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BW Businessworld

‘We’re Here For The Long Term’

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William Grant & Sons, an independent, family-owned Scottish distiller, owns some of the world’s leading brands of Scotch whisky, including Glenfiddich and Balvenie. The company also owns brands such as Hendrick’s Gin, Sailor Jerry and Tullamore Dew. Even though India is an important market for the distiller, its chief executive Stella David believes the strategy is not to push for volumes for the short-term, rather create a long-term relationship with consumers. On her recent visit to India, David chatted with BW’s Smita Tripathi about the various brands and the company’s plans for this fast-growing market — and why she believes you are selling a dream when you sell a malt whisky. Excerpts from the interview:

Glenfiddich is very popular here. Will you now focus on Balvenie?
Both Glenfiddich and Balvenie are very different brands and we are focused on both. Glenfiddich is the world’s No. 1 malt in both volume and value. It is a pioneer in that category. There is significant opportunity for the growth of Glenfiddich in India over the long term. It is already the number one malt whisky in India as well, with a 38 per cent market share. Glenfiddich offers a fantastic range. Not only do we have our flagship 12-year-old, there are also examples of the brand in special wood finishes, sherry casks, etc. We have something for everybody — from an individual drinker to a collector, to a hotel.

Balvenie was developed and nurtured over many years and it is one of the top 10 malt whiskies in the world. It’s got a very different taste profile. Balvenie is doing really well in India. Within 15 months of its launch, it already has 4 per cent market share in its category. If you divide the single malt category between explorers and discoverers, Glenfiddich falls under explorers and Balvenie is under discoverers, which is a more mature segment and we are market leaders in that segment.

Our gin Hendrick’s also enjoys a 12 per cent market share here. It’s the No. 1 gin in the world. Our blended whisky is Grant’s Family Reserve, which we introduced recently. It is the world’s No. 3 and we want it to have a similar position in India. Scotch has a huge market in India, so there is great opportunity for brands such as Grant’s here.
Established: 1887
Headquarters: North Lanarkshire, Scotland
Global ranking: No. 3 in Scotch whisky production
Presence: 180 markets across the globe
Brands: The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Grant’s, Sailor Jerry, Tullamore Dew, Hendrick’s
How big is the market for malt whiskies in India?
Pure number size is 80,000 cases and is growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 48 per cent. The premium blended Scotch whisky category is growing at a CAGR of 32 per cent. India is 95 per cent a brown spirit market, out of which 69 per cent is whisky. The market has great potential. Though the category for malt whiskies is still relatively young, it’s growing at an amazing rate and a few years down the line, India will become a very important market.

What are you doing in India to introduce more people to your brand?
It’s about mentoring, about nosing and tasting and trying to develop a relationship with consumers for the long term. Appreciation of the quality of the liquid, the history, stories behind the brand is what makes a strong relationship with a malt whisky. We don’t want to just push our volumes, we want consumers to want our brands. So what we won’t do are any glitzy or short-term promotions to just push volumes. But when we develop a relationship with a hotel or a bar, and the bartender understands our brand, then we will promote it. Educating the bartender is part of the process of building a relationship with the consumer. This takes longer, but it pays. I would rather take longer and get it right than do it quickly and generate the wrong feeling for the brand.

What has your Indian experience been like so far?

I have been to India quite a few times, but this trip is after a gap of four years and things have changed quite a bit. People are spending more on good things, whether it is luxury cars or other products. There is a demand for premium quality products. And good malt whiskies fit into that category really well. Of course, you have to meet customers’ expectations. Ultimately when you sell a malt whisky, the liquid is, of course, amazingly important, but you actually sell a dream.

In India, there is a great affinity for whisky. Those who drink Glenfiddich or Balvenie want to know more about the products. On average, the consumer is male, but we must not ignore women, as 50 per cent of malt whiskies are bought as gifts and women are important when it comes to taking decisions on gifts.

How are you tackling competition from other Scotch makers?
We own the second largest blended Irish whisky in the world — Tullamore Dew. We bought the brand in 2010. It is still tiny in India as it has been introduced recently. The whisky category — whether it is Irish, Japanese or American — is growing globally. We are a niche player, and I don’t think the competition can affect our ability to grow given that this is a growth market.

What are your future plans? Are you going to introduce more brands?
Yes. We hope to bring Sailor Jerry, which is our spiced rum, and are also looking at Monkey Shoulder, our triple malt. We have a lot of exciting plans, but the idea is not to just expand our portfolio, but to reach out and understand the consumer. We want to get to the pulse of what the Indian consumer wants and work equally hard to make sure the consumer understands what these brands stand for. We don’t want people to come up and say Glenfiddich is the one in the green bottle, because it is that and so much more.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 15-10-2012)