Ajit Balgi : A spirited entrepreneur by chance

When and how did you start?

” We started in October 2014. After 8 years in bar/hotel operations and 2 years of liquor consulting, I moved away from the biz to pursue an MBA from S P Jain, Mumbai. Brief stints with FMCG during the course and a year post-study in services marketing and sales made me realize that I was made for wine and spirits. I decided to come back to the biz, and The Happy High was born”, Says Mr. Ajit Balgi, The Founder, and CEO of The Happy High. 

How did you come up with the idea? Your inspiration moment

I am in entrepreneurship by chance. After I realized that I wanted to come back to the industry, I knocked several doors, some were genuinely welcoming but with little to offer and some in power who were erstwhile ‘friends’ were ready to exploit. This actually inspired me to go ahead and venture on my own. The idea was a result of the mediocrity in the food and beverage space around us and education seemed to be the solution and hence the core of our co became education. The Happy High aims to be the one stop shop for wine and spirit education and consultancy services in India. We intend to raise the bar of food, wine and spirit appreciation by creating awareness about quality with both professionals and the end consumers.

Brief about the organization and founding members

Founder:

Ajit Balgi is the Founder and the Beverage expert who runs The Happy High. Ajit had travelled to over 16 countries in the pursuit of wines and spirit and is one of India’s leading beverage professionals. His latest achievement is him being appointed as a Judge at the prestigious Michelangelo wine competition to be held in South Africa this August. He works as an ambassador for luxury brands from the house of Remy Cointreau, John distilleries etc. He is an alumnus of Dadar Catering and S P Jain, Mumbai.

Ajit Balgi : A spirited entrepreneur by chance

Image Credit/ Source: Mr. Ajit Balgi  (Founder, and CEO of The Happy High)

Organization:

The Happy High is a wine and spirit education, consulting and experiences co which offers bespoke solutions based on our understanding of hospitality operations, market knowledge and most important subject matter. We engage with business and consumers alike and following are the services we offer.

Consumer:

Bespoke food and wine/spirit dining experiences
Beverage Workshops for Employee and Client engagement
Dining awareness workshops for employees going on-shore/foreign locations
Hotels & Restaurants:
Beverage Menu Development and bar set-up
Professional Beverage Education
Wine and Cocktail Programs
Wine and Spirit Cos:
Brand evangelism through tasting and education:
Assistance in finding an Indian importer for foreign brands through tastings:
Foreign Country Boards:
Assistance in creating market awareness both consumer and trade through education on their products

About funding, plans for  growth

Our success story is something that has been slow and steady. In the last two years I have been invited and hosted by industry organizations of Austria, Greece, Italy and Spain to showcase their wines and I also won a fellowship by the US government which took me on the educational tour of the country for a few weeks. This has reinforced our belief of us being the major shakers and movers in the wine and spirit industry. We are now looking to hire people with different technical skill sets to increase our offering from education to turnkey solutions in setting up bars. We are not looking for any funding for now.

Video Credit/ Source: Mr. Ajit Balgi  (Founder, and CEO of The Happy High)

Challenges and Opportunities/ Marketing Strategies

The challenge that we face or observe on a daily basis is the people’s acceptance of mediocrity. It is a vicious cycle, consumers accept mediocrity due to ignorance, many restaurateurs encash upon that to make easy money and the new entrants piggyback on the tried and tested taking the food and beverage levels to a new low each time. Our aim is to improve the situation with better menus and wine lists however the new entrants act penny wise and pound polish by investing crores in the interiors and leave pennies for the core, food, and beverage. This challenge also seems like an opportunity on a positive note and we are looking to break in.

Future plans and funding

Given the VUCA world of alcohol, we don’t dwell in 5-year plans. We take it on a YOY horizon. For next year, we look to expand our reach in the bar set-up vertical which is currently a negligible part of our business.

A quote from the founder on the journey, or dealing with the challenge, or any inspiring moment.

On work Life balance: “Balancing life with business especially as a first gen entrepreneur can be tough as one is working 24/7. However much you want to be disciplined, it is all about making hay when the sun shines. Hence for me involving the family in my business is a norm. My wife is present at my events, my mother knows my sales pipeline and that keep them enthused and they act as pillars at all times.

On Inspiration: People doing business the ethical way inspire me; a natural calamity inspires me with a changed outlook on life, I seek inspiration from the work of other people. Inspiration is all around us. As my mother says, pick all the goodness from around you and leave the negativities.

EXCLUSIVE: Founder’s advice to budding entrepreneurs

“You don’t receive that SMS the world awaits at the end of the month, ‘salary credited’, this is the most important bit that anyone has to consider while taking that leap. Dealing with uncertainty needs mental strength, being confident in yourself and your idea needs 100% commitment, and aiming for that breakeven or that big break needs patience or perseverance. Many people fizzle out or are tempted to go back to jobs as their accounts dry up, it is sometimes about circumstances than just the above. Luck can’t be ruled out however if you are confident then hang in there for at least 5 years. “

Provide some statistics like revenues or clients acquisition

The Happy High has worked with over 100 clients since inception and this includes liquor companies, Corporate houses, foreign wine boards and hotels.

Ajit Balgi : A spirited entrepreneur by chance

Your website / apps / and contact details

Url:www.thehappyhigh.com

Facebook Page link: https://www.facebook.com/thehappyhigh/?ref=br_rs

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