Ajay Shetty completed his graduation from Christ College, Bengaluru and followed up with a Master’s degree from the New York Institute of Technology and New Jersey Institute of Technology. He has always been an entrepreneur at heart, even though he started out in the finance world. His experience as an ex-banker with the likes of Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch gave him a firm grounding in how financial markets operate globally, with experience in New York and Hong Kong. This stood him in good stead when he decided to strike out on a different path. He took the business knowledge he had gained and combined it with his love for wine. Ajay started Myra Vineyards in 2011. Even after a successful exit through the VisVires Capital, he stayed on to continue the transformation from a wine brand to a lifestyle brand. Then, he decided why not do it again, with Salud Beverages.
Ajay Shetty’s latest venture, Salud Beverages, is named after the Spanish word which means “cheers to health”. Salud today has a global vision where people come together to celebrate life, with a touch of exclusivity. Ajay Shetty, here speaks on his latest venture Salud, his strategy to endorse his brand and expansion of his brand abroad.
- Which year did you establish your company Salud?
We established the company in July 2020 and we were in the market by early 2021.
- How do you deal with competition?
We don’t worry about what the competition is doing. We focus on the quality of our own product and the sale of the brand in the market. So, we are not competing with anybody but ourselves! We are consistently trying to improve and better our product for our consumers. That is the only focus we have in mind.
- What is that one main strategy you use to endorse your brand?
I wear it everywhere. We focus on the alcobev brand because it is our key business. But our strategy is that people see Salud in all aspects of their life. We are an urban lifestyle company so whether it is the music they hear or the clothing they wear or the things they choose to drink, we want to be in the choice mix. That is the strategy we have been using, and that’s how are growing the brand digitally or even otherwise.
- What is the pricing like?
We are priced depending on the states. In Karnataka we are priced at 130 Rs, In Goa we are priced at 99 Rs and in other markets we are between 80 Rs and 100 Rs.
- You are a jetsetter. How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle with your busy schedule?
To be very honest, I try to eat on time.
- When can we expect your brand to go global and what are the countries you have on your priority list?
We have five international destinations on our initial target list – the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East – specifically Dubai, and we are talking to people in Nepal and Sri Lanka as well. We will be in some of these global markets as early as 2022 and keep expanding from there.
- When you decided to shift your career from being a banker to an entrepreneur, what made you choose the alcobev industry?
I felt there was a massive gap in the market – people were looking for easier, less pretentious, more convenient ways to drink. That plus my passion for wine! I thought that it would be an ideal time for me to do a bit of both. It was a gut feeling, really; an instinct on which direction to go.
- Tell us about your investor Prasad Vanga from Anthill Ventures. How did you both meet?
Prasad is a friend. We were introduced two years ago. We realized that we both had the same passion on trying to work and revolutionise drinking in the country. We wanted to usher in the low alcohol beverage revolution that was happening around the world. He pretty much aligned his thoughts with my vision. He was the perfect VC to have on board to back me in this whole journey.
- Are you looking at an e-commerce platform for Salud merchandise or will be it available at outlets?
It is currently available on an e-commerce platform which is Amazon but primarily we are exclusively available on our website which salud.co.in. It’s going strong. Currently, we have a range of t-shirts, caps and upcycled wood coasters. We are continuing to add to this range, and will also be introducing more merchandise as we go along. Next on the cards is ready-to-wear athleisure clothing.