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How These Liquor Brands are Reviving their Legacy The digital revolution has also altered the way liquor companies interact with the consumer, changing the marketing and customer engagement rules forever

By Sugandh Bahl

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On one hand, the rise in casual dining restaurants and experimentative drinking has splurged the industry. On the other hand, drinking at home has become entertainment of sorts. The focus is on discovering new moments during which the consumers are pouring their favourite liquor. Furthermore, the digital revolution has also altered the way liquor companies interact with the consumer, changing the marketing and customer engagement rules forever. Famous liquor brands like McDowell's No.1, White Mischief, and Kingfisher in India can be ranked most consummated liquors. But, we should also be proud of our breweries and distilleries like Radico Khaitan, Som Distilleries and Amrut Distilleries for brewing some of the finest alcohols in and across India.

Pouring Premiumness And Heritage

While consumers want to have something new on the table, emerging companies like Aspri Spirits, leading importers and distributors of some of the finest brands of wines and spirits, are launching the most acclaimed and awarded single malt "Glen Grant 10 Y' and "Glen Grant 18 Y' in India. With over 200 global brands being distributed by them, the group clearly understands the need of luxury/premium liquor and international brand appeal for the Indian customers.

People respect heritage and the need for Indian origin good quality liquor. Amrut Whisky is the first single malt whisky to be made in India. Company's Founder, Neelakanta Rao proclaims that, they are a proud producer and manufacturer of whisky, brandy, rum, vodka and gin that are manufactured in India and now offering their products in global markets as well. Based out of Bengaluru, the USP of their brand lies in the quality of their products, built on a long term heritage. The brand became famous after whisky connoisseur Jim Murray gave it a rating of 82 out of 100 in 2005 and 2010. In 2010, Murray named "Amrut Fusion' single malt whisky as the third best in the world.

Coming up with the new variants of existing products, re-branding of existing brands or introduction of new brands, is a crucial marketing exercise for liquor brands. According to Vikram Achanta, liquor expert, "A few Indian brands are making an attempt to disrupt the status quo. These include brands in the single malt category like Paul John, Amrut and Rampur which are posing a robust challenge to single malts from Scotland and craft beer brands like Bira, White Rhino, Gateway and shortly Geist."

Perhaps one of the early liquor companies to be listed, Radico Khaitan's motto of expanding through innovation has taken the brand to an altogether new level. "Radico Khaitan has come across a long way in creating a landmark in the liquor industry as the largest local player in the spirits business," says Dr. Lalit Khaitan, Founder and Chairman. Radico has catered to the need of every individual by creating a product for every taste and kind in terms of quality and price. It understood the need for looking beyond whisky and vodka, which also has resonance with women audience. "The international acclaims for brands like Magic Moments vodka, have a market share of 90 per cent in its price point and 30 percent in the whole vodka market in India," says Khaitan. This drink is the fourth fastest growing vodka brand in the world and has cemented the company's place in the Indian spirits industry.

Dedicated to the fine art of manufacturing of one of the finest alcoholic beverages, Som Group is an enthusiast of spirits with an unforgettable experience, says JK Arora, Founder and Chairman. The group is an integrated AlcoBev player based out of central India. It manufactures beer, whisky, vodka, rum, gin, ready to drink beverages and country liquor. Arora states, "We're passionate about the fact that our ingredients have local origin and are farmed wherever possible, or tended by the local people who care as much about bringing out the best from abundant natural resources as we do."

Reviving The Past

The revival of the age-old liquor brands in India is the need of the hour. The realization that legacy brands will not be able to churn out money out of their existing products and back-dated techniques is apparent. "Each strategy comprises of short and long-term plans, sketching the procedures and activities essential to reach certain milestones," says Khaitan. Over the years, Radico has driven industry growth by creating new brands and price segments. Magic Moments today commands leadership across vodka category and Morpheus brandy has been successful in its premium price segment across markets. Given the brand offering, consumer loyalty, trade confidence and support, the brands have created a niche for themselves; hence it is very strong in maintaining their leadership stance. Expanding the malt segment with the expansion of the production unit, Amrut has also upgraded their product packaging. The industry has uplifted to every level, bringing the best brands for its people. Consumer preferences have gone from whiskies to vodkas, rum, gin and ready to drink beverages. According to Achanta, "New age beer companies like Bira, Gateway and White Rhino have been quick to spot the opportunity here, by focusing on, different styles of beer like wheat beer and IPA, bringing draught beer to the focus, which again was a neglected form of serve."

Diversification of these groups is an important factor in delivering the highest quality brands to the consumers and delivering long-term value to the stake holders. Challenge is now mainly in the whisky sector which is receiving a lot of premierisation. Neelakanta Rao states, "We are working on the semi-premier and brands, something which would cost a consumer within the bracket of Rs 800 to Rs 1200 rupees. Whisky being the larger sector, we are working on it. We have fairly good presence in southern and northern India." Also, in addition to the whisky, the company is also focusing on the malt segment. Prior to this, Som had taken diligent steps to expand its brands as per the choice of the customer.

Marching Ahead

There is growing acceptance of Indian products in the international markets. Apart from the Indian expats, the mainstream consumers are also enjoying the Indian brands now. The future therefore is very positive. Amrut plans to take its blends to Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and West Bengal and on the other hand, to International markets like Poland, Czech Republic, Nigeria, Ghana, Brazil and Argentina. The company is planning to launch dark rum under its "Two Indies' brand and a new natural, matured jaggery rum brand.

Talking about their expansion plans, Arora says, "Seeing the immense opportunity in the sector, we are looking at geographical expansion of our operations. Our new brewery in Karnataka which is being set up at a cost of close to Rs 130 crores is expected to be commissioned within next two months. We are also looking at a Brownfield project in India's southern state, which we hope will be materialized within next six months." These initiatives will largely open the market in south India for the company and also make it more cost competitive.

"Customer centric, qualityfocused and evolution should be the mission of these legacy brands. They are bound to be a socially responsible corporate, conducting the business with the highest moral standards offering only the finest at competitive prices to patrons. Introducing products/ brands which are targeted at a younger demographic with all brand elements - bottle/brand name/logo/label are important." said Achanta.

Sugandh Bahl

Former Feature Writer, Entrepreneur India Magazine

Journalism has been in my roots since my school days. Beginning with a content specialist at CRY organisation to landing up being a Feature writer/correspondent at The Entrepreneur Magazine, life has experienced ups and downs fairly well. A foodie by nature and pet over at heart, currently I am thoroughly enjoying my tenure at The Entrepreneur!

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