Forbes India Rich List 2022

Men like Rosé & women like single malts—that's the new normal: Ipsita Das, Moët Hennessy India

In an exclusive interview with Storyboard18, Ipsita Das, managing director at Moët Hennessy India talks about the change in drinking patterns, what changed in the luxe wines and spirits segment during the pandemic and more

Published: Mar 25, 2022 05:41:20 PM IST

Men like Rosé & women like single malts—that's the new normal: Ipsita Das, Moët Hennessy IndiaIpsita Das, managing director at Moët Hennessy India

Creating playlists for customers, starting a whole new segment of essentials, fashioning customized offerings and strengthening delivery capacities are some of the things brands did to stay relevant and afloat during the pandemic. Did luxe brands follow suit? Well, they did and some like Moët Hennessy India (MHI) also went ahead and added a ‘Rosé-O-Clock’ to the consumer’s lives.
 
 Through the new campaign ‘Rosé-O-Clock’, MHI is trying to build a day-drinking culture in India. The key aspect of the campaign is to introduce ‘12 pm to 5 pm’ as an ideal time to relax and unwind, with a glass of Chandon Rosé.
 
 Das talks about why they introduced Rosé-O-Clock in India, blurring concepts like women prefer wine and whiskey being a "manly drink", the price elasticity in the segment and much more.
 
 Edited excerpts.
 
You are building a culture of day drinking with the new campaign - ‘Rosé-O-Clock’. Why did you think of coming up with a concept like this?
Rosé-O-Clock was actually a campaign that came out of the pandemic. In a pre-pandemic time, would we do this campaign? Maybe not. We have seen a massive change in consumption patterns in the last two years and that’s not just relevant for us but across categories. For brands like us, this shift led us to look at reaching consumers in a very new and different way.
 
We learnt from our market research about the blurred timeline of the ‘work from home’ schedule. People worked till 10 pm and sometimes beyond but they would use a little bit of shoulder time maybe at 4pm or 5pm to just relax a bit before picking up work again. This new normal inspired us to come up with Rosé-O-Clock.
 
Why just Rosé can be a question because the common notion around Rosé is that it’s meant for women. With Chandon and its years of existence in the market, we have seen that men love Rosé as much as women do. The rosy colour really doesn't knock them off.
 
Is this a global campaign? How are you promoting the campaign in India?
It is an India-focused campaign and that’s the beauty of it. While you will see a lot of global content and global campaigns come here for some of our brands we also do a lot of localised campaigns because we see the need to connect with our local audience. We absolutely believe in being Glocal.
 
 We are using a digital-first approach for this one. We've introduced KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) from various walks of life and besides that are also working with a bunch of our partners for on-ground activation. At some of our partner restaurants, we have a Chandon bottle on tables with a clock atop to remind the consumer about the 12pm-5pm Rosé-O-Clock.
 
You mentioned KOLs, what are the profiles of influencers you work with and when it comes to promoting your offerings what is your take on the effectiveness of surrogate advertising in the country?
For Rosé-O-Clock we’ve partnered with KOLs like Chef Chinu Vaze, Elton Fernandez, Erika Packard and Pooja Dhingra. We have also done collaborations with others like Siddharth Kerkar, Kamakshi Khanna, Spardha Malik, Raghav Meatlle on various occasions. Influencers are a large part of our digital campaigns and we have a curated list of digital advocates. It is extremely important for us to find relatable influencers who are the real brand champions for us. It’s never about the number of likes. We want our ambassadors to be out there championing the brand beyond just the page, or an image or a Reel they put up.
 
As for surrogate advertising at MHI, we do not take up surrogate advertising just for the sake of it. Brands often advertise unrelated products but it's something that we have stayed away from.
 
This pushes us to think about more and more ways to reach out to consumers. Obviously, we understand that there are hurdles beyond which you cannot move but still my personal thoughts on surrogate advertising is that it should be a brand extension and only then does it makes sense. You cannot be selling merchandise and call it a brand extension.
 
ASCI has made it easier for brands with their rules on surrogate advertising. But regulations apart at any point of time when we see that there is a potential of having a real product, which is linked to what we are doing I think there is an avenue to explore.
 
How have the women consumers in the segment grown and evolved? Which markets have more women drinkers and how have the overall tastes and preferences evolved?
The general market and we have some major differences. Since we are in the luxe space the gap between men and women drinkers is relatively smaller primarily because we are interacting with a much more evolved set of consumers who are mostly in the urban sector. Now if you look at the metros and tier one cities we have definitely seen women move out of just wine and vodka.

The trend of breaking stereotypes is common in the men’s category as well. For instance, cocktails used to be something that women had but with the kind of experimentation that's out there and the kind of mixology that’s happening, men have also started loving their cocktails. Last but not least in the whiskey segment we have seen a huge number of women.
 
So there is no gender-specific drink in our category at the moment. Men like Rosé and women like their single malts and that’s the new normal.
 
There is a growing demographic of experimental whisky consumers in India. What led to the launch of X by Glenmorangie which is specially made for mixing?
While this is a global product it is also a very glocal kind of innovation and India is one of the first few countries we launched it in. Like in many other countries, Indian whiskey drinkers are also moving beyond having their drink on the rocks or with water. People are experimenting and adding soda or some sort of aerated drink to their whiskey and that made us think that we potentially need a drink that is actually made for mixing. That’s the story behind X by Glenmorangie. It’s in its early days. We've seen good traction in the markets we've launched, we're still not there in the entire country, but in the markets where we are present, we are seeing the bottles fly off the shelves.
 
You have a host of other launches lined up for the year- tell us about the other campaigns in the pipeline for Moet Hennessy India. By how much have your marketing and ad spends gone up in the last two years?
Most of the campaigns that are there in the pipeline are related to the products that would be launched and we have multiple new launches planned for this year.
 
While the X by Glenmorangie and the Rosé-O-Clock campaigns are still on, we have a luxury champagne coming in this year called Armand de Brignac so we will announce new campaigns when it hits the market.
 
Coming to marketing spends, last year our spends went down compared to the pre-pandemic times primarily for two reasons. The first reason is that our avenues to spend in places we used to spend were restricted during the pandemic. For a luxury brand like us, it is extremely important to reach out to the consumers directly and for that to happen we needed to engage with them at places where we couldn’t during the pandemic. With the market being closed and limited food falls and restrictions in place, we were not using our entire marketing budget. Instead, we moved our focus on home consumption because that is where we saw the trend going and that is also where we moved a part of our budget. This year the story might be a little different. Without getting into numbers I would say we plan to meet our consumers again and create those experiences for them.

Talking of the last two years, brands in the luxe space redesigned their marketing strategies to accommodate the lockdown, the change in buying trends and the overall new normal—what are the changes that you introduced to your strategic initiatives to grow and strengthen the business of Moët Hennessy brands in India?
We have seen three major trends during the pandemic. The first one is premiumization which is here to stay. The fact that we were not much into entertaining and not spending on anything else led to exposing ourselves to premium products and now that we’ve tasted great quality products it is unlikely we would change your preferences.
 
The second trend was about where our consumers were. Talking strictly about the luxury market we always saw the consumers in the top three or four metros and a few other cities. But now with much higher disposable income, the luxury consumer is not restricted to these few cities. They are in the next layer of the market as well and on the lookout for luxury brands. We see an entirely new segment of consumers for us in these newer markets and we plan to cater to them and make sure we are available wherever the demand is.
 
We are also seeing a lot of pride being taken in Made in India products. The idea of a drink not being up to the mark if not imported is changing. Chandon for instance is a made-in-India product and has been able to champion the cause of premium luxury being made in the country. Our plan is to focus and invest in each of these trends.
 
Globally, luxury analysts are applauding Louis Vuitton for increasing prices. Do the Indian luxe buyers share the same feeling?
Restricting my comments on this to the luxury of wines and spirits I would say in the products and categories and even in the price segment we play in there is price elasticity. If we change the price of Rs4000 product to Rs4400 or Rs18000 product to Rs19900 the consumers don’t really look for alternatives because they buy the product for its quality and they are not really fishing for a discount or a price benefit.

When you want to Signet you want it and you will not settle even for a Quinta Ruban so on the consumer side I don’t see a lot of hurdles when it comes to increasing prices.
 
The company’s revenue saw a huge growth in FY21. Do you see the trend continuing? If yes, what are the key reasons behind the boost in sales?
I might sound like a broken record here but premiumization has obviously led to a growth in per unit revenue. I think overall if you talk about it globally, LVMH results are proof that innovation is leading to growth. A lot of new products coming in which are answering to the needs of the hour or the consumer sentiments are giving a boost to the overall growth. Continuing that story, which is global as well as Indian, is the higher disposable income that is available to our consumers right now, which they want to spend on themselves. So the disposable income per person went up and how you're spending your money also changed giving rise to the increased revenue per unit not just globally but in India as well.
 
Tell us about your overall plans for the Indian market in 2022? What do you think will be the biggest trends in the segment this year?
Plans in India are very consistent. We will continue to play in the wines portfolio as well as the spirits portfolio. We know India is a whisky drinking nation, almost 80% of India drinks whisky so the plan obviously is to be able to cater to that consumer
 
X by Glenmorangie, for instance, was just one of the many products that came into action to cater to the new trends in the segment. Similarly, we should be able to revive the Chandon brand and it will be a part of the 2022 story on how we take the new Chandon to its new entity and take it to newer markets beyond where we are present today.

Besides these, there is a huge focus on innovation and we will continue to ride on the premiumization story where we can give people products that they have not had access to in the past. I think the other strategy is to include distribution as a part of the growth story. That apart we will continue to evolve our ways of reaching our consumers and giving them the product and the brand of their choice in the way they want.

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