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'Luxury spirits have a huge potential in India'

June 05, 2008 16:11 IST
Credited with introducing eight new brands from the stable of the world's largest liquor maker Diageo Plc, Asif Adil, the managing director of its India subsidiary, Diageo India Pvt Ltd, has set himself a target of achieving a sales turnover of over  Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 40 billion) in India in three years. He spoke to Suvi Dogra on his plans for the year.

How do you intend to achieve your sales target considering there is a ban on liquor advertising in India?

Establishing a brand is indeed tiresome without advertising. But we have successfully established our brands through experiential and lifestyle marketing. This year we brought the Johnnie Walker Classic golf tournament to India.

We also have five Johnnie Walker Select outlets for promoting our brands and will associate with more retailers for the same.  Travel retail and duty-free outlets account for nearly 50 to 55 per cent of Diageo India's sales and we will continue to strengthen this channel.

Diageo brands occupy nearly 60 per cent of shelf-space in big duty-free outlets, which does wonders on the visibility front. We are confident that through such direct marketing initiatives and on-premise activities we can create the necessary consumer connect.

Also our products are premium and, increasingly, they are appealing to the sensibilities of the Indian consumers. This trend is indicative of how we will achieve our targets.

How do you see the wine market develop?

India has warmed up to wines as never before and the wine culture is growing in the country. Last year we launched Nilaya, our first Indian wine to tap the domestic wine segment and it is now available in retail formats like Reliance Fresh and Shoprite.

We have introduced Barton & Guestier's (B&G) and Thomas Barton Reserve Wines recently, which are an addition to the Indian portfolio that has 16 varieties.

We have a large portfolio of wines which includes names like Justerini & Brooks Piat d'Or, Blossom Hill, Sterling Vineyards. We are also promoting wines through Johnnie Walker select outlets.

Are women your new target consumer?

Liqueur and wines are being widely accepted in the country, especially by women drinkers. Nilaya has received a very good response. Now we plan to introduce flavours for our liqueur brand Bailey's in the domestic market. We are also promoting another liqueur brand Godiva in the travel retail space.

Why did you rope in Shahrukh Khan for your IMFL brand Masterstroke? Will you retain him for the second year as well?

When we joined hands with Radico Khaitan to form the JV for the IMFL category, we realised that there was stiff competition from other brands in the market. Shahrukh Khan created the brand recall that resulted in phenomenal sales.

Masterstroke Deluxe Whiskey was a big success as it made record sales of 1 lakh cases in merely 100 days of its launch. We are still working out the marketing strategy for this year. Will Shahrukh Khan continue or will there be a shift towards packaging and allied activities, we are yet to decide.

Smirnoff has become almost synonymous with vodka in the country. Will it continue to define your vodka portfolio?

Smirnoff  grew by 50 per cent in the country last year. Flavoured vodkas are a hit with the consumers now and hence we have also introduced Smirnoff Black and Smirnoff Twist for the domestic market.

Our latest addition 'Ciroc' is a luxury vodka. We see great opportunity in the luxury spirits market, which offers great potential for reserve brands like Ciroc.

You have also set up a new Reserve Brands Division in India. What is the idea behind it?

This division reiterates Diageo's focus to promote its reserve brands in the Indian market. It is a team of 12 Armani-suited food and beverages experts, who work from 2 pm to 2 am to keep the Indian operations at par with our international operations.