Drinks brands look to India

23 September 2009

NEW DELHI: A number of major alcoholic drinks companies are increasing their focus on India, as they seek to tap into changing consumer preferences, and the opportunities provided by the country's rapidly-growing economy.

William Grant, the independent distiller, is one of the biggest players in the global scotch whisky category, and is now seeking to make in-roads in the Asian nation.

It has received formal approval to launch William Grant & Sons India, which will initially focus on a range of marketing activities, as it seeks to drive awareness of brands like Balvenie and Glenfiddich.

Aparna Batra, managing director of this new unit, said "William Grant does not follow trends. It is here now to directly engage specific consumer groups, and to help the parent with a roadmap on how to develop business in India. We are in no hurry and have a relaxed time-frame to do that."

Remy Cointreau, the French spirits group, is similarly planning to establish itself in India, and will back this initiative with an on-going investment in the future.

Rukn Luthra, managing director of Remy Cointreau India, said it will place an emphasis on high-end products like Remy Martin and Cointreau, and added "we need to start somewhere, and this is probably the time."

Bols, the Dutch distillery, makes one of the biggest-selling brandies in India, having formed an alliance with a domestic partner, Kyndal.

Siddharth Banerji, managing director of Kyndal, argued "nobody gave us a chance. They were forgetting that it is cognac that makes a cut for the traditional rich in South India."

"There exists a market for premium brandies made in cognac style, and not in whisky style as prevalent here."

Teacher's also launched a premium offering made specifically for the Indian market, and which is only the third variant of its traditional blend to have been developed over the course of a century.

Diageo, the world's biggest spirits company, has also forged a joint venture with its local counterpart Radico Khaitan, and sells popular whisky brands such as Masterstroke.

Abhishek Khaitan, managing director of Radico Khaitan, reported that input costs have fallen over the last year, aiding profitability, and also predicted "our premium-focused strategy will boost margins" in the short-to-medium term.

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by WARC staff