tête-à-tête with Romesh Pandita

We would be adding brands in premium rum and brandy segments to ensure full portfolio offerings to our consumer and trade partners

Q. Tell us about your existing production facilities and its capacity etc.

A. Ours has been a long and engaging journey. To give you a perspective, Alcobrew is an ISO 22000:2005 Integrated Food Safety Management Systems & ISO 9001:2008 Certified Company with its manufacturing facility strategically located at Derabassi, Punjab. Technical guidance was provided extensively by Campari International to this unit as it was originally made to bottle Gruppo Campari’s Old Smuggler products in 2006. This plant has seen rapid expansion and it has doubled its production capacity to 5 lakh cases of IMFL per month on single shift basis. We will be looking out for manufacturing expansion keeping pace with growth in our business.

Q. Newspaper reports have mentioned that you were going to invest Rs 100 crore in Alcobrew Distilleries for expansion of facilities. Have you found investors or debt money for your proposed expansion?

A. We are in discussions on investment and funding opportunities with interested parties and are evaluating both debt and equity participation to funnel growth in the business as well as building manufacturing capacities.

Q. In what areas are the new funds going to be invested and in what way would this investment help your company?

A. One of the top agendas for investment is to accelerate growth of our flagship brands – White & Blue whisky and Golfer’s Shot whisky–in terms of new market expansions, launch of premium variants for both brands and packaging and marketing initiatives. In terms of marketing initiatives, we believe that both brands need a push to further establish themselves in the minds of consumers. We are looking at new age marketing media for the same, including digital media. We also have developed new brand positioning for Golfer’s Shot whisky – Taste the Good Life – and would be establishing the brand positioning through a mix of marketing and experiential events. In terms of new markets expansion, we are looking to expand our footprints of both the brands in domestic as well as exports markets. We have identified priority markets for both the brands and would focus on these markets in first stage.
As for expansion plans, we would be setting up a malt distillation and maturation plant in Himachal Pradesh and have received a Letter of Intent from the state government for the same. Most probably, we will be starting construction in the next 2-3 months and it would be completed within one year. From the enhanced production,we plan to use 70% of the malt for our own brands and the remaining 30% will be matured with time – may be 3 to 4 years. We also plan to launch our India-made Single Malt products similar to companies like Amrut, Rampur, etc.

Q. How do you view Alcobrew’s growth since 2006? What were your major achievements in the last 12 years?
A. Starting from being manufacturing partner for Gruppo Campari brands in year 2006 and becoming their exclusive licensee for Old Smuggler Rum and Scotch in Civil and CSD markets in India (in 2010), we have come a long way. We have now been able to successfully establish our own brands White & Blue whisky and Golfer’s Shot whisky in semi-premium and premium segments, respectively. In the year 2015, White & Blue whisky reached a milestone by selling 1 million case. We also launched White Hills whisky in the regular segment in 2015 which we use as tactical brand in various geographies.We would be adding brands in premium rum and brandy segments to ensure full portfolio offerings to our consumers and trade partners.

Q. How are your brands White & Blue and Golfer’s Shot performing in different markets?

A. Both brands are doing really well and we are expanding their business in new geographies. As you would be aware, both semi-premium and premium segments are growing faster than other segments and we are very happy being present in these segments.

Q. Which are the major markets for your whisky brands and what are your plans for expanding the markets?
A. We have identified priority markets for both the brands and are focused on expanding business in these markets in stage one. For both brands, we plan to use 360-degree brand building approach while focusing on young consumers.

Q. The Indian market is too cluttered with whisky brands, especially in the price categories you operate. How do you promote your brands to build better connect with the consumers?
A. A combination of unique blend, world class packaging and engaging consumer narrative always has good chance of success in the market. For both the brands, we have been able to deliver on these parameters. As we expand into new territories, we constantly look out for engaging marketing platforms to build equity for the brands.

Q. As super premium whisky segment shows better promise, do you have any plan to launch a higher quality or a higher priced whisky?
A. We are currently focused on building consumer equity and business for Golfer’s Shot whisky across markets. We might look at launching higher priced whisky at a later date, once we have optimized business for Golfer’s Shot whisky.

Q. How much importance do you attach to labels/packaging etc while planning a new brand?
A. As I mentioned earlier, packaging is a key differentiator in our business; more so since we operate in a dark market. Most of the brands have undergone packaging refresh recently; similarly, we are constantly looking out to explore packaging up gradation options to keep the brands aspirational and contemporary.

Q. How do you rate Indian companies engaged in labels, packaging, closures, bottles etc ?
A. We believe that some of the Indian companies are at par with global design houses in terms of packaging designs and development. And they are keen to match global trends as
well.

Q. What is your vision for your company?
A. We want Alcobrew to create highly desired brands and be the most Preferred Employer

Cover for Spiritz January 2019 edition.