Can This Newest Kid on the Block Dethrone Others in Rum Space?
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With an aim to rediscover India’s love for a perfect blend, a native of Coimbatore Kerala, Gautom Menon embarked on a journey to give India its own rum brand.
His ultimate goal in life was to build a brand based on a solid business model and innovation. Menon always wanted to come up with something that will benefit students immensely.
But, he was pushed into his family liquor business owing to his father’s illness. The company had then just launched its herbal rum.
Though Menon’s heart was not into it, but he took up the challenge of expanding the business under tight liquor regulations by then government.
He knew that he will have to start from scratch and, for the next eight years, he went on attending events on alcohol and beverages all over the world to get in touch with the rum community.
He spotted a gap, complete absence of Indian brands among global companies, representing their countries in various trade fairs.
This prompted Menon to hunt for ancient India’s flavor and he embarked on a journey to find that perfect blend. After tasting more than 500 rums in laboratories and the family distillery, he finalized the taste and quality that he would promote.
In 2016, Menon launched India’s first premium brand in the UAE, US and Denmark and called it the Wild Tiger Rum.
In a chat with Entrepreneur India, Menon shared his experience of raising the toast of a ‘Make in India’ rum brand in trade fairs all over the world, and talked about how he aspired to become the next old monk of India.
Capturing the Spirit of India
“I did quite a bit of research and was amazed to know that rum traces its roots to ancient India,” said Menon. “We have a centuries’ old history of growing sugarcane. In fact, sugarcane cultivation started in India and later spread to the Caribbean nations.”
Despite being the second-largest liquor consuming country in the world, India didn’t have many recognizable global brands, he said. He decided to “capture the spirit of India” in a bottle of rum.
This entrepreneur deviated from the traditional, set rule of making rum with 100% molasses and blended the spirit with cane juice.
“Each ingredient is a bi-product of India. We believe it will be a game changer in India. We have introduced India and Asia's first blend of Molasses and cane juice rum,” Menon pointed out.
He was sure about the kind of packaging that would sell his brand in international markets and patterned the cover on tiger skin, to pay tribute to India’s national animal.
Obsession With Tigers
Menon’s obsession with tiger is reflected in his brand. Tiger holds a deeper meaning to him. He recalled how since childhood he has been fascinated with tigers and that is manifested in his brand story as well.
“I remember even in school I was in Tiger’s House team in sports. The characteristics of this animal motivate me to the core,” revealed Menon. Packaging is one of our core areas of focus.
Terming archaic state excise laws as one of their biggest challenges, Menon said, “Apart from the regulations, I believe the market in India for rum is gradually developing. We are going to create awareness for responsible drinking.”
With stringent laws and constant threat of prohibition, Menon chose international market over Indian while launching the brand. He said, “At that point, the idea was to promote ‘India First’ in international market. To make India proud with the concept of responsible drinking, we launched the brand first in UAE, UK and Denmark.” Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Denmark are currently the top three markets for the brand.
“Our clear focus was on duty-free shops, so we went to airports, cruise ships and many other retail outlets for the distribution of products,” he said. Currently, Wild Tiger is the only Indian liquor product available in international duty-free stores. Today, Wild Tiger has retail outlets in around six continents with an Indian manufactured label.
Menon wants his brand name to be synonymous with rum from India in future.