Refining strategy


As it matures, the Indian wine industry is now trying innovative marketing ploys, but a lot more needs to be done, finds Vinaya Gopaal

Growth zone Indian vineyards are promoting wine tourism

LABELS WITH modern Indian art, wine clubs and wine-tasting parties. The Indian wine industry is less than a decade old, but has marked a 25 percent growth over the past three years. Even though it is the least known of alcoholic beverages, the fight for differentiation is no less intense than in whiskey or rum. “A brand is an idea, and if the perception of anyone interacting with the company is strengthened, it will help tremendously in raising the brand equity. Hence, it is important to create a differentiating factor for the brand,” says Madhu Joshi, a senior official at Indage Vintners Ltd, a leading player in the Indian wine industry.

Joshi says that the company sponsors a number of below-the-line activities, including wine festivals and wine tasting events, apart from events for the wine trade. These, she adds, help in connecting directly with the consumer.

A variety of wines are found in Delhi’s cellars
Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Alcoholic beverages major United Breweries (UB) is planning to spend up to Rs 100 crore on wine tourism by promoting its Four Seasons winery in Baramati in Maharashtra. The winery is embellished with luxurious rooms, recreational facilities and a pantry that can serve up to 700 people. Not only does this create a world-class indigenous portfolio for the brand, it also makes the winery a lifestyle destination. The UB group will introduce 80 wine brands during the year, including some imported brands.

But if some wine marketers believe that direct involvement with consumers is the mark-maker, others feel that unique packaging will help. Last month, Grover Wines launched an artists’ collection of wine bottle labels. Jatin Das has designed the Blanc de Blancs label; Paresh Maity has given Shiraz and Viogniers a new identity; Sanjay Bhattacharya has lent his art to the Cabernet Shiraz and Chenin Blanc labels; Rini Dhumal has added to the Sauvignon Blanc and Rekha Rodwittiya has freshened the Shiraz Rosé look. “This is clearly an attempt to be unique. There are obvious obstacles like registration delays. However, if the mark is made and the market relates our wine to art, there is no greater success,” says Grover Vineyards Chairman Kapil Grover. The total launch cost Rs 20 lakh.

Will these ideas for unique marketing work? Shatbhi Basu, director of the Stir Academy of Bartending, believes that “Understanding the psychology of the Indian people is essential for survival in this industry. Even if we see multiple players emerging in the field, the survivors will be the ones who understand the trends of the market.”

Luxurious rooms and recreation facilities now make wineries a lifestyle destination

Trying to differentiate brands might help, but wine drinking is not a part of Indian culture. The industry requires more than simple marketing strategies to change the drinking habits of Indian consumers. Wine clubs and wine-tasting events preach to the almost converted, and while striking labels ought to make the gifting decision easier, wine consumers remain a niche segment. The bulk might still be waiting for a fine wine-marketing strategy.