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A Toast to Resilience: Karina’s story of triumph over adversity and her world of spirits

  • Name: Karina Aggarwal
  • Instagram: @gigglewater411
  • Industry Experience:11-12 years
  • Favorite Cocktails: Gin Martini, Negroni, Last Word, Picante, Paloma
  • Favorite Non Alcoholic Drink: Coffee tonic with lots of ice and a squeeze of lemon & Thums Up

Karina’s path to the beverage industry was an unexpected one. Though her initial dream was to be an Egyptologist, her journey into journalism led her to discover a fascinating new world – the ever-evolving beverage industry in India.

Originally aspiring to be an Egyptologist, Karina’s path took a different turn when she pursued studies in psychology, anthropology, and English literature at Xavier’s College in Mumbai. Following her graduation, she explored advertising and journalism before ultimately finding her niche in beverage writing.

It was during her campus placement that the opportunity arose – a beverage magazine was looking for a writer. In a memorable response to the question “What do you drink?”, Karina quipped, “Actually I don’t drink, but if I had to, I would have a Mojito with extra sugar syrup.”

While alcohol wasn’t a novelty in her life before (she is part-Goan, after all), working at Ambrosia magazine opened the door to tastings and a greater degree of understanding the processes and story behind a bottle, which sparked her fascination in the world of beverages.

Recognizing a gap in accessible and engaging content for consumers, Karina launched her blog, ‘Gigglewater 411’. Gigglewater was a term for alcohol during the Prohibition in America in the 20s and 411 is slang for ‘information’. Here, she shared fun facts and interesting tidbits she was discovering about alcohol, transforming complex information into easily digestible pieces. The blog’s success, fueled by organic social media shares, solidified her passion for beverage communication.

Gigglewater quickly gained traction, thanks to Karina’s academic approach and knack for storytelling. She expanded her reach by creating engaging videos on YouTube, catching the attention of media platforms, CNN IBN and The Quint, which led to collaborations in beverage content creation.

As her expertise in the space grew, she took on projects that involved collaborating with brands like Monkey 47, a cult German gin. Working with Monkey 47, one of the first brands to establish a niche in India, allowed her to hone her skills in brand storytelling and communication. This experience, along with her role at Terai Gin, where she eventually transitioned to a leadership position as Vice President, solidified her understanding of brand building and strategy within the beverage industry.

As a brand influencer, Karina emphasizes the importance of authenticity and brand honesty. “I don’t like to sell or market a product that I don’t fully believe in,” she asserts. This commitment to genuine brand advocacy has been the cornerstone of her success.

Staying updated with industry trends is crucial for Karina. She highlights the importance of constant learning through various avenues, including interactions with brand ambassadors, industry reports, and social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

Being a woman in the beverage industry, especially in leadership roles, presented its own set of challenges. Karina acknowledges the initial resistance she faced, however, she persevered, navigating these challenges and developing a “thicker skin.” With the changing times things have evolved and she is hopeful that the industry will become more inclusive in the coming years.

Another challenge she highlights is the difficulty in hiring qualified personnel within the industry. This is an area she actively addresses through her consulting work, helping brands build strong and self-sufficient teams.

Overcoming a breast cancer diagnosis last year presented the most significant challenge. Despite the setbacks, Karina has emerged stronger, demonstrating remarkable resilience and determination.

As a speaker at industry events, Karina emphasizes the importance of clear communication and making complex topics relatable and engaging. She believes that “drinking in general as an activity is social, it is fun, and not rocket science. So even when we are being slightly academic about a particular beverage it still needs to be in a way that’s fascinating rather than boring.” This approach translates into her educational content as well, ensuring that beverage knowledge remains accessible and enjoyable.

For aspiring entrepreneurs and brand consultants in the beverage industry, Karina shares valuable advice: “The most important thing is to try to have a solid reason to do it.” She emphasizes the need for a unique value proposition, whether it’s a product or a service, to ensure long-term success. She cautions against impulsive decisions, stating, “as far as our industry is concerned, you need to have a strong reason to start and do what you are doing.”

While managing multiple roles can be demanding, Karina thrives on the variety her career offers. She acknowledges the importance of adaptability and pivoting when faced with unexpected situations, a valuable lesson she learned particularly during her health battle.

Looking ahead, Karina’s immediate goals include working more in the worlds of whiskey, beer and tequila, focusing on intellectual property development, and creating new narratives for emerging categories like Mahua spirits. Building strong, collaborative teams is another key focus area for her.

Beyond her personal aspirations, Karina emphasizes the need for significant improvements within the beverage industry. She stresses the need for improvement in hiring practices, service quality, and gender equality within the industry.

Her concluding message serves as a reminder for aspiring individuals: “I don’t think there is a shortcut to long-term success and respect. You just have to do the work.” Continuous learning, a willingness to listen, and a proactive approach are essential ingredients for growth in this dynamic and ever-evolving field.

Her story serves as an inspiration, demonstrating the power of passion, perseverance, and the ability to adapt in the face of challenges. As Karina says, “One of the things I learned is that you may have the best plans, but things won’t always go as expected. It’s about having the patience and drive to keep going.”