others support you and accompany you on your journey. The other significant challenge has been the arduous visa process in the UK, but from my experience of over six visas over the past 13 years, I have found the system to be very fair. I have never felt discriminated against because of my country of origin.
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Is it easier to be a woman in a leadership role in some cultures (in the geographical context) than in others?
Be a female born in Mumbai and now settled in the UK; I can only comment on these two cultures that I observed. Yes, it is easier to be a woman in a leadership role in the UK than in India. However, it is more nuanced than that. Women tend to take on leadership roles in more than one part of their lives – they want to lead and succeed not only in their careers, but also at home and in their community. Our society has been built around these gender roles and it is easier for men to take on leadership roles because they have been encouraged to focus on being a leader only in their careers. This also happens in the UK, but compared to India, the Indian women’s world is still far from equal.
What future for your business? What do you want to achieve next?
I have very big plans for All Things Drinks and I have the ambition to get there quickly. We are going to be one year old in July and the next two years are going to be very exciting. After successfully starting the business that thrives on our money alone, we are preparing for our first round of seed investment and to release equity for early career angel investors. The aim is to bring more people into the UK to shop with us, as well as investing in significant digital systems whilst growing our small team into a stronger core team. Looking at the impact we’ve had in just 11 months, I foresee All Things Drinks becoming a household name in the UK in about five years.
What are your tips for growing a business?
The advice I would give to anyone considering starting their own business is to build the business for your customers and be ready to pivot from the lessons you learn. Another piece of advice would be – if you see your business as a market leader of the future and have ambitions to grow it into a big business, think big and scale from day one. It may be a bit more work, but it will help you reach your end goals much faster. It is much easier to run a marathon if you have decided to run a marathon; than being told a half marathon that now has 13 miles to go!
Also, is there any advice you would give an immigrant and an aspiring entrepreneur about starting a business in the UK? Are there any start-up paperwork to be aware of?
Personally, I think immigrants can make great entrepreneurs because the concept of migration is so entrepreneurial. However, it can be lonely as you may have left your network behind, so be sure to build a community of people you like and trust. For budding entrepreneurs, my advice would be – don’t just look at your business in isolation, but think of it as a newcomer to a larger world of businesses within this market.
Make sure you’re really passionate about the industry you’re getting into. I believe that passion trumps knowledge because if you are passionate about something you can always learn more and deepen your knowledge. But if you don’t love or care enough about the industry you’ve decided to be part of; when times are tough, you may feel trapped. It’s been 14 years since I discovered the wine industry and the idea of learning more about the industry and beverages still excites me. I’m sure if you ask me 14 years from now, I’ll still be talking lyrically about a drink, a producer or a country!
I found the process of starting an online retail business quite simple. The five things you need to do once you’ve decided to get started:
- Start developing your domain name and website.
- Get an accountant and set up your incorporated business and register for VAT. VAT isn’t essential, but if you’re in the B2C world, cash flow is king and being able to reclaim VAT can be crucial for a small business.
- If you are going to be online only, make sure you know everything about Google. If you had a physical store, you would know the prices, footfall, nearest train station, and other businesses in the area. Now imagine your store is on Google – it’s your digital address, and you need to know how this incredibly powerful platform works, to get the most out of your position on it. Search – Google Ads, Analytics, Console, Merchant Center and Academy.
- Get a cheap CRM system, cloud-based accounting software, and logistics software while outsourcing everything you don’t need to experts with better systems or knowledge, or both.