I Am A Control Freak

Updated: Oct 27 2002, 05:30am hrs
Ashwin Deo is most comfortable talking about his companys brand of champagne. He is managing director of Moet Hennessy India, makers of the well-known brand of champagne that is Moet et Chandon. One finds out that questions about him and his interests make him ill at ease. In any case, they do not elicit much of a response either, so then one sticks to the champagne scene in India because at least he is voluble there.

Ashwin Deo
Moet Hennessy recently organised a fashion show featuring Suneet Varma in Mumbai, which was rather successful. No doubt this was a corporate exercise, but did the event interest Mr Deo on a personal level He says, I surely am interested in fashion. However, more than my personal interest, it is a brand platform used throughout the world for Moet et Chandon, and has been followed at an international level for a long time. Moet et Chandon is served at all the fashion weeks and at all leading fashion events across the globe and it was only natural that we extended the platform to India.

What one meant to ask was whether Mr Deo enjoyed interacting with the celebrities who attended the event. But he will not give up his corporate line! It is interesting to interact with people who come for the shows as they are existing or potential consumers. It gives us a chance to showcase the brand and understand their consumption patterns and preferences, he replies. Well, not many of those celebrities will take kindly to being thought of as mere customers!

One proceeds to ask what a routine workday at Moet Hennessy involves. There must be something Mr Deo enjoys about his job, and some task he would rather delegate There is not one aspect of the job I dont enjoy doing. Besides, for me, delegation does not mean passing on the job to someone else because I dont enjoy doing it, he says, clearly in a combative mood. I delegate so that I can constantly challenge the team to find creative solutions to problems. I give out challenging tasks because I want them to keep thinking all the time. This keeps them gainfully occupied for they go beyond mundane tasks. However, I am a control freak and I like to be kept abreast of these tasks to see that we are on the right track.

One moves away from talking about him to discussing the demand for champagne in India. The presumption is that it is still restricted to the odd celebration with most people, so one asks if Mr Deo is looking to change that. In fact, Moet et Chandon has come out with a pint version recently, evidently to widen its consumer base. About 80 per cent of champagne is consumed in Mumbai and Delhi alone, Mr Deo answers. The market is growing slowly but steadily in other cities. Although the consumption of champagne is largely celebration led, it is beginning to encompass other occasions. Like we see champagne being served as an aperitif at quite a few places. And while weddings and special occasions account for the bulk of the consumption, the number of people entering the world of champagne is increasing at a healthy rate.

Mr Deos optimism could be cut short if the governments move to disallow surrogate advertising for liquor comes through. Oh, our brands are stationed at the top end of the market. So advertising is not really a media vehicle we would use, even if it were allowed, he says, unfazed. But it is my personal view, and my personal view only, that if manufacturing and selling is allowed, then advertising should also be permitted. Of course, self-imposed codes of conduct can, and are, being imposed even now. Mr Deo makes a valid point by asking that even if advertising were stopped, would consumption reduce In fact, advertising helps consumers switch to quality brands. Safer products will be consumed if manufacturers can advertise.

He has already said that his socialising is related to his workhe now confirms that he needs to take a break as he hasnt taken time out with his family for the past four years. He is very fond of music, he says, and enjoys playing the tabla and singing.