Oscar De Sequeira Nazareth graduated in 2004 with a BSc in Investment and Financial Risk Management. He has since gone on to produce India’s best-rated spirit ever – the only Indian product to win the Gold Outstanding (top award) at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 47 years of the competition – twice in a row! This product, Licor Armada, is now available in the UK. We corresponded by email to see how he did it.
Tell me about you time at Cass!
I joined at the time CUBS was renamed Cass and we got our lovely new building at Bunhill Row – an exciting time for me and the business school!
When I moved to London from the small city in Portugal where I grew up, I was overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and all the incredible opportunities on offer. Being at a world-class business school on the edge of the City with experienced professionals as lecturers was the icing on the cake.
I absolutely loved my time at Cass, and tried to make the most of it – one of the highlights of my young life was captaining our University Challenge team and making it onto the televised rounds!
Did you stay in London afterwards – I understand you pursued a career in Investment Banking?
After graduating, I joined the graduate management scheme at Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC), and then moved on to Deutsche Bank where I worked on the Equity Derivatives trading floor – both jobs made me grow in very different ways!
What made you want to change? How did you get the idea for Licor Armada?
Well, during Christmas 2011 I was on holiday in Goa, India – where my family is originally from – and I decided to try making an all-natural liqueur from an old family recipe that dated back to the Portuguese Empire.
When it matured, the results were outstanding – I’d never tasted anything like it in my life, despite a fairly wide experience sampling various tipples in London bars, courtesy of a work hard, play hard lifestyle!
I decided to play around with a spreadsheet and work out if I could make a viable business out of Armada; by March 2012 I had moved to Goa – the rest is history 🙂
What was the biggest unexpected challenge in implementing your idea?
Most entrepreneurs usually say that had they been aware of all the obstacles, they’d never have started their companies… and I’m no different.
I knew that starting a business in India would be harder than in the UK, but I had no idea how much harder it would be to deal with the Government.
Whereas you can register a company in 4 hours in the UK from the comfort of your home, in India it took me over a month to do the same – despite a rule stating SME approvals should take 2 working days.
I was also asked to make repeated visits to the state capital for an important issue with my application, made to wait for ages only to have a quick and meaningless chat.
My biggest surprise was that the official at the Excise Department did not know the difference between ‘liqueur’ and ‘liquor’, and refused to believe that liqueurs could be registered! “You can make whisky, brandy, or rum only”, he said, ignoring the copy of the Excise Act I had brandished, with the relevant liqueur sections highlighted.
Later on, more enlightened friends explained that it was likely I was being subtly asked for bribes – due to my density, this eluded me entirely and I’m proud not to have contributed to corruption in India!
What has been the most rewarding part of this experience?
I guess it’s the same with most entrepreneurs – regardless of success, the personal and professional growth is phenomenal. I remember enjoying summer internships with small companies because of how much I learnt, and entrepreneurship has taken things to a whole new level!
The recognition has been pretty nice, too – winning the top medal at the most prestigious spirits competition in the world (IWSC), two years running, left me speechless!
Thanks to our win we were able to export internationally – Armada is now available in the UK, and we’re looking for new markets to expand to!
If you could give yourself when you were starting out one piece of advice, what would it be?
Leap, and the net will appear. It may seem trite and clichéd, but it’s so true. When you’re stuck and need help, you’ll be surprised at the number of people who are there for you! The main thing is to get up, get going and get out there.
Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London? The streets. It’s just so nice to walk around, take in the sights and discover all the festivals, fairs, tiny specialist shops etc – often in the most unexpected places.
Favourite holiday destination? Portugal. The food, climate, people, culture and heritage are fantastic – I’m glad the rest of the world is slowly discovering this too!
Must-check-everyday Website? The Economist. I’ve been a subscriber since my undergrad days!
Dream Travel Destination? It’s cheating a little, but I’d say a tour of South America. Machu Picchu, Buenos Aires, Mount Roraima, the Galapagos Islands, Brazil… what’s not to like?
Cheese or Chocolate? I’m a big fan of dark chocolate, but I’d pick cheese any day – the smellier the better 🙂
For queries about Armada, contact firstname.lastname@example.org; for UK orders contact email@example.com. For students, staff and alumni, you can get a 5% discount on MRP using discount code CASS.