“Entrepreneurship is beyond the concept of Man vs Woman”
Sarika Varshnei, Chief Growth Officer of the Latambarcem Brewers, spoke with IBT on the occasion of Women’ Day, and explained the myth that surrounds female entrepreneurs here in India. With over 20 years of experience in F&B, hospitality sector, Sarika admits that although she was not a born entrepreneur, a conducive environment built by her friends and family paved the way for her to become a businesswoman.
Photo Source: LB Brewers
There is no right age or time needed to plunge into your own venture. One doesn’t have to be a man to envision a business of their own. This is the story of Ms. Sarika Varshnei, a serial entrepreneur, who is now the Chief Growth Officer of Latambarcem Brewers Pvt. Ltd.
Speaking to IBT, Sarika narrated her journey, “It has been over two decades since I’ve been an entrepreneur. I have been working since 1994 when I joined my husband’s business. Coming from a family of businessmen over three generations, I was never career oriented. I was married at the age of 21, at an age where you don’t get a chance to decide. And like most Indian families, I was not asked what I wanted to do (career wise).”
Married at the age of 21, Sarika says she never envisioned herself engaging in a professional domain, and like most Indian families, was expected to be a housewife and take care of children and family. Though she never thought of being an entrepreneur or entering into a business, Sarika’s father had trained her in every aspect of running a business.
My father taught me accounts, income tax, how to save money and grow money.
The Making of an entrepreneur
Though she joined her husband, Pradeep Varshnei’s glassware business in the early 90’s, destiny had other plans for Sarika as she channelled her inner businesswoman and set up her own bakery brand in Gujarat in 2002.
“I invested all my savings in the bakery business and also set up a manufacturing unit in Baroda (Vadodara), Gujarat. This was my first plunge as an entrepreneur. And with this bakery, I ensured that the products were one of a kind for the Indian market. In an era where there was no Google, I collected them from all over the world and tried to replicate them here at the bakery. I’m a self-trained confectionery connoisseur.”
Sarika’s ambition and vision for business grew overtime, as she set up another restaurant and attached it to the bakery. In 2011, Sarika decided to enter the hospitality sector and set up a 21-room boutique hotel. After a successful stint in the hospitality sector for over 6 years, she decided to move on from entrepreneurial stagnation and expand her footprint in the hospitality sector in Goa.
“It worked well till 2016. I had this realisation that I needed to expand my career in the F&B. I knew that I wanted my next business to be in a touristy town. I knew I could make a wider reach. So, my husband and I decided to move to Goa,” Sarika said.
For the next two years, Sarika focused on her business in Goa while her sons’ conceptualised the idea of setting up a brewery in the village of Latambarcem. Sarika says she never intended to join the brewery segment as she was growing well within the hospitality industry. In 2019, however, an unfortunate challenge forced her to shut down her resort.
“My resort got vandalised in 2019 by some local goons and miscreants and my world came crashing down in the blink of an eye. Within 8 hours, my hotel was ransacked, which left me devastated. That is when my son suggested that I should join their brewery business.”
Inception of Latambarcem Brewers
Sarika’s sons Aditya Ishan Varshnei and Anish Varshnei set up Latambarcem Brewers in 2017. The company has two brands under its umbrella — Maka di, its beer brand; and a kombucha brand named Borécha. While Borécha was launched in July 2019, the startup launched Maka di in October 2020.
Photo Credit: LB Brewery
In a short span, Latambarcem Brewers became an established brand but the hardship was not over yet. Sarika and her family have bootstrapped the business by investing around Rs 25 crore. And till date, it is a family-owned business with no external investor.
“In our case, I would say that every ounce of profit we earn is put back into the company. Our focus for now is for the company to grow. We have invested every bit of earnings we had simply because we want the company to grow at that level where they do not get swayed by an external force.”
Sarika is the Chief Growth officer of the brewery wherein she heads the sales and marketing division. She is also in charge of the exports division. With her cumulative work experience of over two decades, she has has retained her professional principals, and has the approach of “consumer first”.
“Today, as a company, we have 1% of return to vendor (RTV), which means consumers are getting what they want and it makes us proud. We don’t want that ideology to change because if an external investor comes in, they may set their own revenue targets. And we want to grow organically.”
As of 2023, the company’s Borecha brand is being exported to the US and Canada and will soon make its debut in the UAE, Egypt, Africa, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. It is present in 18 states and 30 cities in India. Sarika is responsible for her company’s successful collaborations with big brands like Haldiram’s, PVR Cinemas, and ITC Hotels.
“As the Chief Growth Officer, my vision is to take my company to a billion dollar mark and our brands Maka and Borecha should be across the globe, everywhere in India. We want to make Maka a sustainable brewery in the next 5 years. We are recycling our water, which means any residual water leftover after making the beer is not thrown away. It is treated and reused for agriculture.
The Latambarcem brewery engages village women and local workers who give tours to visitors. At the end of the tour, they offer local cuisines prepared by the women of Latambarcem. “All the residual products of Borecha are reused or repurposed to avoid any unnecessary wastage. So, I’m not just looking at the growth of the company, the brands but also the village and local communities,” she added.
Breaking the gender stereotype
Sarika says that over the years she has learnt that being an entrepreneur doesn’t confine yourself to the concept of Man vs. Woman. She believes that while inequality does exist, it is time to move on from the blame game as these arguments are not congenial for the woman.
Photo Credit: LB Brewery
“Women in some scenarios do not get adequate support, yes I do agree this happens. I did not get that support and I was looked down upon because I am a woman. Even today, in this 21st century, people carry a mindset that women are supposed to be at home, taking care of kids and supporting husband. This needs to change.
“People kept looking down upon me, and I kept rising at every step of my life,” she said.