Launching an alcoholic beverage start-up in a country like India could be a nightmare. With alcohol pricing and retail under the control of the government in most states, and excise duties as steep as 75 per cent in certain states, profitability could be a distant dream. No wonder the Rs 40,000-odd crore Indian alcoholic beverage industry is dominated by deep-pocketed companies such as Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Bacardi.
After having spent a significant part of his professional life at Beam Suntory (which owns brands such as Teacher's Whisky), entrepreneur Ankur Bhatia, Founder, Jimmy's Cocktails, decided to launch a brand that is non-alcoholic but forms an integral part of an alcoholic beverage - a range of cocktail mixers. "Whisky, gin or vodka consist of just 25 per cent of a glass, the remaining is usually soda, tonic or other ingredients. We realised that there is an opportunity in 75 per cent of the glass. We therefore behave like an alcohol brand, we speak like an alcohol brand, but our product doesn't have alcohol," explains Bhatia.
He says while only 25 per cent of alcohol consumption happens in bars and restaurants. There is a distinct trend of consumers ordering cocktails when they are in a bar or a pub. "Most of the premium spirit lovers order for a Margherita or Bloody Mary when they are at a restaurant or a bar, but it is challenging to bring the ingredients that go into those cocktails at home." Jimmy's Cocktails has four cocktail mixer variants (Whiskey Sour, Sex On The Beach, Mango Chili Mojito and Cosmopolitan) which Bhatia claims blend well with whisky, vodka or gin.
The whole of last year has seen a considerable number of Indian consumers buying premium alcohol brands (that they usually buy from airport duty free shops) from stores closer to their homes. Lockdown and staying at home encouraged people to experiment with cocktail recipes, which claims Bhatia has helped in the growth of his cocktail mixer variants. "In the last one year, we have served one million cocktails in India and have also clocked a revenue of $1 million."
While Jimmy's is available across 2,000-odd stores and hopes to be in 5,000 in the next one year, a large proportion of its sales has come from its own website. "We have served cocktails in 400 towns and cities, which includes towns with population of less than 2 lakh," says Bhatia, who believes that there is a tremendous opportunity in smaller towns and cities. "The access to high end cocktails is only limited to 2,200-odd bars in the metros which have trained mixologists. People living in smaller cities do aspire to drink fancy cocktails, but don't have access to it."
Bhatia is hopeful that his brand would clock a Rs 100 crore revenue in the next 3-4 years.