How Poonam Chandel Challenges Stereotypes With Her Alco-Bev Startup

Poonam Chandel talks about breaking into a male-dominated space, stereotypes attached to the alco-beverage industry, her growth as a leader, and how she shifts perspective in the Indian market. 

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Poonam Chandel
Poonam Chandel is a pioneer when it comes to shattering the notion of gender roles associated with a certain genre of business. Chandel, whose startup NeuWorld Spirits is making waves internationally as one of India's most sought-after spirits companies, faced several challenges when she started, a major one being women's association with the alcohol-beverage industry which, for a large part, still remains male-dominated.

In an interview with SheThePeople, Poonam Chandel talks about breaking into a male-dominated space, stereotypes attached to the alco-beverage industry, her growth as a leader, and how she shifts perspective in the Indian market.

Poonam Chandel Interview

What led you to venture into entrepreneurship? 

As the Managing Director of NeuWorld Spirits, I am grateful for the opportunities that my career in the alco-bev industry has given me. In the past, I was fortunate to work with prominent names such as Shaw Wallace, ABD Limited, and Radico Khaitan Limited to spearhead their campaigns for 8 PM Whisky, Olde Admiral Brandy, Directors Special Whisky and Antiquity Whisky.

During my tenure at Cobra Beer, I saw an opportunity to create a positive disruption through product differentiation and pricing, which led me to start NeuWorld Spirits. Our focus now is to cater to the changing palate of Indian consumers by providing them with high-quality products that they can enjoy.

We have launched premium and semi-premium products in the whiskey segment - Downing Street and Royal Tribe, respectively. In the coming year, we plan to expand our product range to include premium rum, brandy, vodka, craft gin, and fusion malts, all of which will have a distinct international taste and quality, along with premium packaging. Our goal is to become a leading player in the premium and semi-premium segments, and we are committed to achieving it through innovation and excellence in product development and customer service.


What led to NeuWorld spirits?

The Indian market boasts of a host of challenges and unique opportunities that I believed were possible to tap into, particularly to fulfil the demand that is currently prevalent in the Indian consumer market. The idea behind NeuWorld was to create a range of premium and aspirational products, and with the launch of Downing Street and Royal Tribe whiskey, we are well on our way to establishing a strong presence in this industry.

The consumer is now being exposed to a whole lot of international tastes, flavours and packaging and he is being spoilt for choice. The best part is that he is enjoying experimenting with a host of new brands hence there is a great opportunity to be able to create a niche for oneself if one plays the game right in terms of providing a high-quality product with great packaging and backing it up with the right communication for it to stand out.

The Alco-Bev industry has for a major part been male-dominated.  I’m sure it was challenging. What are the challenges associated?

One of the biggest challenges that I faced through the course of my career was overcoming the stereotypes associated with working women. People often assumed that women were not capable of understanding the nuances of the business or that they lacked the strength to handle the physical demands of the job. It took a lot of hard work and perseverance to prove myself and earn the respect of my colleagues and peers.

Currently, one of the major challenges that we face is breaking the glass ceiling and achieving gender diversity in leadership positions across the industry. While we have made some progress, there is still a long way to go in terms of creating a level playing field for women. Additionally, there is a need to constantly innovate and create unique products that cater to the evolving tastes of consumers while staying true to our values and vision as a company.


How is your company bringing a revolution into the Indian market with the kind of scope we have across the country?

Our unique selling proposition is to constantly innovate and create unique products that stand out from the rest. We have launched our premium whiskey, Downing Street, and Royal Tribe, with plans to launch a premium range of rum, brandy, vodka, craft gin, and fusion malts. While our products fall under the semi-premium category, we are competitively priced, placing us in a good spot when compared to international names. In short, our pricing coupled with the quality that we deliver gives us ample scope to establish a strong presence in the Indian markets.

What sets apart the company spirit from its competitors?

We focus on crafting high-quality, unique products with an international taste and premium packaging. What sets us apart from our competitors is our commitment to quality and innovation. We use only the finest ingredients and processes to create our products, ensuring that our customers get the best possible experience.

In addition, our product range is carefully curated to appeal to the evolving tastes of Indian consumers. Each of our products is created with a distinct flavour profile and is designed to appeal to a particular Indian consumer segment.

As a leader in business, how do you suggest the Indian market can empower more women in leadership positions?


I strongly believe that creating a more inclusive work environment and promoting gender diversity in leadership positions is not just the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense. To empower more women in leadership positions, companies must first recognise the inherent biases and barriers that women face in the workplace, and take proactive measures to address them. Some of the steps that companies can take include providing equal opportunities for career growth and development, creating flexible work arrangements, establishing mentorship and sponsorship programs, and promoting a culture of inclusion and diversity.

Additionally, it is important for companies to actively seek out and recruit talented women for leadership positions, and ensure that they are given the support and resources they need to succeed. This can include offering training and development programs, providing access to networks and professional organisations, and offering competitive compensation and benefits packages.

Ultimately, creating a more gender-diverse workforce is not just a moral imperative, but also a business imperative. By tapping into the full potential of all employees, companies can drive innovation, improve productivity, and ultimately achieve greater success in the marketplace.

From when you started to now, what factor can you recall that has impacted your growth as a leader?

Each obstacle that I encountered during my career presented a unique opportunity to learn and grow and has helped me develop a more strategic and nuanced approach to problem-solving.

Learning from the experiences of others, and being open to feedback and constructive criticism has helped me to constantly improve and evolve as a leader.

I also believe that having a clear vision and sense of purpose has been instrumental in my growth as a leader. Being able to articulate a compelling vision for the future of my company, and rallying my team around that vision has helped to create a sense of purpose and drive that has fuelled our growth and success.

What advice would you give women on their path to entrepreneurship in the field as yours?

My advice to other women on their path to &t=1s">entrepreneurship in this field would be to stay focused on their goals and believe in themselves. Don't let anyone else's perceptions or biases hold you back. Surround yourself with a strong support system, both professionally and personally, and don't be afraid to ask for help or guidance when you need it.

It's important to stay up-to-date with industry trends and to be constantly learning and growing. Seek mentors and role models who can guide and inspire you, and don't be afraid to take risks and try new things.

Above all, remember that success in entrepreneurship takes time, hard work, and perseverance. Don't be discouraged by setbacks or failures, but instead, use them as learning opportunities and keep moving forward towards your goals.

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