William Grant and Sons recently launched a new scotch whisky in Goa. AJIT JOHN spoke to James Pennefather, managing director of William Grant and Sons India about the whisky and the market in the country
HERALD: What prompted you to launch a new scotch whisky in the India market?
JAMES PENNEFATHER: Our business of imported products is growing at 30% and this launch is very important for us. For the first time ever Grant whisky is being bottled outside Scotland here in India. Look at the categories we are in, Johnnie Walker Red Label is a brand we compare with. In India it is around Rs 1950, we are now able to bring Grants which is the third biggest scotch whisky brand in the world to Goa at Rs 1275 which is a significant difference.
HERALD: Can you tell us something about William Grant and Sons?
JP: It is the largest independent owned distiller. We are fifth generation family owned. We came to India in 2009 and imported all the products that were bottled in Scotland like Glenfiddich, Monkey Shoulder and Hendricks Gin. We had a very successful few years with the market expanding and moving up the ladder. The single malt market is growing with Glenfiddich doing very well. This year marks the move to bottle locally in India. This is the only place outside Scotland we will be bottling locally. It is a strategic move. This launch is exclusive to Goa because we found the casinos were more experimental and a lot of Indians come over to try new things. We have a marketing campaign over the next three or four months to encourage people to sample it in Goa. We gave a brief to our blender that it had to be the richest, smoothest blendable scotch and he used a blend from a secret distillery in Scotland. It is rich and when you add it to a mixer, its cuts through the flavour of the mixer.
HERALD: How big is the higher end of the market?
JP: The total whisky market in India is 190 million cases, scotch whisky is 3.5 million cases. The scotch whisky bottled in India is 2.5 million cases. This segment over the last five years has been growing at around 14-15%. This will grow to 5 million cases in ten years and we want to get 10% share of the market.
HERALD: Which part of the country is driving growth?
JP: North India is our biggest scotch market and if you add Kolkatta you have 60% of the market. We have doubled our business in Goa over the last one year with the launch of brands like Monkey Shoulder, Glenfiddich and Hendricks Gin.
HERALD: In the four years you have been here, how has the country evolved in terms of consumption, tastes?
JP: The top end of the market is growing much faster than the bottom end. Two things are driving it, first is the bringing in of more premium spirits and the second is retail outlets, the retail infrastructure is improving. Add that to more disposable income, people travelling abroad and being exposed to these brands and yes also via digital media which means you can learn about brands worldwide. We are witnessing an interesting rise in premium gin worldwide and this is slowly happening in India too. In Goa our gin will cost around Rs 4000-5000 and we are at the higher end.
HERALD: What are your expectations from the Goa market?
JP: We would like Goans and domestic visitors to try our whisky and we are confident we will get repeat purchases of Grant’s Distinction once they taste it. Goa is a lovely market because people are open to trying new things.
HERALD: Can you give some numbers to give us an idea of your expectation from the market?
JP: In our first month we produced 500 cases and sold them within the first week, the initial reaction from the trade has been very positive. We have had to bottle much more to satisfy this market. We want 10% market share or half a million cases in ten years. With regards to Goa, there is around 60 thousand cases of imported liquor in Goa each year and we expect to take a significant chunk of that market immediately.