The Ambrosia Awards 2021, held on December 17 at Hotel Andaz, New Delhi, was an extraordinary event, held during extraordinary times. The alcobev industry was starved of any networking event for nearly two years with the pandemic in full play. The Ambrosia Awards night came as refreshing breather to an industry which needed all the booster shots it could get. The Ambrosia Awards and the day-long Indspirit 2021 conference provided that perfect platform for the sector to not only network, but also to strategise going forward.
It was a packed awards night. There was one common refrain among the award winners as they were delighted to win as it endorsed and encouraged their efforts in keeping the focus of the industry going through resilience, strategising differently, innovation and above all the ‘never say die’ spirit.
That spirit was summed by the Ambrosia Business Leader of the Year 2021, Mr. Abhishek Khaitan, the Managing Director of Radico Khaitan Limited. While thanking Ambrosia for honouring him with the award, he thanked his team for growing the company. “With the team of ours we have been able to create over 15 premium brands in the country including a single malt whisky which is retailing at `1 lakh per bottle. This is a proud moment not only for me, but the entire team at Radico.”
Team spirit echoes at Awards Night
This ‘team spirit’ sentiment echoed through the huge gathering which had descended upon the venue to cheer the alcobev sector. Each of the awardees had a story to tell, even if it was just a ‘thank you’. It was not easy for the esteemed panel of judges who had to sift through so many deserving players. The panel of judges included: Mr. Bernard Schaefer, whisky expert and consultant; Mr. Ajoy Shaw, wine maker and consultant; Mr. Binod K. Maitin, independent consultant; Mr. Graeme Bowie, Scotch whisky expert; and Ms. Sheetal Kadam, wine promoter and consultant; and the judges for the packaging segment were Dr. Santosh Kshirsagar, Dean of J.J. School of Arts; Mr. Pranav Bhide, Sr. Creative Director, Leo Burnett; Mr. Shekar Ambedkar, Head of International Packaging Centre; and Prof. K. Munshi, former Head of Design Department, IIT.
Alcobev industry stands solidly behind the community
It hasn’t been easy for SAP Media Worldwide and its leader, Mr. Trilok Desai, to ensure the success of this event after a couple of postponements which the industry well understood. The Awards Night began with 30 seconds silence in memory of those from the industry who had lost their lives to Covid-19. In his address at the Awards Night, Mr. Trilok Desai talked about how the alcobev industry – be it Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Beam Suntory, Radico Khaitan, Jagatjit and several others – stood solidly behind to help the alcobev community overcome the Covid-19 crisis in whatever way possible. “Now, the worst period in the history of the alcobev industry is over. And we pray that Omicron does not turn out to be that dangerous.”
Mr. Desai was optimistic. There is a positive outlook on all fronts for the alcobev industry including the announcement of industry-friendly policies by the governments of Maharashtra and West Bengal. He singled out the efforts of the Delhi government which has revamped the excise policy and taken government out of the liquor business, a welcome move.
India, a global hub for alcoholic beverages
“India is fast becoming a global hub for alcoholic beverages as many of the world’s biggest brands continue to move to the nation in a bid to sell their products; compete with local distillers and producers. The reason is not far-fetched, India remains the world’s fastest growing major economy and, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country will continue to lead in economic growth at 8.5% in 2022 following an impressive growth of 9.5% in 2021.
All these have been possible with the Indian economy growing at a decent rate of 8.5% with the third largest PPP- purchasing power parity- and over millions of young consumers who have high purchasing power. India’s ever increasing number of high networth individuals (HNIs) is also contributing to the growth of high-end whiskies; scotches and single malts, besides wine. The society is lot more liberal now and has started accepting social drinking culture for the past few years.”
Centre, State now more amenable to industry needs
Mr. Desai mentioned how the alcobev industry has been contributing to almost all the State exchequers and how a few states have had to reverse prohibition within months of enforcing it, given the challenges of the huge revenue losses. The alcobev sector also creates millions of jobs directly and indirectly and contributes in no small measure to the growth of the industry. “The Central and the State governments have started understanding these aspects and several states are responding positively in the interest of the alcobev industry, thanks to the continuous efforts of CIABC; ISWAI; AIBA and AIDA. Let’s give them a big round of applaud for their efforts.”
The Indian alcobev industry has become more innovative with more single malts rolling out of the stables, not only concentrating in the Indian market, but have performing well in exports. “More crafted spirits; flavoured spirits; increasing number of gins and several start-ups during the past two years have attracted investors and kept the industry buoyant.”
India’s increased requirement of ethanol blending in petrol of 20% by 2025 to control pollution and reduce the bill on import of oil has fuelled the investment in the sugar and distillery industry for the ethanol production. This will lead to increased employment in the sugar producing states like UP and Maharashtra.
Ambrosia Awards instituted 28 years ago
Talking about Ambrosia Awards per se, he recalled how they were instituted 28 years ago and how over the years it has earned recognition and credibility as it has maintained a strict criteria and parameters for their evaluation. We have been continuously investing in this property over the years.
“The evaluation process is very stringent and the international jury has expressed their satisfaction at the judging process as we maintain strict international standards. The jury is highly reputed and is recognised in their respective fields. They have also been surprised at the quality of products over the last five years. They feel that IMFL products quality is constantly improving and they offer the best value on an average price of 6/7 dollars a bottle.”
While thanking the staff for the success of the event, Mr. Desai mentioned how Ambrosia has come to be one of Asia’s highest circulated wine and spirits magazine and is in its 28th year of publication. It was the first English language magazine launched in Asia in the alcobev sector and we continue to maintain the leadership position. The publication is owned by SAP Media Worldwide Ltd which has several other titles like Asian Photography and International Aerospace, Show Dailies and so on besides many other verticals like conferences, awards etc. In certain segment of the industry like Aerospace & Defense we are the 4th highest circulated magazine in the world and we publish dailies under the title SHOW DAILIES in several countries like Japan; Korea; UK (Farnborough); France (Paris); UAE (Dubai); Singapore and so on during the year.
Over the years, Ambrosia has evolved and has even moved on to publishing the first Coffee Table Book and now the 3rd edition of the Coffee Table Book is under preparation with lot of additions and deletions looking at the continuous changes in the markets.
Mr. Bhavya Desai, Group Head and CEO, talked about how the Ambrosia Awards and Indspirit 2021 conference had been planned to not only stimulate one’s thinking but one’s senses. He mentioned that a record number of entries had come for this year’s awards, despite the many challenges that surfaced due to the pandemic.