Chivas is shaking up the Scotch whisky category with the launch of Chivas XV – a 15 year old blend that challenges conventions around how and when to enjoy Scotch whisky. Created to be enjoyed as part of a high-energy, celebratory moment, Chivas XV proves that a serious whisky doesn’t need a serious setting to be enjoyed.
Continuing Chivas’ tradition for expert blending, Chivas XV is aged for a minimum of 15 years and selectively finished in Grande Champagne Cognac casks, bringing together two of the world’s most prestigious spirits to seamlessly blend tradition and innovation. The use of Grande Champagne Cognac casks delivers a rich, refined and velvety interpretation of the traditional Chivas house style.
This combination provides the perfect taste profile for a wide range of contemporary serving styles, encouraging whisky fans to enjoy their favourite spirit in a whole new way – from Chivas XV shots to cocktails designed to emphasise the quality and rich flavour of the whisky during high-energy celebrations.
Chivas XV, named in a nod to both the age statement and the style of traditional Cognac classification, features a contemporary new look, while also sharing the same iconic bottle shape that helps to make Chivas whiskies so recognisable around the world. Chivas XV is available in two formats to cater for different occasions: an eye-catching gold bottle stands out from the crowd during moments of celebration, while a clear bottle with a sophisticated gold outer carton makes the perfect celebratory purchase or gift.
Richard Black, Global Marketing Director at Chivas Regal, explains, “We know that Scotch whisky fans love Chivas’ generous house style, but are also looking to experiment with new tastes, and find new ways in which to enjoy their favourite spirit. Enter Chivas XV – the perfect expression for those who want to celebrate life with a truly luxurious and unique spirit that has been designed specifically with the energy of the consumption occasion in mind. A disruptive move for the category, Chivas XV presents a more contemporary side to Scotch, and encourages whisky drinkers to create memorable experiences that live on long after the celebration.” Chivas XV will be on sale exclusively in Global Travel Retail from 1st July, 2018 at an RRP of $69 for 1L and rolled out globally from 1st October, 2018.
After spending decades as the leader of India’s biggest spirit company, Vijay Rekhi is ready for a new innings with an investment in a new company Unibev, a joint venture with Globus Spirits Limited.
How was Unibev born and what is the equity structure of the company? Unibev was born out of the striking gap in the premium Indian whiskies market in India that was deluged with me-too products with cosmetic packaging differentiators. Every now and then international research throws up the premiumisation silver lining for the industry that has mostly grown at its belly. But no player including international players in India took up the challenge to create a highly differentiated and aspirational blend. We spotted this opportunity and conceived Unibev Limited as a platform for Premium Spirits offerings. Unibev is a start up in collaboration with Globus Spirits Limited where I have a stake of 10% in the venture.
What kind of investment you are making to develop these brands? And what is the expected gestation period? Investments to meet brand needs for development, placement and promotions are planned for different phases of launch. In Phase -1, Unibev is focused on the Southern Indian States for its whisky and brandy portfolio. We have identified high throughput outlets to ensure quick placement and movement of stocks. Southern Indian launch operations are funded through internal accruals. We hope to sell 100,000 cases by the end of year 1 in the market.
What synergies do you expect to attain from Globus Spirits? Globus Spirits is led by a highly experienced team in the beverage alcohol industry. The company has the largest grain based distillery in India which augurs well for Unibev’s premium brands portfolio. Globus is growing 25% year on year. The company is cash positive. Unibev will draw from Globus financial stability.
Which are the brands that you have launched and do you have more in the pipeline? Also what are the price points of your brands? In Phase -1 we have launched two Premium Whiskies and one Premium Brandy. Governor’s Reserve infused with 12 YO Scotch in Semi Premium whisky category is priced cross lined to Royal Challenge and Royal Stag Barrel Select. Oakton Barrel Aged whisky infused with 18 YO scotch is priced cross lined to Blenders Pride and Signature Premier. L’Affaire Napoleon Premium Grape Brandy infused with 3 YO French Grape Spirit is priced cross lined to Morpheus and Kyron brands. We will also be launching whiskies with higher aged Scotch shortly. Premium Rum and Premium Vodkas are in the pipeline.
The market is crowded in all the segments, how are your brands different from those in the market place? IMFL whiskies blended with 12 YO and 18 YO aged Scotch have never before in the history of Indian alcohol industry been offered to the consumers. IMFL Brandy with aged grape spirit is an equally rare phenomena for connoisseurs in India. We have had very encouraging response from retail and consumers wherever we have launched the products.
What is the distribution plan for your brands and when are you likely to be pan India? In Phase -2 we plan expansion in North, East and Western markets in a gradual and calibrated manner. We will look at 2020 window for national distribution.
What are the key objectives/targets for the company? Our vision is to offer aspirational Super Premium and Premium blends and brands cross lined to price and brand leaders in the market place to evolved and responsible consumers. To this end, we will continue to innovate and explore ramping up our portfolio with different IMFL and imported spirits categories
The market is highly regulated as well as competitive, what kind of challenges you are likely to face to push these products? Having insights of the spirits market and regulations, we will be compliant with all that is needed. As far as competition is concerned, in a growing market of Premium Spirits there is enough room for additional premium brands where consumers have a choice. Therefore, we will be in a position to meet challenges from competitors.
Quality is the name of the game for the Accord Group.
With its sales in beer and brandy growing by leaps and bounds, the Chennai based Accord Group of Companies has been bolstering its presence in the alcobev industry in Tamil Nadu. Valued at `10,000 crore (2 billion USD), the group had made its advent with stainless steel and leather, and is expanding its horizons by delving in to education, information technology, reality, health care and hospitality and alcoholic beverages.
Elite Distilleries Private Limited, the company’s foray into the liquor industry, has recorded sales of 7.4 lakh cases per month, along with a 16% market share. “The success of our brands is mainly because of quality,” says PK Das, Group CEO of Chennai based Accord Group. “It has been always the endeavor of the company to give value for money to its consumer. Company has stringent policy and practices to maintain the consistency in the quality of blends, Company believe in spending more money on the blends, (which is actually consumed) than on lavish packing and packaging.
All the premium brands of the company are blended with cognac and imported special spirits.” “In Tamil Nadu, companies get orders each month based on an average of the last three months sales,” Das points out. The company, known for its penchant for brandy, manufactures Indian made foreign spirit near Kanchipuram, with a capacity to manufacture one million cases per month. The company’s forte is its premium brandy brand, Hollandas, which is reportedly a market leader in the economy, coupled with being one of the top brands in Tamil Nadu. Das, who has been in the alcoholic beverages industry for more than two decades, has been instrumental in expanding the business to the union territories of Pondicherry and Goa, besides overseas markets. The company is now set to expand its brands to the neighbouring states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana. It is his concerted efforts that has catapulted Hollandas and the company’s other premium product, Royal Accord, as some of the most sought after liquor brands in Tamil Nadu. The company’s other brands include Age de Oak (Premium), Missionary Monk, Royal Accord Gold, Blender Magic, King Nap, Accord French, Wonderland, Accord No. 1, and Evening Walker. This liquor unit’s turnover is about `18 billion (USD 280 millions), reportedly one of the most profitable liquor units of Tamil Nadu. The distillery is valued at `700 crore (USD 1.1 million). The group has also recently purchased a liquor unit styled Fortune Distillers and Vintners Private Limited in Goa in order to sell liquor to Kerala, Puducherry, Andhra, Telengana, Orissa, besides the local sales. This unit is exporting liquor and is also licensed to manufacture wine, which will be taken up shortly. Tamil Nadu marks a sale of 45 lakh cases every month, marking its presence as one of the major markets for liquor companies. The sales volume for these companies, according to sources in TASMAC, have gone up by eight per cent as against last year. However, overall market has remained flat for most of the companies except Elite, SNJ and KALS. The growth by TASMAC is due to increase in prices and increase in rental of the shops. While most companies have capacity constraints, especially older distilleries, Elite, SNJ and KALS are underutilized. After taking over the Imperial of Coimbatore, KALS has excess capacity in beer as well as liquor. TASMAC procures Indian made foreign spirits, beer and wine from 11 IMFS manufacturing units, seven beer making plants, and one winery functioning across the state. Currently, TASMAC has 5700 retail vending shops depending on these breweries and distilleries. The beer industry in Chennai has shown a growth of almost 60% in sales in 2018 as against 2017, from 19.5 lakh cases to a whopping 30.8 lakh cases. Of this, strong beer constitutes 88%, and 12% of light beer is available across the 5,700-odd outlets in the state. So, it only follows that the company’s ripples in sales are not limited to brandy alone. AM Breweries, also owned by the group, is a 300 HL automatic brewery, complete with modern technology that has been installed from Meura of Belgium. It was further integrated into a full process house primarily with Ziemann Technology of Germany, and modified to Indian requirements by Praj Industries of India. Armed with a market share of 11% in Tamil Nadu, it has been growing at 20% rate year on year. Out of AM Breweries’ market share of 11% in Beer in Tamil Nadu, 6% is its own beer and the rest 5% is of Elephant, the brand owned by Carlsberg for which the group has been bottling in Tamil Nadu. Of late, they have started producing Tuborg and it has also applied license for the export. The unit can produce million cases per month and has an exclusive tie-up with Carlsberg of Denmark, to produce and sell their brands like Tuborg and Elephant in Tamil Nadu and to export them to other states of India. “Nearly one lakh cases of Carlsberg products are sold each month. We have only started marketing last month and the response has been very good,” says Das. AM Breweries’ brands include 10,000 Volts in the Super Strong category with about 6% market share, and Royal Accord Super with two per cent market share. The unit is currently capable of producing 1 million hectolitres per annum, which translates to 1 million cases per month. With the addition of further Mash Vessels and Unitanks for fermentation, the unit can reach 1.50 million HL per annum, which is 1.5 million cases per month. However, beer capacities in Tamil Nadu are underutilised by around 40% and the government has now permitted companies to export beer to other states, Das points out. Das has been the key factor in setting up the group’s one Million Hectolitres PA Brewery with modern technology and achieving exclusive tie ups with Carlsberg, Denmark, to produce and sell products in Tamil Nadu, apart from exporting them to the other states of India. The Bottling Hall has been equipped with machineries from German Principals like KHS, Krones, harmonised with an imported conveying system and Indian Pasteurisation system with auto PU controls. The unit is currently valued at around 500 crore, equivalent to USD 75 million. Apart from its investment in the alcobev industry, the group has carved a niche in education, and it also owns medical and engineering colleges, hospitals and the like. They have also diversified into software, print and broadcast media. Plans to undertake several projects of pharmaceuticals, thermal power and hospitality industry are also underway.
The earliest mention of alcohol is found in records made about the Harappan Civilisation in 3000 B.C. Interestingly, alcohol says as much about Indian culture and customs as Indian costumes, food or rituals. It is found that drinking was a vital feature of the cultural landscape and that locally brewed rice beer; palm wine and distilled country liquor were the so-called Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in those days. So lets trace the local spirits of India over time.
Each spirit is identified with particular segments of society and setting in the various communities in India. In a world dominated by Western and urban studies, research clarifies features of alcohol availability, use and acceptance in a neglected rural area of India. Alcohol use is, in large measure, a culturally patterned feature of both secular and sacred life in most societies. India is a large country with diverse socio-cultural and historical patterns of drinking. There are special alcoholic drinks brewed by the locals, which can scintillate your senses. Here are 10 of them:
Rice beer made by tribes in Assam (alcohol content- 18-25%) It is a locally fermented rice beer famous in the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. This rice beer is famed to have been made of a fairy’s breast milk. This rice is roasted until it turns black, then it is allowed to ferment. It takes about 3 months to prepare Apong and the process includes drying the rice, smoking it, fermenting and filtering and then finally pouring it into a tall bamboo shoot. This rice beer is made of almost 30 different kinds of tree leaves, creepers, and grass. Ashes of bamboo and banana leaf are also used in the process along with rice. It is preserved with Bhoot Jolokia peppers, one of the hottest chilies in the world. Apong is served at room temperature, and it is sweet, malty, spicy and quite potent. It is sort of the party alcohol for the tribes and batches of Apong are especially made during annual festivals, weddings and happy occasions. Folklores have said that the people of the ‘Mising’ tribe came together to drink the ceremonial beer to put an end to all their communal conflicts and restore peace and harmony. Apong is considered a cultural heritage of the indigenous tribes of North- East India. The alcohol content believed to be 18-25% ABV, however, it is said to be pretty intoxicating.
The love potion from Mizoram (alcohol content- 13-18%) Commonly known as ‘Love Potion’ in the state of Mizoram, it is a premium variety of Lubrusca grape wine. Zawlaidi is believed to possess the power to enable anyone who used it to make another person fall in love with him/her. The winery is present in a small village Hnahlan in Champhai district of Mizoram. Zawlaidi ranges in strength from 13-18% alcohol content by concentration. After the prohibition on alcohol and spirits was partially lifted, this intoxicant hit Tripura with a thunder.
A drink made from cashew apples in Goa (alcohol content- 43-45%) This drought is made of cashew nut apples and coconut sap, which tells us the story of the Goan ingenuity. Feni is strong smelling liquor from Goa. The Portuguese brought the Cashew nut trees to Goa, and the folks discovered a way of converting the fruit into spirit. The juice produced through the extraction process is known as ‘neero’ and is refreshing to drink, however it is not used in the fermentation process generally for making Feni. It is classified as ‘country liquor’ and thus only sold in Goa, where it is produced. One can drink Feni straight, or use it as a flavoring agent in cocktails, or with soda; it is fruity and nutty, and pale yellow in colour. Those with low-tolerance are suggested sticking to the fruit. The double-distilled alcoholic drink has about 43- 45% alcohol content.
The intoxicant offered to Goddess Kaali (alcohol content- 60-75%) Bangla is traditional spirit from West Bengal. It is the intoxicant offered to Goddess Kaali. This alcohol can prove to be a little dangerous to consume because of the spurious contents. Country liquor is made in a distillery from low-grade molasses, which is often used as cattle feed. Yeast is added to the molasses and fermented, and the brew is then distilled in a covered pot. Water or Soda maybe added to reduce the alcohol concentration from 60-75% to 40- 50%. Bangla is sold in bottles or by the glass in polythene sachets. The heavy drinkers typically take Bangla also known as Chullu regularly, but others choose to drink it only on special occasions. Chullu, country liquor also serves as a currency in social rituals and as a payment in transactions.
A drink of rice from Manipur (alcohol content- 5-15%) In Manipur from time immemorial, both fermented and distilled beverages are being prepared by fermenting different kinds of rice. The local liquor Sekmai Yu is prepared in different communities of Manipur, but restricted to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. In the preparation of the local liquor the quality and quantity are major factors. It is controlled by the use of tasty rice, which produces good quality Sekmai Yu. On completion of the arduous task of processing this rice wine, it tastes as smooth as vodka. The amount of alcohol content produced increases with the increase in the quality of Hamei, up to a certain limit. Hamei is a major ingredient in the making of the spirit. The poor health condition of women due to irregular menstrual flow, infertility factors, obesity, loss of appetite, low nourishment of foods is regulated through this beverage. Often compared to the Japanese Saki, this drink has 5-15% percent alcohol level.
The fiery, much-coveted Ladakhi whisky (alcohol content- 50-70%) Arak/ Araq is an alcoholic spirit. It is a clear, colourless, unsweetened anise-flavoured distilled alcoholic drink. The Persian version of Arak does not contain anise, as it is usually produced from raisins, dates and/or sugarcane. Arak is the traditional alcoholic beverage in Ladakh. Arak can also be distilled from coconut palm sap, sugarcane, coconut and red rice. Arak ranges in strength from 50-70% alcohol content. Because many varieties of Arak are completely unregulated, they often end up being the strongest and cheapest drinks available in an area. Distillation begins with the vineyards, and the quality grapevines are the key to making good arak. For a quality arak, the finished spirit is aged in clay amphorae to allow the angel’s share to evaporate and thus the remaining liquid is the most suitable for consumption.
A local Spirit in Meghalaya (alcohol content- 70%) Kiad is another rice based alcoholic drink that tastes sweet. This popular local beer is an integral part of the social and cultural life of the ‘Pnar’ tribe of Jaintia hill district. Meghalaya’s own take on this local beer contains 70% of alcohol and is triple distilled. It is served in tall bamboo tumblers with a charcoal piece at the bottom to preserve its tart. It was introduced around the 1800s as a medicinal remedy for cuts and wounds. Due to its medicinal properties, the alcohol liquor is considered to be a powerful magical potent. The people in Meghalaya drink Kiad during naming ceremonies and babies are feed few drops too. The ritual comes out of the belief that by doing so, the infant grows to be healthy and strong.
Versatile Tripuri Whiskey (alcohol content- Langi 6-8%) Chuwarak is a distilled and versatile whiskey from the state of Tripura. This intoxicant is produced through an elaborate process. Its versatile nature allows for a variety of raw materials to be used like rice, pineapple, jackfruit and local ingredients like ‘tokhiseleng’ leaves and ‘thakotor’ leaves. It is said that Tripuri alcohol is the safest in the world, as no death due to its consumption has been recorded or reported. The preparation of Chuwarak is a tedious process, and it takes almost 24 hours for preparation. One has to be very sincere and attentive during the process. There are several taboos that must be observed. Langi a variety of Chuwarak has the least alcohol content of 6-8%. It is usually drunk on social occasions of any Tripuri ceremony as a ritual.
Important part in Sikkimese marriages (alcohol content- 5-7%) Raksi is Sikkimese liquor and has a very important part in marriages. Limoo priests consume this concoction before participating in the process of possession of souls. Drinking of locally fermented beverages and distilled alcoholic drinks is the social provision among many ethnic Himalayan people. It is clear distilled liquor made after fermenting and distilling cereals. Raksi is a stimulator alcoholic drink, which has both social and medicinal importance in the food culture of the people from the Himalayan region.
The local beverage of Hyderabad (alcohol content- unknown until experienced) Gudamba is a local beverage of Hyderabad. It is said to be illicit liquor made of sugarcane. It is important for one to exercise caution in procuring it because of the high chances of bogus and unauthentic content. The main ingredient in Gudamba is the infamous Black jaggery, which is a byproduct and the most impure form of jaggery. The alcohol content is quite high and one must be vigilant before its consumption.
The Oasis Group has leveraged its experience in the alcobev busines to grow its IMFL business.
The Oasis Group of Companies started with a humble beginning by estabtishing its first distilleryry unit near Indore in the year 2001 and. since then, The Group has had a remarkable growth and. has emerged as one of the fastest growing liquor companies with five ‘State of Art’ grain based distilleies and. five bottling units of its own with a collective grain spirit productian of approximately 20 crores bulk litres per annum. The core strength of the Group is its international quality grain neutral spirit and its Indian Made Foreign Liquor Brands which have won a number of international accolades, recognitions and awards. Promoted by the Malhotra Group its founder Chairman Late Shri Omprakash Malhotraji was a visionary and an entrepreneur with a sound foresight and his only son and the present ‘Chairman Emeritus’- Mr. Deep Malhotra carries with him rich expeience coupled with sharp commercial acumen, aggression and in-depth understanding of the alcohol industry. Mr. Deep Malhotra takes keen interest in mentoring and guiding the Senior Management and it is his zest and zeal, which has helped the organisation to reach the dizzy heights. A popular entrepreneur from Punjab Mr. Deep Malhotra in his pursuit to contibute to his home town Faridkot, entered politics and was elected from the Faridkot Constituency as MLA from 2012 to 2O17. A number of welfare measures and corporate social responsibility activities were carried out during his tenure in his constituency. While Mr. Malhotra is the guiding spirit of the business, his two sons Gauravh Malhtora and Gautam Malhotra infuse fresh energy into the business and helps him in the day to day running of the company. Today the Oasis Group is a growing conglomerate having diversified business operations in the field of distilleries, hospitality, exports, government contracts and diamond jewellery.
Mr Gauravh Malhotra -The eldest son of Mr. Deep Malhotra assists his father in the Punjab retail, wholesale. and distillery operations, while his younger brother assists his father in the Delhi and Haryana operations. Both Gauravh Malhotra and Gautam Mathotra take active interest and participation in new product launches, developing new markets, marketing and advertising and social media.
Mr. Satish Sood, a childhood associate of Mr. Deep Malhotra and Mr. Trilochan Singh both Directors of the company take active participation in the day to day affairs of the company and helps the company reach its organisational goals and key result areas.
Mr. Anit Vanjani – Chief Executiue Officer of the Group is a Chartered Accountant, Cost Accountant and Company Secretary by profession with more than 29 years of financial and commercial expertise, contributes to explore new and innovative areas and is the key person in the turn around of the Group. Mr. Vanjani has been instrumental in carrying the organisation to a.’New High’.
Mr. C.S. Biju Vasudevan – Group President is a post graduate in Management (Frorn IIM) and Economics and carries with him more than 29 years of liquor experience. He has been with the Group since its inception and is a strong pillar of the Group. He has been instrumental in conceptualising, designing and introducing a. number of international quality brands. He has an in-depth understanding about the pan India IMFL markets and is in close pursuit in making All Seasons Whisky a national brand.
In recognition of the Group’s commitment for exports especially to the African region, the Association of Chamber of Commerce and Industry in India (ASSOCHAM) has recently recognised and awarded two prestigious awards for the most outstanding achievememt in food processing and the second award for the top performing SME in India – Africa food processing sector.
According to Mr. Deep Malhotra, the production of ENA will also form an important part of the business because of the Indian government’s initiative to blend petrol with ethanol for economic and eco friendly reasons. Frorn a target of 5% blending the government has raised the bar to 2O%. This underlines a huge demand for ethanol in future. Mr. Deep Mahotra also adds that while the government is giving a fair price to the ethanol manufacturers, it would also save and protect the sugar mills from financial distress. Oasis Group has also received permission to set-up an ethanol plant using molasses. We are awaiting the environmental clearance and shall immediately proceed to commission the plant at the earliest.
The Group has recently launched its flagship brand All Seasons Connoisseurs Collection Reserve Whisky, OPM Triple Distilled Luxury Spirited Russian Vodka and Oasis London High Triple Distilled Luxury English Vodka. OPM Triple Distilled Spirited Luxury Vodka has already won 19 international awards and is fast catching up to be a leader in its segment. All Seasons Whisky is blended out of Imported ‘Vatted Malt Scotch’ sourced from Scotland, and has been a run away hit in all the markets it has been launched. Presently these brands have been launched in Delhi, Punjab, Chandigarh, Haryana, Himachal, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and is in the process of being launched in Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala in the coming few months.
Within a short peiod of three years, the Oasis brands have established itself amongst the top three IMFL brands in Kerala and last year the company has achieved a sale of more than 1.2 million cases. Last year the Group started supplying whisky and rum to the prestigious Canteen Stores Department for supply to its esteemed Indian Armed Forces.
The group has a judicious mix of technocrats and management experts who steer the company professionally.
GROWTH DRIVERS: Expansion and constant modernisation with an eye on operational efficiencies, which has helped to reduce power and fuel consumption, improve fermentation and distillation efficiency, international quality grain neutral spirit and value for money grain based whisky, vodka, brandy, gin and rum.
CORE STRENGTHS: Pan India distribution network concentrating on high quality products, delivery and consistency. Export of grain neutral spirit worldwide, undivided focus on key business areas and has a judicious mix of short and long term business plans.
FUTURE PLANS: Foraying into untapped domestic and overseas markets, doubling production capacity with the addition of a new State of the Art distitlery in U.P. and expansions at its Punjab, Haryana and. Madhya Pradesh distillery units, thereby doubling its spirit capacity and production of country liquor and IMFL.
GOAL: Increase the market share of its IMFL brands and double its turnover in next three years. Introduction of a ‘Value Scotch bottled in origin’ for its connoisseurs, pan India. The Oasis Group is all confident in taking a giant leap forward and face the challenges with its in-depth understanding of the markets and its confidence on its world class Indian Made Foreign Liquor brands by offering its connoisseurs value for money both in terms of quatity, price, and delivery.
Prasanna Natarajan, Founder, HipBar recounts his foray into Ecommerce after his stint of marketing his own brands in the IMFL segment.
How would you describe the Wallet for your drinks? HipBar is an RBI authorised mobile wallet that is intended for use by the legal permissible age consumer. Due to the nature of the digital currencies, it naturally lends itself to value additions in terms of remote identity and age verification, which are critical for the corollary payment and delivery services offered to liquor retailers. The fungibility of the digital currency, make it possible for HipBar to orchestrate a wide range of online collaborations and the opportunity for brands to participate in interesting consumer engagements in a digitally connected world.
What has been the progress made on the Hip Bar project till now? HipBar has made decent progress, since incorporation in 2015. After being in stealth mode for over two years, HipBar launched services in a small way in Bengaluru and Chennai. We have made advance developments in the non-consumer facing back-end technologies, and many of which is yet to hit mainstream. We are commercialising some of the solutions in the coming months.
What has been the response to Hip Bar from the industry and users? We have a fair share of the industry’s support by virtue of having over 75% of the relevant brands in the market being part of our platform. We are looking to engage and welcoming the remaining brands also. On the customers side, we have over 200,000 patrons who use HipBar in the markets we operate in and we are talking only about the pilot scale in which HipBar is functioning currently. On the fulfillment side, we have over 150 retailers who are part of our payment network. In addition, we have 200 riders delivering delight and drinks to customers in the city of Bengaluru.
What are the major problems faced from the State’s excise department? There are no major problems. Since the concept is new to India, it takes time for excise departments to process the information and start taking decisions. In any case, alcohol home delivery is not a priority area for them, but we present governments with a compelling use case. We believe in shaping their views to the reality of what’s going on around us in terms of digitisation and helping them to take the decision to support a concept like HipBar and make them feel reassured about it.
What is the nature of your tie-up with Diageo? Diageo India is an investor in HipBar and they hold 26% in the company. Diageo brands will be the first amongst equals on the platform. All brands which pay the platform fee will have access to the slots in the application and receive a bouquet of services from HipBar. Diageo India has committed to a certain volume of business independent of the investment, as an outcome of the volume commitment, they will be entitled to receive certain beneficial rates. Free market principles will apply for business conducted on HipBar. It is a platform of skill and not might. Every brand will have the same set of levers to drive business, and as such no unfair advantage is handed to Diageo India on the platform.
With Diageo’s involvement, will they be monopolising sale of their products Hip Bar? Not at all. There is no basis for such an apprehension. Diageo India understands technology, and have been gracious to understand our business and the need for it to be independent as a market place. They have world class brands, have a great franchise in India and don’t need to block anyone to win. All our brand partners who we work with us for over a year, know us to be fair and equidistant. We will continue to be just the same way.
Do you see the Hip Bar venture as the beginning of E-commerce in the alcobev space? E-commerce in the conventional sense is not possible for the category given the trade structure in India and that most governments are themselves a part of the food chain. As a business, the team at HipBar is building a healthy channel through which the industry (including the retailers) and consumers can come together for commerce and engagement in a safe and secure manner. We are creating the digital infrastructure for the industry to use for the last mile delivery and nothing more. We only want to bring in better efficiencies through technology and this enablement has a proven track record of bringing savings and dividends to those who adopt it.
How effective is the app likely to be in terms of actual sales on the ground? I don’t have a direct answer right now. In the technology world, ‘scale’ is the harbinger of all things good. After scale comes effectiveness and without it, there is no reason to exist. We are right now focussing on building scale, which is the logical first step. Effectiveness of the channel is yet to be quantified and can only come later.
How do you envisage the future of Hip Bar? We have taken the path of helping India drink wiser. We have said this before, and I say this again that our business interests will always be subservient to how HipBar is performing in the social sphere and if it is indeed bringing the intended benefits of technology to normalise the category and help people drink responsibly. It’s not good enough for us to see higher transactions bereft of positive social impact. We wish to grow carefully and diligently and hopefully play a meaningful part in the digital transformation of the beverage alcohol industry.