A classic auction



Vasudeo S. Gaitonde Untitled. Estimate $1, 800, 000 – $ 2, 200,000. Painted in 1970. Source: http://www.christies.com

Christie’s upcoming South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art auction in New York this week will be part of Asian Art Week in New York. It’s quite a classic sale. The auction presents paintings by leading modern Indian masters, such as Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Syed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza, Maqbool Fida Husain and Jehangir Sabavala, alongside significant contemporary works by Bharti Kher, Subodh Gupta, Shilpa Gupta and Sheba Chhachhi. Also included are important works by South Asian modernists George Keyt, Abdur Rahman Chughtai, Rashid Choudhury and Sheikh Mohammed Sultan. The sale offers an overview of the past 100 years of Indian art making.

The catalogue is a nice collection of contemporary works. One of the noteworthy works is a 1970 work by Gaitonde Untitled. Featured on the cover of the catalogue, the work was painted when Gaitonde was recognised as being at the peak of his artistic powers. The painting, which displays a kind of non-objective chiaroscuro, is a meditative masterpiece and represents a cornerstone in Gaitonde’s oeuvre (estimate: $1,800,000-2,200,000). The consignor of the work, Dara Mehta, acquired the work at a public auction of antiques and collectibles from the estate of philanthropist Dr Jamshed Jehangir Bhabha, last April. It would be interesting to see what the Gaitonde goes for considering his 1975 canvas, Untitled  sold for a record $4,384,777, a world auction record not only for the artist, but for any modern Indian work of art at the South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art auction in May this year.

Other interesting works are that of Raza’s L’Orage and Zamine. L’Orage perfectly presents Raza’s longing for the Indian landscape so acutely felt and articulated in the 1970s. It is Raza’s exaltation of and homage to India, a place he revisited through every brushstroke, capturing the essence and colors of the country during his years away.

From the contemporary Indian artists, there are notable works by Shilpa Gupta, Bharti Kher and Hema Upadhyay. Then there is the Pakistani-American artist, Seher Shah’s first work, titled Jihad Pop ($8,000 – 12,000).

The entire proceeds from the sale of Lots 695 – 700D will be going towards The Germination Project. The Germination Project is a non-profit catalytic incubator under the aegis of the Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundaton in Philadelphia, USA. One of the initiatives of the Germination Project is IntXchange, a transnational art advocacy network, dedicated to forming a new art and culture exchange between the East and the West.

A serial entrepreneur



(L) Kanupriya Verma, COO and Ananya Birla, CEO & founder (R)

Ananya Birla, Kumar Mangalam and Neerja Birla’s eldest daughter,  launched her second venture, CuroCarte on September 11. Completely different from her first venture, Svatantra Microfinance, a micro-finance company she started in 2013, CuroCarte will provide rare, handmade, high quality, home accents and accessories, sourced from nine countries.

Kanupriya Verma an IIM (Indore) alumni, and also a team member from the Svatantra team, has been brought in as COO at CuroCrate. An initial investment of Rs6 crore has been made. Essentially an unorganized market, Birla is trying to bring some method to the creativity with the help of technology. The charm of CuroCarte lies in the fact that the company will work directly with the makers, or artisans of the products, from all around the world. The idea is to provide consumers with utility as well as decorative products for the home. The brand will be presenting 1,500 products across 70 categories. “Through the brand, we aim to revolutionize the e-commerce space by bringing inaccessible, aesthetically appealing products from all around the world to the people in India and also to a global audience,” says Ananya Birla, founder and CEO, CuroCarte.

Priced at between Rs7,000 – Rs10,000 per item, the site will sell products from India, as well as from Thailand, Spain, Portugal, France, Morocco and Vietnam. According to Birla, a lot of focus will be given to digital marketing. Plans are to launch an app soon. “We don’t have any competition. We are very different from what’s out there,” says Birla.

Her first venture, Svatantra Microfinance, is estimated to have a portfolio of $20 million and 80,000 borrowers in three years since its inception. According to Birla, though CuroCarte is a completely different line of business, some things remain the same. “I have realised that your team, a high EQ, a sound business model and revenue model is what matters,” she says.With her second venture in place, Birla is making herself out to be a serial entrepreneur.

Sony gets 10

What was to happen among the sports TV channels has finally happened. Zee TV sold its bouquet of sports channels under the TEN Sports umbrella to Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) for $385 million. According to industry watchers, this was a move in the pipeline for a while.

Overall, it works out well for all. For Sony, “it brings a strong portfolio of rights in cricket, football and fight sports. We can now grow our footprint in India,” say N.P.Singh, CEO, SPNI. The TEN Sports channels operate in, besides the Indian sub-continent, Maldives, Singapore, Hong Kong, Middle East, Caribbean. TEN Sports holds broadcast rights to major cricket boards (South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe). In addition, Ten Sports also holds rights to wrestling (WWE), football (UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, French League, English Football League Cup), tennis (WTA Events, ATP events), golf (European Tour, Asian Tour, Ryder Cup, US PGA Championship, LPGA Tour, Professional Golf Tour of India and Golf Channel Block), athletics (Asian Games, Commonwealth Games), motor sports (Moto GP) and cycling (Tour de France) events.

For Zee, this was part of an ongoing strategic shuffle at the group, leaving it to concentrate on its general entertainment channels. “ While we have grown our sports business over the last 10 years through acquisition of content at competitive prices, our focus now is on transforming ourselves into an all-round media and content company, comprising of five verticals, viz. broadcast, digital, films, live events, and international business; and we continue to move rapidly towards our set business goals. While I have always been proud of our sports business, I strongly believe that Sony will add more value to it by taking it to even greater heights. I wish them all the success,” says Punit Goenka, Managing Director, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEE).

The revolution continues…

Riyaaz4Riyaaz Amlani is on a roll. Ever since he launched Social, the collaborative workspace concept in 2014, he has had no time for a breather. He has been launching one new Social every few months. Recently, he launched the fifth Social – Capital Social – in Mumbai, at the Bandra Kurla Complex, and the 10th in India. Designed as part bunker – part refuge, this launch speaks of the success of the format and the ideology – the bottomless appetite for the second space that mixes business with pleasure. “It’s an idea that has found resonance with people,” says Riyaaz Amlani, founder & CEO, Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.

The next three years will be all about Social. As for the other brands under the Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality umbrella, – Mocha, the coffee house the company started with in 2001 is now in 20 tier 2 cities. Smokehouse Deli, the fine dine restaurant is expanding, but slowly. There should be 15 of them nationwide by 2017. Then there is Saltwater Grill, Salt Water Café, The Tasting Room, and Stone Water Grill and Le Kebabiere in Pune.

With an aim to be in the top three restaurant chains in the country, Amlani has no plans of slowing down.

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Looking new, stores and all!

Converse, the iconic American sneaker which has been in the Indian market since 2009, is getting its act together. It is now on par with the global brand, launching collections alongside the global timeline, stores are spruced up and the brand is finally getting the attention it deserves. According to Rachna Aggarwal, Converse is now fully on par with the global entity. She expects the brand to cross Rs100 crore this year.

The customer today is far more demanding than he was five years ago. He / she wants a product that is available everywhere. For instance, last year, Converse had launched its Chuck Taylor All Star II Reflective Print Collection. Unfortunately, FLF was late to bring the collection to India, and instead launched it this year. “The number of consumers who know internationally that Converse has launched Chuck II, and that there is a camouflage range out is amazing. I’ve got people texting me asking if the camouflage Chuck II range has reached. So consumers who know it, know it,” says Aggarwal.


Converse is now on par with the global entity: Rachna Aggarwal

India has become an important market for Converse. It has understood that India, as a market, can’t be behind the rest of the world. With China slowing down, the growth is here. “Last year they felt we could do it (launch a collection) a year later. This time we said it’s not going to happen. India gets it at the same time, or skips it. Because when you follow social media, I know what’s happening everywhere,” says Aggarwal.

The Boston, Massachusetts-based Converse Inc., is a wholly owned subsidiary of NIKE, Inc. The 108 year old brand has built a reputation as ‘America’s Original Sports Company,™ and has been associated with shoes such as the Chuck Taylor® All Star® shoe, the Jack Purcell® shoe and the One Star® shoe. Today, Converse offers a diverse portfolio including lifestyle men’s, women’s and children’s footwear, apparel and accessories and is sold globally by retailers in over 160 countries.

In India, Future Lifestyle Fashions Ltd (FLF), is the brand licensee and has been managing the brand since 2009. The company has been solely responsible for marketing the brand in India, and for ensuring a top of mind recall in a competitive market. Converse is available in the key metros including Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Guwahati and Mohali.

So who is buying Converse shoes? According to Aggarwal, CEO, Indus League, division of Future Lifestyle Fashion, Converse is not a male brand any more. The consumer has changed.  Many women and tweens are buying the shoes. So, sizes are getting smaller. There has been a huge change in the consumer’s lifestyle over the last couple of years. The whole world of formal and casual is breaking up. The youth segment is finding its own genres and dress codes. Atheleisure is taking over as a dress code. Even hairstyles are radically different from five years back. Youngsters sport tattoos and piercings. It might look rebellious, but it has all moved beyond the rebellious.

Noticing the huge growth in the atheleisure / lifestyle business, the Future group took a call to gro


The new-look Converse store.

w the sports business, and brought in brands like Converse, Champion and Umbro. In 2013, the Future group undertook a group wide internal restructuring, consolidating the group’s small businesses into three main legal entities – Future Lifestyle Fashion, Future Retail and Future Consumer. Future Consumer is the food space which comprises all the work the group does in food parks and all the brands in the food space. Future Retail comprises primarily Big Bazaar and other formats within the group such as e–Zone and Home Town. Future Lifestyle Fashion became a consolidation of the group’s retail businesses such as Central, Planet Sports, Brand Factory and all the brand businesses. By this consolidation, all the brands were moved out of retail to be managed as brands, and retail was left to be run as pure retail as an arm’s length transaction.

What used to happen previously is that Converse was sold as part of Planet Sports in all the Centrals. So Planet Sports used to be in Central and there would be Converse inside it. This has changed. Instead, now, each brand has its own dedicated section. So there will be a Converse section, a Champion section and a Umbro section. “A person is coming to buy each brand,” says Aggarwal. “So in the process of the next six months in every Central across the country, you can actually go and buy Converse and not a `shoe’,” she says.

The brand’s first global identity store was launched November 2015 at Ambience Mall in Gurgaon (NCR). Its second exclusive store was launched recently at Chennai’s Express Mall. Plans are to redo the Infinity Mall, Malad, store in Mumbai to the new global identity. Plans are to open a store in Dehradun, West Bengal. Besides being a young market, Aggarwal feels North East India is more fashion conscious than the rest of the country. “The fashion sensibility is different in the hilly regions,” she says. And of course, there is online sales.

Future Lifestyle Fashion’s turnover is expected to be around Rs3,500 crore this year. For Converse, the company is looking at almost 40 per cent growth in the coming year. “The last year has been about consolidation, setting things right, moving to global line. We have stopped doing a lot of India sourcing. We have become global, because that is what we think the Converse consumer is looking for,” she says.Converse7

In April this year, the new global line was launched the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II Reflective Print Collection. “I think there is a deterring customer who is willing to pay for the right product. I’m not saying people are willing to buy expensive things. People are willing to pay for what they believe is the right value, whether the value is in the brand name, or whether the value is in the design, is up to each person’s perception and what they are willing to pay,” she adds.

Being a youth centric brand, Converse gets interwoven into the lifestyle of the customer. Converse Inc.’s property, Converse Rubber Tracks, is one way that the brand connects with its customers. “This is a great property to allow us to become a part of their lifestyle,” says Aggarwal.

Converse Rubber Tracks is a global family of community-based professional recording studios. Emerging musicians of all genres can apply for free studio time. If selected, artists record at no cost while maintaining the rights to their own music.

In India, Converse has developed the platform as The Road to Converse Rubber Tracks. Since its first edition in 2014, it has become a hugely successful platform that gives independent bands / artistes in India an opportunity to fulfill their dreams and cut a record of their own. Being a property that was developed around the brand thought, the brand’s creativity and the brand’s connection with the youth, Aggarwal thought all of that was valid when one is trying to build a brand. “This is not a brand that you can build by just advertising. You have to get into the lives of the consumer,” she says.


Dosser’s Urge – the winners of the second edition of The Road to Rubber Tracks

The first edition of The Road to Rubber Tracks in 2014 exceeded everyone’s expectations of what was possible to do in India. It gave a platform to The F-16s, an electro-indie band from Chennai. The winner of the second edition earlier in April this year, was Guwahati-based rock band Dosser’s Urge.

The tea way of life

Chai Diaries2

From a public relations executive in Mumbai, to a tea lady in Los Angeles, USA, Ami Bhansali has found her calling. Coming from a family that owns tea estates in the Nilgiri Hills of southern India, Ami launched Chai Diaries, a brand of specialty teas, in the American retail market in 2014. Two years later, she is launching Chai Diaries in India.

Two things Bhansali wants to do in India – one is tap the gifting market and second, open a tea shop. Over the past two and a half years, she has been able to get a sense of the Indian market. People are obviously interested, so even when she was doing her samples, she was selling a lot of tea. Bhansali aims to be number one in the gifting market (especially weddings) and hotels (she wants the rooms to carry her teas). The focus is on the white tea, and 10 flavours that are the same as the US. Everything

Chai Diaries8

Ami Bhansali: building Chai Diaries into a lifestyle brand

will be sourced locally and blended locally. The US packaging is to be replicated here. “India is really big on gifting and when you have something exclusive and something exciting then people don’t mind paying money for it,” she says.

Chai Diaries is a small start up. In one and a half years of operations, the company has sales of $150,000. From 21 specialty blends that she launched in 2014, today Chai Diaries has a portfolio of 45 varieties of tea based on blends including black, masala chai, green, infusion, Oolong, Pu-Erh, Rooibos, White and their own signature blends. All Chai Diaries tealeaves are imported directly to the US from the tea-producing countries of India, Sri Lanka, Japan and China and blended with fruit, botanical ingredients and all-natural products. The most recent addition is the instant chai, essentially a premix.

The Indian tea industry hasn’t seen much change in the last few decades. In fact, according to insiders, many things are still the same as when the British introduced tea to India. Buying tea is still done mostly through auctions. It is the third generation of plantation owners, who have grown up on tea estates, such as Ami and Teabox’s Kaushal Dugar, amongst others, who are helping change the industry and connect the consumer directly with the farm.

The opportunity for the tea sector is huge in the US, where tea has found new consumers. According to a report by Market Realist, a research and analytics firm, though the per capita consumption of tea in the US is quite low compared to countries like the UK and China, there has been an impressive growth in tea consumption in recent years. According to the Tea Association of the USA (USTA), the total wholesale value of tea sold in the US grew from less than $2 billion in 1990 to over $10 billion in 2014. Further, according to the USTA, the US has emerged as the second largest importer of tea in the world, after Russia. In 2014, the country imported 285 million pounds of tea, representing an estimated retail value of $10.8 billion.Chai Diaries6

The USTA claims that about four out of five consumers drink tea in the US. The preference for healthier beverages is driving consumers away from soda, and boosting the demand for tea. US tea sales are also growing due to the innovative products and flavors that the industry has brought to the table. The convenience and options across the ready-to-drink tea category have also attracted consumers. And everyone wants to be on the bus. Seeing the growth potential, biggies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper Snapple have introduced several flavors under their popular tea brands. With all this action, many young energetic brands are working alongside more established companies in changing the tea drinking culture within the country. It is this opportunity that Ami is tapping.

Bhansali started her career as a public relations executive in Mumbai. She went on to head the marketing function for various luxury fashion brands that had entered India in 2006-07. After spending a decade in the PR sector, her interest in tea piqued. “PR was becoming too small. I wanted to do something that challenged me. I didn’t know tea and retail. That’s (retail) the most challenging business in America. I’m glad I took the risk,” she says.

Bhansali moved to New York, USA, in2013.  Needing an excuse to continue staying there, she would register herself for short three-month courses. At the New York University School of Professional Studies, as part of the curriculum for the course ‘Starting your own Business (including submitting a business plan)’ fellow colleagues, who knew of her growing interest in tea, encouraged her to present a plan for the tea shop she wanted to launch. However, the teacher didn’t seem to think the plan would work in reality. That was enough for Ami to want to take it on as a challenge.Chai Diaries5

While the determination was enough to get going, there was a lot of learning to do. In 2012 when she was walking her first trade show – World Tea East in Philadelphia, a chance meeting with Charlie Cains, then tea operations head for Starbucks (he no longer works there) who asked her “What grade is your tea?” made her realize that there was a lot of learning to do. (In the tea industry, ‘what grade’ refers to the size of the leaf.) The next dilemma was ‘what should the tea taste like?’ Her brother’s advice was to go with what she likes as there would be people who would like exactly the same thing as her. Ami closed down on a range of 21 specialty blends.

Chai Diaries (as the brand is called) is a business built on passion. It is insp

ired by Ami’s childhood spent on Mahavir Plantations, her family’s tea estates in the Nilgiris. Started by her grandfather, Tarachand Bhansali, Ami is the third generation. Ironically, tea she wasn’t fond of while growing up. Yet, today, she has built Chai Diaries, on all the feelings, memories and aromas from her childhood. “There are acres of natural beauty. The smell of spices, cardamom, eucalyptus the minute you enter. You see these tea fields, and the women waking up at five in the morning, along with the sunrise and they are just laughing and going about their work. It’s such a happy environment. Growing up as a kid with my brothers all our adventures were based out of this. I have used all of these feelings, memories, and aromas in Chai Diaries,” she says.

The whole idea is that, while you have coffee when you are meeting people, chai is something you have on your personal time. It’s something that helps you to go back to who you are. So, the word ‘chai’ in the brand name has been used as a talking point, to educate people that Chai is tea. “In Starbucks they serve chai latte and people don’t understand `chai’ means tea. They think `chai’ means `chai latte’. I want Chai Diaries to be that. It’s a long goal. It’s a huge PR exercise,” she says.

In the US, Chai Diaries’ is available at larger retail chains in the US, such as Bed Bath & Beyond (BB&B), Southern Season in South Carolina, and at HEB and Central Market in Texas. Its presence in a store like BB&B may appear strange. However, what made this possible is when BB&B bought Cost Plus / World Market in 2012. Through this association, BB&B set up a World Gourmet section in select stores to sell wines, food, health chips and health teas, etc. Hence, Chai Diaries has a presence in 13 BB&B stores. Chai Diaries’ top four markets are New York, Los Angeles, Texas and Florida. While CD retails at $10 – $12 in the US, Ami chooses to do a direct conversion of dollar: rupee for the Indian market, which in fact makes this an expensive tea for India. She isn’t letting that get her down.

Ami wants to build Chai Diaries into a lifestyle brand, and promote the tea way of life – #teaworld. Besides tea, the company’s portfolio includes tea sets, yoga bracelets, stationary, pens, t-shirts, yoga leggings, yoga mats. “It’s gifting. It’s fun; and people are getting more health conscious and quirky things have always been a thing in India. The scope in India is definitely huge,” she says.

While the US market is more mass, India as a customer base is more exciting. As tea has the ability to go for a global expansion, there is demand from Dubai to meet. Yet, this is the tip of the iceberg for tea. With growing awareness, tea is no more this random tea lying in your kitchen. A whole new universe has opened up for this ancient drink.

What a beautiful Boardwalk!


There is a little bit of Greece, just off the coast of Mumbai. As you sail into Madwa port, you can see the white sun
Boardwalk8umbrellas swaying in the breeze. Cross the jetty, and Boardwalk by Flamboyante, the new restaurant on the jetty is just what Mumbai needed. A get-away for the day, though close by, it is capable of transporting you miles away.

Boardwalk is the dream of Ashim Mongia, MD of Mumbai based West Coast Marine. A visit to Boardwalk in Dubai years ago, made him determined to build something similar in Mumbai. It’s a 20 year old dream, which came to fruition on his 20th wedding anniversary.

The idea is to make this a place that even people from Mumbai could go to. In 2014, Madwa Port LLp, a consortium of companies comprising West Coast Marine and a couple of others, won the tender put out by the Maharashtra Maritime Board to develop the facilities at Mandwa jetty. As part of this development programme, Kiki’s Cafe


Partners all three: (L to R) Amrish Arora, Devika Sehgal, Ashim Mongia

Partners all three (L to R) Amrish Arora, Devika Sehgal, Ashim Mongia

and the MTDC were given space.



Teaming up with school friend Amrish Arora, MD of Flamboyante, a Mumbai based restaurant, for Boardwalk was a no-brainer. The Mumbai people in Alibaug know Arora because of his restaurant and cateBoardwalk6ring services he provided for the weekenders.”Besides the Elephanta Caves,Bombay doesn’t have any tourism. We need a showpiece. We are capitalising on the lovely coastline,” says Ashim Mongia.

Boardwalk is a full day restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and sun-downers. The idea is to get the jetty buzzing and it should work, as the rest of the jetty gets developed.