INDIA – The world’s most lucrative whisky market worth US$18.8bn (£15bn) in 2021, India is witnessing a boom in single malt whiskey as a new generation sheds old notions about the superiority of imported brands, according to the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC).

Several Indian single malts that were launched internationally a few years ago are grabbing a major share of the domestic market, causing a seismic shift in the global whisky industry, the Confederation noted.

Data from CIABC show that homegrown single malts constitute 33% of the market in India, up from 15% five years ago.

That figure is poised for an even more rapid rise as sales have surged by an average annual rate of 42% over the past three years, compared with just 7% for imported rivals, according to CIABC.

This trend has caught the attention of global firms too. Diageo, the world’s second-biggest alcohol company by valuation recently launched an Indian-made single malt in March called Godawan.

In astride to upscale its sales and growth, Amrut launched India’s first single malt in Glasgow in 2004, before expanding across Europe and entering the Indian market in 2010.

Breaking with the elitism often associated with single malts in India, reviewers are appraising homegrown whiskies in local languages, as well as English, reaching new audiences, CIABC added.

Devaki Rajagopalan, a Bengaluru-based marketing executive said that homegrown Indian whiskey is a relatively low price compared with imported whisky which has also helped Indian brands to grow favorably.

The growth is also attributed to the Indian government, which in 2020 banned foreign spirits at the country’s 4,000-odd stores for the armed forces, creating a captive market.

In addition, the disruption of global supply chains by the coronavirus pandemic exposed many Indian drinkers to local whiskies for the first time.

The consumers found the brands of whiskies matched their expectations which made it easy for them to integrate them into part of their menu.

 Sanjeev Banga, an executive at Radico Khaitan, the makers of Rampur was confident that Indian single malts can weather competition from imports, even if they are priced similarly since the malts have competed in markets abroad and are shining.

Moreover, some Indian companies are planning to export the malt brands launched on the home grounds into new abroad markets but the said dramatic cuts in tariffs, as the UK wants, could give them” a bloody nose.”

A free trade agreement could be troubling for Indian manufacturers as Britain continues to insist that whisky must be aged for at least three years in the wooden cast hence pushing costs up to an unviable level.

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