In January, Italian yacht maker Ferretti held a party on a floating platform off the coast of Mumbai. The 60-odd invitees were drawn not just by an evening out on the water with a view of the island city, but by an appreciation session of The Balvenie single malt Scotch as well. “Scotch gels well because it too is an indulgence,” says Anju Dutta, managing director of Marine Solutions, which distributes Ferretti yachts in India.
Several luxury goods marketers and service providers including premium apparel brands, carmakers and airlines are joining hands with liquor companies such as Diageo and William Grant & Sons to conduct Scotch whisky tasting events to feed off each other’s pool of high net worth customers.
“Like Scotch whisky brands, we too have a client base that appreciates the finer things in life,” Dutta says.
The inclination among Indians to understand the difference between a single malt and a blended Scotch or to glean which whiskies can be paired best with canapes or kebabs has made Scotch whisky tasting a bait for upper crust clientele across luxury segments. Scotch whisky tasting sessions are closed-door events, with customers pooled in by both the liquor company and the luxury brand. While the liquor marketer brings the spirit, the partner arranges all other facilities including space and food.
While luxury brands use such events to increase loyalty with customers, introduce new collections and establish their brand positioning, liquor companies get to meet many customers and introduce their Scotch to new people including women in a non-intimidating environment. Both partners gain by sharing their client bases.
“It helps us get direct access to consumers and to gauge their preferences,” says Aparna Batra, country manager of William Grant & Sons, makers of the popular single malt Glenfiddich, handcrafted The Balvenie, Grant’s blended Scotch whisky and Tullamore Dew blended Irish whiskey.
The company has held tasting sessions with apparel brands Bottega Veneta and Canali and hosted a cigar & malt party at Creme Spa in New Delhi’s Olive Bar & Kitchen, which uses a skincare range handcrafted for men.
“The Balvenie (appreciation) it is a calculated strategy to partner with handcrafted brands,” says Batra. Johnnie Walker-maker Diageo too has worked with the likes of Jimmy Choo, Etro, BMW and Jaguar. “Just as apparel brands romance the fabric that goes into making them, the art and craftsmanship behind the weave, we romance the heritage, provenance and flavour of our brands,” Abanti Sankaranarayanan, deputy MD of Diageo India, says.
The Scotch whisky market is less than two million cases in India, but it is the largest spirit imported and is growing 13% a year.
This growth is expected to speed up as more and more Indian consumers-younger, richer and more aspiring than before-splurge on luxury and Scotch has become a status symbol.
The Indian luxury market is estimated to grow 21% a year to $14.72 billion, or around Rs 73,500 crore by 2015, up from $4.76 billion, or about Rs 23,700 crore, in 2009, according to a CII-AT Kearney report. And, as per Kotak Wealth and Crisil Research, the number of ultra high net worth households in the country will triple to 219,000 in five years from 62,000 now. Ultra high net worth households is defined as those having e12 million (approx Rs 78 crore) or more now and e16 million ( Rs 104 crore) after five years.
India is the world’s largest whisky drinking nation, making it an ideal growth market for Scotch, the world’s most renowned whisky from Scotland. Prices of Scotch typically start at around Rs 3,500 for a bottle and goes up to more than Rs 1 lakh depending on age. This post originally appeared at Luxpresso.
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