Think about Goa, and a couple of things come to mind – beaches, cashewnuts, bebinca. And, feni. From fresh to bottled, there’s something for every palate.
Here’s a feast of flavours for feni fans and lovers. And, there’s a coloured label for every flavour. The owner of ‘Go aah Feni’, Raj Bhandare, says the different coloured labels (as per ingredients) is for easy differentiation of the product content.
The red label feni is a spiced, herbed pure spirit. The yellow label has only yellow cashews used in its preparation.
“Then, there’s another flavour which is peated and smoked,” says the architect- designer turned feni distiller. He adds, “I have one more flavour coming soon – the green label – made from wild berries from Goa.
EXPLORING MARKETS, SUPPORTING STAKEHOLDERS
Since tourism has become one of Goa’s main economic drivers, one would feel the market for feni is saturated. “But it’s not,” believes Raj. “The feni market is a game where all can participate and support.”
Raj explains how, “There’s enough crowd for everyone to play comfortably.”
Says he, “I am not here to elbow out anyone. Ours was the highest priced feni when we entered the market last season (in 2022). We only showed the way. My question to others is ‘Why sell your feni at this price when it has a market much higher than what the present market is’.”
“Many have now hiked their feni prices in a bracket which I will say is a good change. This was a happy moment for me because such moves help bring in the right kind of customers. I don’t look at the market as a few thousands, but in billions!” says Raj.
FENI, UNLIMITED GLOBAL POTENTIAL
Raj feels that Goa’s feni has unlimited potential for global growth. He says, "Feni can be truly presented to the world just like Mexico’s Tequila. The best ambassador for Goa to move around the world can be feni, believes Raj.
“Feni has the potential to make a person sitting in one part of the world sipping it, wanting to pack their bags and visit the state,” says he, his voice oozing with confidence.
Emphasizing that rules and regulations need to be tweaked to facilitate and ease the export of feni, Raj says authorities have to deliberate on this to make the process seamless and smooth, if we want to make the transition from local to global.
FROM ARCHITECTURE TO DESIGN TO FENI DISTILLING
With a background in architecture, Raj ventured into designing T-shirts under the ‘Nirvana’ brand before entering into the field of feni distillation. All these disciplines overlap when he ideates and works.
“Architecture has been an eye-opener for me to view the world from a different perspective – a perspective that has opened different avenues and opportunities for me. It makes me ponder on how I can add value to something,” he shares.
“It is this equation of thought, coupled with opportunity, that results in design, and this designing process becomes a spiritual pursuit for me. That’s how I saw how tequila – from a modest beginning – become a global drink. And, I looked at myself and said I am from Goa and feni is a platform for me, and I asked myself how I can add value to it. This became my inspiration to take feni from local to global,” explains Raj.
Raj elaborates about the influence of his studies and experience in design, “When a person is in a commercial activity, they tend to be concerned with what others are doing. However, it’s important for me to understand the subject. This principle in design has always guided me in whatever I do.
“For me, competition is understanding me and my work, who my customer is and what is it that I want to deliver. It’s not about being motivated with commercial or profit centres, it is about giving the world what they truly deserve to possess,” he opines.
BEHIND THE ‘GO AAH’ NAME
The mix of disciplines even influenced the brand name, reveals Raj, saying, “Art and design is a communication between the viewer and the subject of exhibit. The name ‘Go aah’ Feni came about because it’s the reaction one gets when you taste something pure and sacred. It brings you the element that life is a cheer. Go have your “aah” moments.”
“The rest of India aspires to be in a state like ours. Goa is truly a global brand. It’s a huge brand. That’s why when we creatively thought of a name, it simply had to be ‘Go aah’,” he concludes.