W Power 2024

Minakshi Singh: Putting India's bars on the global map

Minakshi Singh is the co-founder of two of India's best bars, both of which have won many global accolades

Samidha Jain
Published: Mar 22, 2024 02:47:42 PM IST
Updated: Apr 8, 2024 02:09:19 PM IST

Minakshi Singh: Putting India's bars on the global mapMinakshi Singh, Co-founder, SideCar, Delhi; Cocktails & Dreams, Gurugram Image: Madhu Kapparath
Where do you see yourself five years from now?” Minakshi Singh was faced with one of the most frequent interview questions almost two decades ago when she was in her early twenties. Back then too, Singh was clear: “I will have my own bar,” she had replied.

Today, the 40-year-old entrepreneur is the owner of two bars: A speakeasy called Cocktails & Dreams in Gurugram, and SideCar in New Delhi, started in 2012 and 2018 respectively. Both bars, which were Singh’s dream since her graduation from the Institute of Hotel Management Catering & Nutrition (IHM), Pusa, New Delhi, have won several accolades. While Cocktails & Dreams ranked at number three in the 30 Best Bars list in India in 2019, SideCar ranked number 91 in the list of world’s best bars in 2020—India’s only entry in the top 100 and only the second bar in India ever to be selected—all before turning two. It moved up to rank 47 in 2021 and to rank 26 in 2022.

Singh’s journey began in the early 2000s when she started bartending as a freelancer and learnt the nitty-gritties of the alco-bev and bar industry. “I was fascinated and while people I knew were putting walking up to Kilimanjaro on their bucket lists, I added opening a bar to mine,” she chuckles. When Singh was in college, she met Yangdup Lama, an established name in the bartending space, and their shared interest in the field made them open the two bars together, with a third scheduled to open in Gurugram this April.

Minakshi Singh: Putting India's bars on the global mapBefore beginning her entrepreneurial journey, Singh worked as marketing manager for companies like Pernod Ricard and Diageo, which gave her the opportunity of knowing “the right people at the right time”. With Singh’s knowledge of business and marketing, and Lama’s expertise in bars, they opened Cocktails & Dreams in a tucked-away corner of Gurugram. “We couldn’t afford a more high-street place. In retrospect, I feel the location adds to the charm of the bar and all our customers love it too.” Singh reminisces about feeling proud when she received positive feedback from consumers about the bar, which was like a small player among “big players and big money”.

Singh says what makes SideCar stand out is the clarity with which she and her co-founder run the place. “We have always been clear as to what we want to offer and whom we are offering this experience to,” she says.

While the speakeasy was completely bootstrapped, Singh and Lama found an investing partner for SideCar, and raised almost ₹2.5 crore. “The fact that we got the funding shows in the way we created SideCar. We were like kids in a candy shop,” Singh jokes as she talks about buying the biggest, fanciest ice machine, fancy glassware, and expensive cutlery. “Very fine detailing goes into making an experience such as ours the best, and that’s what we focussed most on.”

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Vikram Achanta, co-founder of 30BestBarsIndia and founder of Tulleeho,a beverage education, training, and consulting company, thinks Singh’s business and market acumen is commendable. “In addition to her evident business savvy and marketing prowess, Minakshi possesses a keen understanding of the consumer, and SideCar being a ‘bartenders’ bar’ adds to its charm,” he says. 

Singh’s favourite part of the job is the connections she gets to make with people. “I’m a very people person, and I think that is the centre of the wheel in this industry. Yes, the offerings and the ambience are important, but it’s the people who bring thoughtfulness to things.” She believes that the alco-bev and bar industry in India is at a very creative and innovative stage; a lot of entrepreneurs have created products, spaces, and ideas that are exciting. “I think more than being individualistic, it’s an overall ecosystem that works for everybody. From the way people are coming up with ideas and spaces to how they are investing is inclined towards forwarding a story.”

Minakshi Singh: Putting India's bars on the global map
Achanta thinks the next step for the co-founders is to ensure consistent excellence for their floor staff: “It’s essential that on-ground teams embody the vibe of being India’s best bar and are impeccably prepared to address any customer inquiries.”

Singh and Lama’s third bar will be in Gurugram.

“It’s our home city and I feel it needs another bar,” says Singh. They are also looking to expand to other Indian cities and are in talks with investors. “A bar is very personalised, people-driven, and is about the experience. You can’t just create that out of thin air. Our DNA will always be the same, but in all the bars that we create henceforth, they’ll have a very local and unique flavour to them.”  

(This story appears in the 22 March, 2024 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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