» Business » The bubbly bazaar

The bubbly bazaar

By Anoothi Vishal
December 05, 2003 14:44 IST

It flooded Suneet Verma's show this fall. And has flowed freely at Rina Dhaka's, Ogaan's and sundry other shows in the last three years.

But if you -- along with most other brand watchers -- have primarily associated Moet & Chandon, the world's most popular champagne, with just fashion and fashionistas in India, it is time for a rethink.

The champagne house may have focused on aligning itself with Page Three-friendly designers and their high profile parties, but now the brand has bigger promotion plans for the Indian market.

More recently, Pascal Tinguad, the 43-year-old, two-Michelin star chef who works with the champagne house in France, was in India, at the Oberoi's in Mumbai and Delhi, to woo desi palates with his special flavours.

Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial and Brut Imperial Rose ("pink champagne") were carefully paired with the dishes he cooked up.

The promo -- Rs 4,000 a head, four-course champagne dinner -- was the latest in the line of fresh marketing initiatives in the country by luxury products giant Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) of which Moet Hennessy India Ltd that markets the champagne is a part.

LVMH had a turnover of Euro 12.7 billion in 2002. And as far as India operations go in the coming few months food seems to be big on its menu.

It helps in building brand awareness for its champagne after all. Internationally too, Moet is involved with fashion but also does food events regularly and in a big way.

The Moet & Chandon chef travels extensively to different countries regularly not only for promotional events but also to create new food pairing concepts with world cuisine.

"The idea is to create multiple experiences for consumers in order to heighten awareness, knowledge and interest in the category and of course the brand itself," says Ashwin Deo, managing director, Moet Hennessy India.

While the French food fest may have been the first of its kind in India, Deo promises, "We shall attempt to do more of these events in the year ahead".

That's not all. The other big "market" the company is keen to tap in India is the great Indian shaadi bazaar.

"High flying weddings" more specifically, as a spokesperson puts it. Both at Karisma Kapur's wedding as well as politico Kamal Nath's son's wedding Moet apparently went all out to uncork its spirits.

The strategy makes sense given both that the wedding market is so huge and that champagne is commonly -- albeit stereotypically -- perceived more as a celebratory drink.

"Weddings are a big consumption occasion for champagnes and we are looking at addressing this already prevalent consumption occasion in a focused manner in key cities of India. The key to addressing the occasion is to get consumers aware about the availability of the brands. We shall be rolling out a focused programme with our trade partners to achieve this objective," Deo says, talking about their strategy.

The market size for the total category of imported wine in India is about 5,000 cases now. And the category has been growing steadily at about 20 per cent.

While a reduction in import duties is something that most houses would hope for a higher growth rate, creating a "buzz around the brand" to use Deo's words is an alternate strategy.

Training sessions apart -- 500 across 42 hotels and restaurants for hospitality industry staff and "women" specifically, Moet has also been seeking the aid of St Valentine to makeĀ  a connection with its Indian consumers.

It has been sponsoring Valentine's Day promos for the last two years, including 35 F&B outlets across Delhi and Mumbai last year when it also launched its Rose champagne. Now, if this doesn't woo the "cheering squad", what will?

Anoothi Vishal