Men & Women of the Year 2022: Karina Aggarwal

An ex-journalist, Aggarwal has consulted with several alcohol brands
through the last decade, including with Terai, where she’s the Vice President, showcasing how
storytelling can propel spirits to new heights.

576 miles away from Behror in Rajasthan — where Terai’s state-of-the-art distillery sits — a lady all
the way in Varanasi fashions the gin maker’s botanical waste into candles and other wax products.
Like her, other women at the helm of small-scale businesses help them with custom corks,
Channapatna stoppers, cases and other elements that require embroidery or artwork. This is an
extension of Terai’s eagerness to build it into a brand “with heart.” And Karina Aggarwal — who
leads communication, branding and storytelling for them as their Vice President — has played a
considerable role in shaping it.
“The idea was always to show Terai as a brand that celebrated the spirit of craft, and this was
something Shekhar [Swarup, founder] was very keen on, too. Craft, in our case, extends to more
than just being a craft beverage. So, using Indian handicrafts, art and culture, is what we define as
craft. And that conveys through multiple ways, such as in our stoppers or the artwork on the walls of
our distillery. For me, it was important to showcase that we were a thinking brand versus a fly-by-
night one,” says Aggarwal, who joined the team a few months shy of their launch in November 2020.
The same year our lives were rocked by a global health disaster.
Initially, Aggarwal — who has been consulting with alcohol companies for strategy, marketing,
communication and brand development for more than a decade via her own company, Gigglewater
Beverage Concepts Pvt Ltd — came aboard the Terai ship only to advise the team. With time,
though, she found herself getting more invested and involved in constructing the brand image,
planning their strategy and structuring the pillars and tenets that guide them today. “At the time,
there was a tentative recipe in place, but there’s always a difference when you move to a big batch,”
she remembers, adding that this gin was, interestingly, in the making for two years before they
launched to the public.



This meant that by 2020, there was more competition, facilitated by the launch of multiple
homegrown gins, and consequently, that the recipe needed a fillip. Aggarwal naturally got her
fingers in that pie. “I felt that it didn’t make sense for us to proceed as a classic London-style dry gin,
because there were subsidies that had made import brands cheaper and other Indian entities that
had occupied certain spaces. So, we revisited the recipe at that point.” Whether it required swearing
off of cardamom or amping up the sweet, herbaceous, and citrusy notes of Terai (to turn it into a dry
gin, but with oomph) Aggarwal, Swarup and team doubled down in a bid to revamp its flavour
profile so as to offer patrons a product unique enough for them to come back to time and again.
The company, which is owned by Globus Spirits, has grown strength to strength since, solidifying its
position in the homegrown spirits’ market as a premium product that has made its way into home
and restaurant bars, in equal measure. And while the perfect recipe, branding, bottling, offline
activations and clever, plus meaningful communications around Terai have helped propel it towards
this growth, the burgeoning rise of gin itself, has perhaps played a larger role. Elucidating on why the
spirit continues to be the flavour of the season, Aggarwal tells us, “It is one of the most customisable


spirits out there, both in terms of flavours and how you consume it. There’s nothing around gin to
say, ‘You can’t drink it like this.’ It lets you to play and stay invested, by allowing you to pick and
choose the garnishes, flavour of tonic or even, the picture you take for Instagram.” There’s also, the
reclamation of the word “homegrown,” which has over the years gathered a sense of pride.
Two decades ago, the only time we celebrated ‘Made In India’ was when we heard 90s pop icon
Alisha Chinoi crooning the popular song. The rest of made-in-India was taken to indirectly mean
products that were sub-par. Today, there’s a sense of ownership and joy, in biting into a bar of
chocolate crafted on home turf, sporting a T-shirt made by Indian designers and of course, cracking
open a bottle of good gin, we can call our own. And people like Aggarwal have played a seminal role
in shifting this paradigm. So, cheers to them.

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