This was the piece de resistance of the 64-year-old Bangalore-based Amrut Distilleries, but forging a new path appears to be a company policy. JN Radhakrishna Rao Jagdale set up Amrut Distilleries in 1948 and 56 years on, his grandson launched Amrut Whisky, the first Indian single malt brand.
Interestingly, Rakshit Jagdale started it all as an MBA student in Newcastle, UK, in response to his father’s challenge to market an Indian single malt in the very home of the spirit, in Scotland.
Cracking the Luxury Market
“Conforming to the tough European Union packaging norms took a lot of time and effort. But it was all worth it. We had our jaw-dropping moment when the host at Glasgow’s famous Pot Still whisky pub served Amrut to a group of connoisseurs, without telling them where it was from. Each person named a different region of Scotland as the likely place of origin, but they were unanimous in their appreciation,” recalls Jagdale junior, who is an executive director of the company.
What sets it apart from other Indian liquor brands is its target market. “India has always been a huge whisky market, but at the lower end. We wanted to move from quantity to quality, and the biggest challenge was to gain acceptance from the luxury whisky market in Europe,” says Neelakanta Rao Jagdale, chairman and managing director of the company.
That’s why they set aside a portion of their blends for ageing, and hold brand-building activities all year long. “This includes consumer tastings in the form of prominent whisky exhibitions and tutored tastings across the world,” says Ashok Chokalingam, who heads international sales and marketing from Newcastle, and is the brand ambassador for Amrut globally.
Amrut Distilleries has five products in its single malts portfolio so far, Amrut Single Malt, Amrut Peated Single Malt, Amrut Single Malt Cask Strength, Amrut Peated Indian Single Malt and Amrut Fusion Single Malt. After the UK, the brand made a foray into Western Europe and the Scandinavian countries two years later and finally hit North America in April 2010. The line-up is currently sold in 22 countries. Some 8,000 cases are sold in the UK alone every year.
The success of Amrut in the Western markets is to a great extent because of endorsements from people who matter. Besides Murray, the Whisky Advocate magazine has awarded back-to-back World Whisky Awards to Amrut Fusion and Amrut Two Continents. “There is a growth of brown spirits in the market, which has lead to consumers wanting to try new spirits. We have seen Japan leading the way and now there are single malts from Australia, Taiwan, Ireland, Canada, Sweden, France and also the US,” says Raj Sabharwal, managing director, Purple Valley Imports, which is the US distributor of Amrut.
And no, you don’t have to take a flight out of the country to sample this magic. The Fusion and Amrut Single Malt brands have been introduced in Karnataka. About 1,000 cases are made available annually. Of course, the late India-focus and the low visibility of the Amrut single malt brand in the country has not gone down well with experts and market watchers here. Especially since its other whiskies like MaQintosh and Prestige, along with Old Port Rum account for annual sales of over four million cases.
“Despite the global accolades, a brand that is not available on the shelves in a vibrant market like India will continue to remain a wannabe in the global marketplace, nothing more,” says Sandeep Arora, a Delhi-basedwhisky collector. Perhaps that’s why the company is now eyeing the Delhi and Mumbai markets in an attempt to expand the Indian footprint.
All in all, the company is confident that its single malt segment to be a big revenue generator in the next few years, targeting a sales turnover of Rs 300 crore by 2015-16, up from the current Rs 184 crore. “We hope to scale up to 30,000-40,000 cases internationally in the next five years. By 2014, we will be able to increase our supplies because our blends will mature by then,” says Rakshit. Well, cheers to that.
By Ishani Duttagupta, ET Bureau, from: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-04-29/news/31477540_1_amrut-distilleries-whisky-bible-rakshit-jagdale