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The Step Up Grand Finale

The Step Up Grand Finale

The Step Up (link to TheStepUp.in) is India’s first digital mentorship program. If you’ve read my earlier post on this wonderful initiative by Johnnie Walker then you know that through this program, nine talented individuals have got the opportunity to learn from the experts in their field.

The Step Up brings together culinary wizard Nikhil Chib, avant-garde designer Nikhil Thampi and the pioneering musician duo MIDIval Punditz to discover India’s top talent in the fields of Food, Fashion and Music.

I have been following the 15-webisode series closely and if you haven’t already watched it; I highly recommend you check it out on the Johnnie Walker YouTube Channel. Each webisode, although fairly short in duration, has all the trappings of a hit show. You have the exciting challenge, tight deadlines and the anticipation of the results.  All of this topped with some drama between the contestants.

Apart from the entertainment, it has been great to watch amateurs create such beautiful designs and improve week after week. Speaking on the marked improvement, fashion mentor Nikhil Thampi said, “The mentees when they came, I was not very sure, but today what you are going to witness is a 360-degree transformation.”

It was also interesting for a fashion-enthusiast to see a completely different side to Nikhil Thampi as he was quite the tough taskmaster. When I quizzed him on his strict avatar, he added, “It is a part of their growth, if I was lenient and easy, they would have not delivered what they have delivered today. So, I am very glad that I could be a little different to what I am in general; I could be a little stern and strict, because the product that has come out today is fun and I like it for sure. There were times, when I didn’t have to be unnecessarily strict, or very harsh on them but I chose to do it because, it would just push someone. If it were me; I would do that, critiques work more on me than appreciation.”

After four weeks of grueling activities, the nine finalists finally faced off at the grand finale held in Mumbai on April 8th 2015. I attended The Step Up grand finale, which had Mumabai’s swish-set in attendance.

I caught up with designer, Nikhil Thampi at the venue before the proceedings and he was one proud mentor. Speaking on his experience with The Step Up, he said, “The experience has been very enriching. It is a big compliment to be a mentor and an even bigger, responsibility. I am just three years old in the industry and Johnnie Walker considered me, is a big deal to me as an individual. It just pushed me to a different level all together to excel in my line. The experience was great and the people were fantastic to work with.”

The finale saw a live challenge take place in front of the audience in each one of the fields. The musicians and chefs, all did a splendid job, but I was most excited for the fashion finalists.


The mentees, Rishika, Kanika and Ashish presented three garments each, inspired by the colour red. It was amazing to watch their designs take life from the mood board to the runway. The mentees from the Music category lent their support with original tracks that they composed for the final catwalk. Having watched their inspirational journey, you can’t help but find yourself rooting for your favourite.

Each one of the mentees presented their unique vision and I was personally torn between the three. I wasn’t the only one in a dilemma, Nikhil Thampi said, “Honestly speaking, till last week, I had a winner. But, after seeing today’s task and how they have scored; I am quite confused.”

The winner, not only won a six-month apprenticeship with Nikhil Thampi but also an exclusive chance to retail their capsule collection on Pernia’s Pop-Up Shop.

It may sound clichéd but each aspirant is truly talented with a distinct style of his or her own. Speaking on their potential, Nikhil Thampi said, “Every mentee has a different identity. No one is influenced by the other person. I see commercial ability, fashion-forwardness and red-carpet glamour. I see an amalgamation of so many things which is a great thing for a mentor to see so much diversity.”

Mr. Bhavesh Somaya, Head of Luxury, United Spirits Limited – a Diageo Group Company said, “The Step Up is a reflection of the Johnnie Walker philosophy that encourages individuals to take the next big step and move forward in life. This mentorship program has helped us create a strong platform for aspiring young adults in the fields of food, fashion and music to further enhance their skills and prepare them to STEP UP in the pursuit of their passions. Our aim is to nurture and promote these abled mentees and direct them on the path of progress and excellence.”

As you can imagine, it was a nail-biting finale and a very close decision. I am not going to ruin the suspense, but I can tell you that the grand finale was full of surprises. You can watch all the exciting moments from The Step Up Grand Finale at www.thestepup.in


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