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INTERVIEW | Bacardi aiming to grow five times in next 10 years, says MD Sanjit Singh Randhawa

“We aligned ourselves with all the trends and as we close the last fiscal year at double digit growth versus fiscal year 2019-20, our businesses are back to pre-pandemic levels.”

liquor, premium liquor, alco beverage, expansion, innovation, new launches, government regulation, e-commerce, home delivery, whisky, rum, gin and tonic, growth, social media
Sanjit Singh Randhawa, Managing Director – India & South East Asia, Bacardi.

Bacardi India aims to grow 5X in the next 10 years. The liquor major plans to innovate and expand, and launch premium as well as India-focused products as part of its strategy to gain a bigger share of the domestic alco beverage market, Sanjit Singh Randhawa, Managing Director – India & South East Asia, Bacardi, told FinancialExpress.com’s Tanya Krishna. “Innovation and expansion will be a continuous journey for us,” he said. Bacardi recently forayed into the brandy and IMFL category with the launch of Good Man. It launched the Dewar’s Double Double series with the 21-year-old, the 27-year-old and the 32-year-old whisky.

Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

How do you see India as a market for a liquor brand?

Bacardi is committed to India as never before. India is in the top 10 markets for Bacardi globally and it’s now in the top five emerging markets globally. For us, Russia, India, China, Mexico and South Africa and India have been growing rapidly. The India business for Bacardi globally is the second largest for rums, second only to the US. And India will continue to remain a priority market particularly going forward not just for Bacardi rums, RTDs and our premium white spirits, but more importantly, for whiskies and we have placed a big bold bet this season on India.

While the potential is huge and liquor is one of the highest revenue generators in the country, what is your take on the government policies and taxation system when it comes to liquor?

I would like to see some degree of liberalisation around the alcohol policies in the country. Ideally, it would be great if the state governments can come up with uniform excise policies across states rather than different policies across different states, while still being a state subject. It will really help the businesses simply in terms of ease of doing business. The second would be allowing online retail of alcohol. E-commerce for alcohol exists only as home delivery in only three states in the country (Odisha, West Bengal and Maharashtra). So, e-commerce is something that we would like to see opening up for alcobev in India, of course with the requisite guardrails that are required for regulation, particularly around restricting the sale online to people below legal drinking age or other control measures.

How was the business at Bacardi India affected during the initial stage of the pandemic and the resultant lockdown (in percentage)?

The pandemic had the most impact during the summer seasons leading to lockdowns and curfews, which ultimately impacted our RTD and breezer business which sells mostly during summers.

We then pivoted our focus to our other portfolio that we had with our Bacardi rums and whisky portfolio and started focusing on our work towards the states that allowed the delivery of alcohol. Later, off-trade which include retail shops, etc., became our focus in terms of ramping up our business. Off-trade had also started feeding into another trend that emerged during the pandemic, that is, home consumption, or home entertainment. People started meeting and hanging out at their homes, wanting the same experience nevertheless. And this led them to start buying more premium and better products since they did not have to pay the bar or restaurant price but the retail price for their liquor. Also, people started consuming a lot of digital content which fed the third trend of wanting to experiment and consume newer and better cocktails, etc. In line with this, liquor brands also started offering ready to drink cocktails in bottles or cans. We launched our Bombay Sapphire gin & tonic in a can, in the last fiscal.

We aligned ourselves with all these trends and as we close the last fiscal year at double digit growth versus fiscal year 2019-20, our businesses are back to pre-pandemic levels.

While there are restrictions against advertisements and commercials for liquor, digital channels and social media have opened new horizons for liquor brands. How are you using these platforms to market and promote Bacardi products? What’s working the best for you?

Digital platforms and social media, for us, are not just avenues of advertising but of engaging with the consumer through content put out by the brand or even by independent content creators. We use these platforms and the events that we organise to offer experience to the consumers, to engage with the brand in the right kind of environment. Weekender (music festival) provides a very interesting platform for music and young musicians across India. It works at both levels – to give artists a platform and to offer a great experience to consumers. The Weekender is a big platform for us.

What are your expansion plans going forward and growth projections?

We are aiming to grow 5X in the next 10 years and that’s a big ambition. We are committed to achieve that and it will mean that we have to continue to grow at pace and continue to innovate and therefore there will be a continuous investment behind that agenda. We would continue to invest behind all of our brands, in building our organizational capability across all our functions. Expansion will be a continuous journey for us. India is one of the top 10 priority markets for us globally and investment in the Indian market will continue to grow.

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