Ziro: An Arunachalee woman has stirred a storm in the wine glass with her signature kiwi wine ‘Naara Aaba‘.
Tage Rita, an agricultural engineer-turned-entrepreneur, set up her winery in Hong village in the picturesque Ziro Valley in Lower Subansiri district in 2017.
Since then, Rita and her team’s produce has grabbed the attention of wine lovers from far and wide.
“Naara Aaba’s journey began with the purpose of creating market linkage for the under-utilised kiwi fruits grown in abundance in the region. Kiwi farmers were failing to fetch proper market value for their produce,” Rita told PTI.
She said reviving the demand for organic kiwis was one of the first milestones she has achieved in her path to provide sustainable livelihood to kiwi farmers in the region.
The initial days were tremendously tough for her as she began her mission to manufacture kiwi wine in an unforgiving mountainous terrain, facing transportation bottlenecks and dealing with the ignorance of locals about the huge potential of the fruit as an ingredient for wine.
“Every ingredient used in manufacturing Naara Aaba is organic and certified. The wine has all the vitamins and minerals present in the fruit,” she said.
The production of wine in batches is aligned with the harvesting season of locally grown kiwi fruit.
The four-month wine-making process starts with manual sourcing of the fruit, followed by cleaning, sorting and grading in the facility. The plant has a small laboratory to test parameters based on which ingredients such as sugar and yeast are added in the right quantities during the process.
“Temperature is maintained through cold stabilisation at the chilling plant. To prevent microbes or harmful bacteria from affecting the wine, it undergoes a filtration process,” she said.
The kiwi wine tastes a little tangy, as additional sugar is not added to the mix.
She is adamant about keeping the taste as natural as possible while retaining the fruit’s nutritional value, making her wine a healthier choice among alcoholic beverages and a good pick for conscious drinkers.
Rita, who is in her mid-thirties, was the first entrepreneur from the Northeast to secure a deal at Shark Tank India Season 2, which was aired on March 13 this year on Sony LIV channel.
Out of the five sharks, Vineeta Singh of Sugar Cosmetics and Vikas D Nahar of Happilo came on board with an offer of Rs 50 lakh investment for 5 per cent equity and Rs 25 lakh debt at 10 per cent interest, amounting to a total of Rs 75 lakh funding for her winery.
The winery has scaled up its production capacity from 20,000 litres in 2017 to 60,000 litres at present through 16 tanks. The first year of wine production alone supported 300 farmers and brought them back to the kiwi orchards, as they sold around 20 metric tons of kiwis to the winery.
Around 20 regular employees and 100 seasonal staffers are involved in the wine-making process.
The winery has also obtained a licence to export from the Agricultural Produce Export Development Authority (APEDA) under the Union Ministry of Trade and Industry. APEDA’s support also enabled the international exhibition of Naara Aaba in China and Greece.
Beyond the day-to-day wine production and distribution affairs of the winery, Rita and her staffers also attend to tourists on a regular basis.
Around 300-400 domestic and foreign tourists visit the winery every month for wine tasting and a tour of the facility, which has created a scope for wine tourism in the region.
Rita has now diversified her production to make wine from plums, wild apples and pears.
Her dedication to supporting her community with entrepreneurial efforts earned her the ‘Women Transforming India’ Award of the Niti Ayog in collaboration with the United Nations in 2018.
She has been awarded the Nari Shakti Puraskar in 2021 by the Union Women & Child Development Ministry and Women Achievers Award 2021-22 by the state Women and Child Development Department.
She now plans to transform the winery into a state-of-the-art facility to boost wine tourism in the region. Besides, she also wants to upskill local youth in the region.
The wine is currently available in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Assam.
With plans to scale up the winery’s production besides the introduction of new fruit variants, Rita intends on marketing her wine across the country and abroad in the near future.
She said that initially, she faced difficulty in bringing in equipment from outside as the roads were not good at that time.
“It took nearly four to five years for the implementation of the Arunachal Pradesh State Wine Policy-2015,” she said.
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Taking to Twitter, Chief Minister Pema Khandu recently congratulated her.
“Inspiring journey of Ms Tage Rita from an agri-engineer to a successful entrepreneur. Her creation of brand Naara Aaba has carved a niche for itself. Rita’s venture will encourage many women to follow her footsteps,” Khandu tweeted.
“Naara Aaba winery at Ziro Valley is a unique initiative, as it uses advanced and sustainable technology. This has encouraged organic kiwi cultivation in Ziro Valley and also created livelihood opportunities for farmers of Arunachal Pradesh,” the chief minister added.
Also Read | Arunachal’s Naara – Aaba winery brings out two new flavours
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