Women who drink, long portrayed as less than respectable by Bollywood movies, are becoming big business in a socially conservative India.
Makers of alcoholic beverages, including global No.1 Diageo, are taking notice of this segment of India’s $10-billion drinks industry that is growing more than twice as fast as the overall sector and presents a significant, if delicate, market opportunity.
France’s Pernod Ricard SA last year signed a bottling agreement with Tilaknagar Industries and is in talks with the Indian company for a strategic deal.
India’s No.2 spirits company, Radico Khaitan Ltd, has held talks with international players about a joint venture after its partnership with Diageo ended last year.
With more women in the organised workforce, gaining financial independence and interacting with their male counterparts in social and professional settings, the idea of them drinking is slowly gaining acceptance.
“As recently as in my mother’s generation it was frowned upon, and it is now perfectly acceptable to have a glass of champagne or white wine,” said Rajeev Samant, founder and CEO of Sula Vineyards, the largest domestic wine maker.
Two years ago Sula launched Dia, a light, slightly sparkling wine aimed at female drinkers that comes in a slender bottle with pastel-coloured labelling and has a lower alcohol content.
The company is adding more low-alcohol options and expects women to account for roughly one-third of sales this year.
French drinks group Remy Cointreau, whose Cointreau is an ingredient in a Cosmopolitan, launched the orange liqueur in India three years ago.
“There is a rise in the cocktail culture and a significant part of that is because of women,” said Rajesh Grover, marketing manager for the Indian subcontinent at Remy Cointreau.