Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Indians are shifting towards appreciating quality over quantity: Shweta Jain of Diageo India

Whether enjoying a quiet evening or celebrating with friends, there's a desire for better drinks and a more nuanced overall experience in India, said Diageo's chief business development officer

Published: Oct 16, 2023 03:46:28 PM IST
Updated: Oct 16, 2023 05:53:42 PM IST

Shweta Jain, chief business development officer, Diageo India

Shweta Jain, chief business development officer, Diageo India

Diageo India is focused on being a part of India’s premiumisation market. From introducing experiential to bringing in the visions of Walkers & Co to India, Diageo is creating a journey for their Indian customers to try new things and experience new tastes.

In a chat with Storyboard18, Shweta Jain, chief business development officer, Diageo India talks about the Walking Anthem, plans for Walkers & Co, the India story of premiumisation and the trends to look out for.

Q. Tell us about the Walking Anthem. How did it work for the brand? How does the anthem complement Walkers & Co’s mission?

This anthem serves as a rallying cry for India, urging it to continue its remarkable journey as a cultural capital of the world. The Walkers & Co platform is a community inspired by Johnnie Walker's call to ‘keep walking’. For generations, ‘keep walking’ has symbolised progress, advocating for positive change and celebrating bold individuals who push boundaries not only for themselves but for the communities they come from and inspire.

The anthem, brilliantly penned by EGOT winner John Legend in collaboration with our very own Indian-origin rap queen Raja Kumari, captures the essence of this spirit. As Johnnie Walker continues to inspire people to keep walking, the question arose: What words and anthem can bring this ethos to life? This led to the creation of the ‘keep walking anthem’.

Our efforts didn't stop at creating the anthem. It has resonated with millions of listeners and inspired creators worldwide. To further celebrate this, we brought them in person to share their creations. The collaboration resulted in the Walkers & Co Concert Edition One in India earlier this year, held at the iconic NMACC—an emerging hub of cultural collaboration.

This concert also reached NCR, where John Legend and Raja Kumari joined forces to captivate audiences with the Walkers & Co Experiential, a concert experience unlike any India has seen before. It was a celebration of Johnnie Walker's legacy and the enduring spirit of ‘keep walking’.

Q. What’s next for Walkers & Co?

Johnny Walker and Walkers & Co, as I mentioned, embody collaboration with the creator community, affectionately known as our ‘walkers’. Earlier this year, we hosted a phenomenal celebration of all things music and entertainment arts—a memorable event captured in a stunning video. In this video lies a hint about our upcoming endeavours, showcased by Hanif Kureishi, the protagonist of street art, crafting a fantastic mural infused with the essence of Indian street art and the empowering words of ‘keep walking’ from our anthem.

Our commitment doesn't end there. We're determined to collaborate further with creators, honouring bold boundary pushers in the field of art. Soon, we'll unveil a never-before-seen interpretation of what progress and the essence of ‘keep walking’ mean to these remarkable creators. They are making a significant impact within their communities, playing pivotal roles in fostering enablement for young creators.

Also read: Diageo India CEO Hina Nagarajan: We are cash positive and have the money to invest where the opportunities are

Q. We're excited to carry that momentum forward in our upcoming initiatives.

The premiumisation trend in India is at an all-time high, what are your observations for the Indian market?

It's indeed a remarkable period, as I mentioned earlier, particularly for Indians, marked by diverse cultural celebrations and various global festivities that we uniquely embrace. In these moments, Indian consumers are showcasing a pronounced preference for premium experiences within our product realm. Our categories play an integral role in a myriad of celebrations, from traditional Indian weddings to personal milestones like turning 30 or 40, securing funding, or crafting a beautiful piece of music that gains recognition.

What stands out is the shift towards appreciating quality over quantity. Indians are valuing refined experiences, whether it's dining out or exploring the finest offerings of a particular cuisine or occasion. Every moment becomes an opportunity to savour and create stories. Whether entertaining a close group of friends or hosting at home, two notable trends in premiumisation emerge.

Firstly, there's a heightened focus on elevating the entertainment experience. Whether enjoying a quiet evening or celebrating with friends, there's a desire for better drinks and a more nuanced overall experience. Secondly, home entertainment takes on a premium dimension. Individuals seek exquisite glassware, beautiful tableware, and unique dining setups that not only enhance the dining experience but also foster conversations and stories. These trends underscore a significant evolution within our category.

Q. In the recent past, Diageo has also talked about being more involved in India's organised desserts market, keeping in mind your brand Baileys. Tell us about your plans around that.

Baileys is a delightful indulgence for adults—a treat you'd love to savour at the end of a good day. Its versatility adds a special touch to various dessert occasions, making it a perfect companion to elevate your culinary experiences.

Examining the evolving landscape of the Indian consumer, there's a noticeable rise in the appreciation of nuanced adult treats and the occasions that surround them. Bailey's, with its array of flavours like salted caramel, strawberries and cream, and the classic original, is a fantastic enhancement to traditional Indian sweets, a simple piece of cake, or even a cup of coffee.

Our vision is to encourage a large segment of our consumer base to enhance their dessert experiences by topping them with the delightful taste profile of Baileys. To achieve this, we are collaborating with influential figures in the desert space—participating chefs, renowned influencers, and talented Indian sweet home chefs who are reimagining traditional Indian sweets. Their experimentation is inspiring, and we are excited to see how Baileys can become an integral part of many delightful sweet treats and desserts in collaboration with these creative minds.

Also read: Indian single malts could overtake global single malts: Deepika Warrier of Diageo India

Q. We are entering into the festive period, tell us about the top trends to look out for in the space. What are your plans for the season?

Let's highlight some key points. When it comes to scotches, they are among the most cherished gifts from Diwali to Christmas and other celebratory occasions. We present exquisite packs across our Scotch brands, with the special mentions being Black Dog, Johnnie Walker Singleton and Godavan.

Gifting extends beyond scotches; Tanqueray, for instance, introduces a beautiful gifting pack. Baileys, in its original form, is a gift in itself and adds a festive touch when paired with treats like rasmalai or gulab jamun.

We also offer unique experiences. We’ve done collaborations with designers like Abhinav Mishra in the past and there are other new collaborations happening this year. Blue Label will be introducing a limited edition collectible, envisioning the cities of the future with a Mumbai and London edition. Singleton is partnering with Nicobar, presenting the Singleton Social collection, perfect for elevating your celebratory tables.

Additionally, Don Julio has made its debut in India, becoming a favourite at major celebrations in cities like Bombay, Pune, Chandigarh, and NCR.

We are seeing two significant trends standing out. First, the rise of home celebrations and the recreation of bar experiences at home. Our festival packs and collaborations aim to elevate home entertainment. Singleton takes the lead, closely followed by Johnnie Walker and Tanqueray.

The second trend is the dining experiences and bars emerging in India. Consumers are exploring diverse drinks based on the time of the day. The trend of expanding palates and repertoires among Indian consumers is a fascinating development that we believe is here to stay.