In a business that is even globally dominated by men, Abanti Sankaranarayanan, Chief Strategy and Corporate Affairs Officer, Diageo India, is among the few women to make it to the top. "Since we are market leaders, the onus is on us to not just shape the industry but also consumption habits. Big shifts don't happen overnight," she says.
Sankaranarayanan has been advocating for a stable policy environment for the alcohol business in the corridors of power. A stable policy environment helped Diageo register 10 per cent growth in sales and 143 per cent growth in profits in the first quarter of 2019/20, despite an overall slowdown in the economy.
Sankarnarayanan says most of the growth has come from its premium portfolio, especially scotch (20 per cent year-on-year). "Our strategy has been to ride on premiumisation. At the same time, we are thoughtful about cost and are forever looking out for ways to ensure profitable growth."
When Sankaranarayanan joined Diageo in 2010, many women had reservations about working in an alcohol company. "The professional in me evaluated the opportunities of being part of this business. I didn't have reservations about it being male-dominated." She has been trying to bring in more diversity. "Four years ago, women accounted for just 7 per cent in the management; today it is 14 per cent. Around 25 per cent of our senior management is women."
Being part of the largest liquor company in India, she finds herself in a unique position to steer change.