India’s thirst for whiskey may finally be waning

India’s thirst for whiskey may finally be waning

By Devjyot Ghoshal @DevjyotGhoshal an hour ago

Sometime in the last decade, Indians started consuming whiskey with such gusto that the subcontinent became the world’s biggest market for the spirit, in terms of volume.

Between 2007 and 2012, the country’s whiskey appetite doubled to over 1.4 billion litres, as everything from imported smoky single malts to throat-searing local varieties was swiftly knocked back. It seemed a thirst that couldn’t be quenched.

Until now.

Year-on-year growth of whiskey sales, by volume, has plummeted, according to recent data by International Wine and Spirits Research (IWSR).

2013, in particular, was a cheerless year for the broader Indian alcohol industry. Growth in whiskey and brandy consumption, both of which form the greatest share in the market, have dropped—and overall spirits sales in the country reportedly declined by 2%.

Even in the southern state of Kerala, which has the heaviest per capita alcohol consumption in the country, sales have purportedly fallen for the first time in three decades.

Some of it has to do with India’s election cycle, as alcohol sales are closely monitored and controlled. Voting days are dry, and in the recently concluded polls, the Election Commission has been especially watchful.

Moreover, a sluggish economy and high taxes may have played their part in driving middle-class consumers toward cheaper Indian made foreign liquor (abbreviated as IMFL in industry lingo) and indigenous alcoholic beverages.

The last few years have also seen something of a demographic shift. Growing numbers of women and young, wealthier consumers are leading to some diversification in consumption. Sales of beer and especially wine, as a result, grew faster than spirits between 2011 and 2012, according to Euromonitor International.

But as a standalone spirit, nothing came close to whiskey and its sway over India.

The lack of growth hardly means India will cease be a major whiskey market; just that it’s slowing down.

In fact, more spending and organized retail still leave plenty of room for whiskey consumption in the subcontinent to expand, according to Euromonitor International. Finer whiskies will likely do exceptionally well.

So while India’s raging thirst for whiskey may finally be slaked, at least we know one thing: The hangover will last a while.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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