Whisky strategy in India

India has enormous untapped potential for whisky brands. They may not drink much per person, but the sheer size of the population means that even brands with modest penetration can enjoy a high turnover – and the economic conditions make a compelling case. Let me hit you with some stats…

India had the highest growth rate in alcoholic beverages value last year, at 12.4%. Spirits account for 78% of the alcohol market value there, with whisky being largely responsible. The whisky sector grew by 18% last year and is worth $13,000,000.

In the latest Datamonitor report on spirits in India, it claims that Drinks International‘s ‘Millionaire’s 2010’ (a list of “the world’s biggest selling spirit brands”) had 6 Indian whisky brands in the top 10. These top local brands are Bagpiper, Mcdowell’s Number 1, Offcer’s Choice, Original Choice, Royal Stag and Old Tavern. It’s clear from the names alone that Indian whisky is closely linked to the scotch style and whilst the majority of local whisky is made from molasses, there is a growing interest in grain based whisky.

The potential for international whisky brands to enter the market can be seen also by the country’s general developments of recent years, from an increasing population, people’s rising disposable income, greater social freedom, economic strength during the global recession (India’s economy grew by 7.4% in 2009-2010) and strong on-trade consumption (40% compared to 26% in the U.S. or 30% in China).

So it will be interesting to see which global brands, if any, start to become popular in India in the next 5 years.

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