From being considered as 'niche' and hence available only in five star hotels and duty free shops, cigars seem to be slowly gaining popularity as they now adorn almost every neighbourhood pan shop.
"We have two different categories of cigars, the mass market and premium and hence have tied up with some of the best cigar makers to market their products in India" says Arun Joshi, Vice-President, Cigars, Godfrey Phillips, second largest tobacco player in the country.
The company has recently tied up with a major European cigar player, Davidoff to bring their cigars to India costing between Rs 150 to Rs 1400 a stick.
According to industry estimates, the total sale of cigars last year in India was three million units which is nearly worth Rs 20 crore (Rs 200 million). "People have just started trying cigars. It is still not a substitute for cigarettes and they prefer to smoke cigars during weekends," says Joshi pointing out that the company saw an increase of 48 per cent in sales last year.
Growing economy with higher purchasing power seems to the main reason for the growth of the cigar market. "Indian economy is growing and hence the demand for finer products would always be there," says Eric Piras, vice-president Altadis Cigars, which makes some of the worlds famous cigars and now markets its cigars in India. The market is flooded with low cost cigars (comparing to premium brands) offering flavours ranging from cognac to vanilla and chocolate.
"My customers generally go by flavours. Women go in for strawberry or chocolate flavour while guys usually prefer cognac or even the coffee ones," says Pritam Das, a cigar seller in Connaught Place pointing out to his assortment of cigars costing anywhere between Rs 10 to Rs 150.