“Be Unique, Be You”

A vital part of an industry that has made a name for itself in the craft beer market, the story of a lady who believes in herself and wants to leave a permanent mark on the world

Sarika Varshnei is the Chief Growth Officer at Latambarcem Brewers Pvt Ltd, the largest industrial craft brewery in India. Famous for developing and making beers which have never been brewed in India, the company is making a difference in the consumption pattern of alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic beverages in the country.

Sarika’s journey didn’t quite begin with the beer and beverage industry. Hailing from the city of Kolkata, she completed her graduation in political science from St. Xavier’s College. Right after, at the young age of 21, she married into an industrialist family which was one of the pioneers of the glass industry in India.

In a family where the idea of a woman working and having a career was initially frowned upon, Sarika entered the family business in Baroda, Gujarat, 1996. She went on to start a bakery called Crispy Cream in 2003 and owing to its success and popularity later added it to her restaurant Machu Pichu. She ran the restaurant for nine years and then shifted it to her boutique hotel in 2011. The construction and design of the hotel was single-handedly managed by Sarika. Thus, each room was uniquely designed with a blend of contemporary art and architecture, and adorned with antique furniture.

Sarika arrived on the Goan hospitality scene in 2016 with the installation of her very own beach club called Voca Loca in Goa. She operated it successfully for a couple of years before joining her son Aditya Ishan Varshnei, co-founder and CEO, Latambarcem Brewers Pvt Ltd, at the brewery.

When her family decided to enter the craft beer market, her involvement was crucial in the process of creating brands like Maka di and Borecha. Customer involvement and satisfaction is a vital aspect in the growth of any company. Thus, Sarika’s communication skills and her experience in the world of hospitality were well employed in the enterprise.

She took up the position of Chief Growth Officer at Latambarcem, a role which encompassed sales, marketing, planning, and enhancing the overall revenue of the establishment. The most important role, according to her, was that of an advisor to her sons and the young employees of the startup that make up around 97 per cent of the staff.

Sarika speaks enthusiastically about the products manufactured at the brewery. About Maka di, a one of its kind craft beer brand in India, she says, “The moment a person sees the attractive packaging of a Maka di beer, they want to grab a bottle. We intentionally focus on the special artwork displayed on every label of the can. It entices people, makes them curious. They start wondering about the product which eventually works in our favour.”

Kombucha – said to be of Japanese origin – is a sweet, non-alcoholic, tea-based fizzy drink fermented by bacteria, yeast, and sugar. It is an alternative to sugary, carbonated beverages filled with preservatives that have a high calorie count and provide no health benefits. Borecha was developed in order to provide the customers with a tasty drink which would encourage them to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

The customers’ feedbacks and support greatly helped the company in making these game-changing beverages. Though their first priority was just beer making, the success of Borecha Kombucha and its rising popularity convinced them that people are ready to move away from unnatural sugary beverages to natural products.

When asked how she, along with the company, coped up with the pandemic, Sarika says, “Our brand grew exponentially during the pandemic. It was all thanks to social media and our website. People approached us through various social media platforms primarily because they could not move about as they normally did. Social media is one of the tools that genuinely helped us in expanding our distribution network.”

People face a lot of challenges when they set out to achieve a goal, many a times women more than men. Sarika acknowledges the gender-stereotypes that are prevalent in the corporate sector and the world in general. Irrespective of how hard one works, the mind-sets of a patriarchal society permeate in all workspaces. Being a woman is by itself the toughest challenge which one faces. People still believe that a woman’s life should be limited only to her family and its welfare. It wouldn’t be completely absurd to say that candidates in workplaces are still chosen not on the potential that they have but on the basis of their gender.

She talks about her own experience in regard to this. “Over the past 30 years, as an entrepreneur, I expected things to change but sadly they haven’t. Even with the restaurant and hotel, there were many people who doubted my abilities. The people would often prefer to talk to my husband instead – ironic because I was the one who was actually running those businesses. I still have to fight that battle sometimes.”

The family, which is often thought to be at stake when a woman starts her own career, was never really the struggle it was thought to be for Varshnei. “When it came to family, I never had any problems. My children were lovely and my husband – although opposed to me working in the beginning due to family pressure – is very supportive. Each one of us has managed beautifully.”

It is due to her charm, charisma, intelligence, and hard work that she has gotten to the point where she is now. The qualities and strength she possesses as a woman has been an integral part of her successful journey.

To other aspiring ladies Sarika says, “You have to be strong and courageous; have self control and determination to do what you want and get what you want”

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