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INCA’s Sisterhood Soirée conducts panel discussion on women in F&B

Ahead of the international women’s day, India Nightlife Convention & Awards (INCA) hosted the Sisterhood Soirée – an initiative to encourage the equal partnership of women in the nightlife industry on Thursday. The event witnessed women in prime leadership roles and women entrepreneurs discussing the nightlife scene for women ten years ago and its transition down the years, in three distinctive panel discussions on topics on women in F&B; in entertainment, and in cross-culture.

INCA, a platform that brings together thousands of industry professionals from the on-premise and beverage community every year since 2016, is a brainchild of Aman Anand, director, Kickstart entertainment and co-founded by renowned restaurateur Riyaaz Amlani, CEO & MD, Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. Speaking about the Sisterhood Soirée, Anand told Express Food & Hospitality that the whole idea behind hosting the night was to convey it to the masses that the perception of “women do not belong to the nightlife industry” must change. “Cooking is something that is looked as a profession for males in the hospitality industry, but when it comes to households, it is dominated by the women… then why not let them explore and enjoy it by stepping out of the houses,” he added. To further encourage more and more women to join the nightlife industry, INCA has brought this platform – Sisterhood Soirée – where the already successful women in the nightlife space hail other women to come and join the fraternity of this totally enjoyable industry, told Anand.

Shatbhi Basu, director, STIR Academy of bartending, and moderator for the first panel discussion at the event on ‘Women in F&B’ asked the panelists, what was the transition that they had experienced and seen in the F&B space in India over the years? To this Gauri Devidayal, co-founder of fine dining restaurant The Table, Colaba replied, “The scene was completely different about ten years ago when not many women could be seen in this industry, but over the years, it is great to see a lot of aspiring women joining culinary schools and programmes.” Speaking about personal experience, Anuroopa B Gupta, head chef at Oi Kitchen & Bar said, in her initial years of corporate life, while she was in Italy, she enjoyed visiting new places there and try different cuisines there, and years forward, she decided to take cooking as her mainstream career. “Having joined the culinary school I learned, it was not that easy as it looks, because cooking in the hospitality industry is a skilled job and I thought how would I lift a 50 kg sacks of potatoes all by myself? etc.” But having decided that she had to join the industry, she said she gathered the courage to pin down all the challenges. Basu agreed with Gupta voicing she too had to face it and take it all alone referring to point – ‘lifting potato bags’. Sophia Sinha, head marketing, Moët Hennessy, said that she had been in the wines & spirits space for over 10 years and “it was a totally different universe at that time.” She remarked there were limited offerings back then in terms of F&B outlets. “People were not enough comfortable with seeing women go and drink at these places and also women drinking was seen as a taboo then. But moving forward, the way people are thinking has changed. Its good to see a lot of women coming here into this space,” added Sinha.

Replying to Basu’s question, Bhargavi Naidu, head- institutional sales – United Breweries Ltd., said, “The scene has changed in metros but in other places in India, the safety of women is still sketchy. Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore are significantly safe for women to both work and enjoy in the nightlife culture, but in case of the safety of women in Delhi, they have to think about the time and place that they are visiting. However, Rahul Singh, president, NRAI and everybody else at INCA are making efforts to promote more and more women to join the industry throughout the length and breadth of the country, which has been positive since and will be in the way ahead as well.”

Moving forward, Basu and the panelists from the first panel discussion remarked that the metros in India have significantly seen a rising number of women joining the industry and the way people think has also changed. “It is us who have to go and visit the secondary and tertiary markets to encourage the women there as well to get more and more women joining the nightlife fraternity,” concluded Basu.

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