Lobhana, EVN Wine Academy’s international graduate from India, is sharing her success story, goals, and challenges while being in the wine industry in Armenia
I completed my primary graduation in Engineering and that is what I never wanted to do. Then I got a job but I got tired of corporate life and I wanted to take a break so I started looking for different courses. My initial plan was to do MBA in HR so I can go ahead with my career and get a better job once I am done but after receiving an invitation letter it didn’t make me happy and I started looking for something more which I can just learn in 2 years and then I can do something of my own. So, I stumbled upon Georgia and Armenia. In this region I think there are just 2 educational institutions for learning winemaking that offers the whole program in English, one is in Georgia and the other one is here in Armenia in the EVN Wine Academy. Actually, it was a spontaneous decision for me to choose to get higher education in Winemaking. I wanted to come to a smaller country where not many people are known and do something of my own, so I just thought of giving it a try because I fancy having alcohol. Once I started studying, I really fell in love with it. So the first time one of our professors gave us some wines to taste and smell and everybody in the class was saying ‘’I smell orange, I smell strawberry.’’ and I was like ‘’I don’t smell anything.’’ It was very funny for me. I am in love with the wine industry and also Armenia as a country.
2. Why and how have you chosen an educational destination?
First of all because in Georgia the admission procedure was not working out online and they wanted me to come physically and it was not working out with my schedule. But here at the EVN, it was possible to do the whole admission procedure online and it was also possible to attend classes online. I had always been researching Georgia and Armenia but I never knew that it will manifest and I will land here. Overall experience, I have been to Georgia and I have spent a lot of time in Armenia, I would say that the kind of help and hospitality I received in Armenia is much more than I could have expected in Georgia.
3. How has your experience with this program been?
Very nice! As a beginner, I didn’t know anything about wine and even what grapes are used and everything else, and some of the subjects that we had, like viticulture, microbiology, etc. were intense and enough to give you in-depth knowledge and foundation to learn further. So, my experience in terms of learning in EVN was great. For someone at my age who doesn’t want to spend 4 years in graduation and then go do a job, I believe the EVN program is the best thing, it totally fitted my needs.
4. What do you like best about the EVN Wine Academy?
I think that the way the EVN Wine Academy’s educational programs coordinators put the content, what a 4-year Bachelors student would study in Germany, the way they have tried to fit the content in 18 months program is dissent enough, this is what I like the most. Also, the exposure that we get about the Armenian wine industry, for example visiting vineyards, wineries, and doing internships, I think it gives a fair outlook of where the Armenian wine industry is going. That exposure was great.
5. How has your career path changed after your graduation?
I always wanted to do something of my own, I wanted to learn something and leave my corporate life. Until my internship, I was not really sure what I was going to do. For me to get a job in Armenia was a little tricky so I decided to invest and launch my brand in Armenia, that is one reason why I want to stay in Armenia. Another reason is that in India we believe ‘’ One is your homeland where you were born and the other is your land where you walk alone or learn.’’ And we always have been thought to give back to both the lands. So, to start my business there was no better place than Armenia which has changed and given me a new scope of work. So, that is my way of giving back. The first wines will always be from Armenia no matter how big I will grow as a company.
6. In your opinion how will your wine business contribute to the development of Armenia?
What I see in the big wineries over here, there are certain established markets. Some big wineries export their wines to Russia, some wine-producing companies are already targeting Japan and a lot of Armenians want to export or already exporting their wines to the US. Asia is fairly a new market, so is something that I want to do in this region. My production is very small, I would like to collaborate with other producers of my size, for instance, Ruben Lokk (The founder of ‘’Shorror’’ wines) or other alumnae of the EVN Wine Academy and export the Armenian wines to the Asian market or to the Middle East market.
7. What about the wine industry in India, do Indian people share the same love towards wine as Armenians do?
They do, they love alcohol and I don’t know why to say no because even our gods drink alcohol. We do have vineyards and wineries, there are also some big wine producers who export their wine products abroad. The only thing is that we don’t have any indigenous grape, like Areni here. But it is still possible to start the production here and probably capture the market in terms of consumer sight that is something that I have in my mind. I would add one more thing about people’s attitude towards wine in India. In Armenia alcohol is a part of your culture, so when you are 18 years old it is fine to drink alcohol with your family and friends. In India, the thing is if you look at the mythological stories, alcohol is a part of it, even a part of the history but as we move to modernization, I think people don’t know how to handle it because there are so many restrictions created at home. But people still love to drink alcohol. You won’t really see men in India holding a glass of wine as they feel that it’s a very feminine drink unless you explain to them that it’s 40% alcohol and it is going to give you a hit. So, I think that there are a lot of stereotypes concerning wine and other alcoholic beverages which need to be broken.
8. How does the EVN alumnae network work for you?
I wanted to participate in winemaking, it’s my own opportunity to learn within the industry. I just don’t want to be a business person who’s launching a brand, I also want to participate, learn and understand what is going in my bottle, because later I should be able to change what is going in my bottle according to the consumer and the changing market. So I think that opportunity I got with Maran. I would also like to highlight that I received a huge amount of support for documentation, understanding the legalities, etc and I don’t think that it would have been possible without them. That’s why I say that I get the warmth and hospitality more here. Without their help, as an outsider, I couldn’t do the things which I needed to do for my production.
9. What kind of challenges have you had as an international student, was language a barrier for you?
That was absolutely fine. Yes, there were times when instructors as well as students spoke in Armenian but did not hinder my progress, if I had a question they cooperated, or every time we visited a local winery I always had my classmates and instructors translating things to me. So, absolutely supportive and that was not a challenge at all.
10. What do our future applicants need to know before applying to this program?
If they come with a mindset of what they want to do, whether they want to do their own entrepreneurship or whether after EVN they want to go for some post-graduation or some other specialty course outside then I think it is good for them to come with this mindset because then during the courses they will know which subjects to focus on more. For me ‘’Wine marketing’’ module was very important, to understand how to wine market within Armenia is. I believe somebody who wants to do post-graduation and really become a winemaker, for them ‘’The winemaking’’ module and the internship are really important because that’s where they get the foundation. They need to have that clarity of ‘’ what’s next’’.