This elevates Pernod Ricard India to the status of Irish Distillers, which owns Jameson whisky, Polish vodka maker Wyborowa and Swedish owner of Absolut vodka, V&S Group. The $11-billion French giant categorises its international affiliates into two — brand-owning companies and market companies, which undertake distribution.
Pernod Ricard's latest move is an affirmation of mainstream Indian whiskies arriving on the global scene. This comes on the back of two Indian single malts, Paul John and Amrut, generating significant interest in international markets recently. Though Indian distillers have been exporting whiskies to markets like Middle East and parts of Africa for many years, they operate through third-party distributors, selling them to a diaspora or as cheaper options to the third world.
'We believe our Indian whiskies address the need of the fast growing middle-class consumers globally, which is going to be a key source of growth in the coming years," Guillaume Girard-Reydet, MD, Pernod Ricard India, told TOI. "We believe this is a game-changing opportunity as Royal Stag, Imperial Blue and Blenders Pride are all set to tap the mainstream opportunity across the world and create a robust value whisky portfolio globally," added Girard-Reydet, a straight-talking 'Ricardian' who espoused the cause of Indian whiskies after taking charge of the local unit two years ago.
Pernod Ricard India has set up a new team for international business, which would come up with a branding and marketing plan for its overseas affiliates to operate Indian brands. It has also set up an 100% export-oriented plant at Amravati near Nagpur. Pernod Ricard's Thailand arm launched Royal Stag recently, the first instance of the Indian operations working with an overseas affiliate for a brand launch of the Indian whisky. The latest move could see bigger opportunities opening up for Pernod Ricard's Indian whiskies across Latin America, South East Asia and North Americas, besides Middle East African markets.
Pernod Ricard India sold 43 million cases of Imperial Blue (18 million), Royal Stag (16 million) and Blenders Pride (6.2 million) last year, giving the company a big lead over rival United Spirits in the domestic premium and mid-priced whisky segments. "Their focus on building premium local brands has been a winning strategy. Backing a high quality team of professionals by global parent has also worked well. Pernod Ricard is a successful example of 'Make in India' by global companies even in a heavily regulated industry," said Sanjay Jain of Taj Capital, a New Delhi-based investment advisory firm.
The 200 million cases plus domestic whisky market is the largest single market in the world and becoming more important as changing lifestyles and rising disposable incomes are helping premium brands. Pernod Ricard's success in building profitable Indian whiskies has rekindled the interest of global liquor giants, which were disillusioned with India's low-margin volume sales. Diageo, which took control of United Spirits, is pursuing a similar strategy even as Bacardi is beginning to push value scotch whiskies like William Lawson's aggressively.