Back in the early Nineties, when India opened up its economy, not many expected Indian entrepreneurs to survive in the new environment. Just how wrong they were! Instead of being flattened by global competition, many of the old business families have survived and flourished — and even gone global. Global multinationals, on the other hand, have taken time to adapt to the Indian market. The few that have succeeded have done so on the back of a well-thought localisation strategy.
This time’s cover story is about one such. On the face of it, French liquor company Pernod Ricard always seemed like an unlikely success story. When it started life in India in the mid-Nineties, it met with dismal results. A few years later, it bought out Seagram globally and inherited a couple of premium brands. Along the way, Pernod Ricard made one unusual choice that proved fortuitous: It chose to rely on Seagram’s leadership team in India, led by Param Uberoi.
When Uberoi took over as CEO of Seagram, it was making losses and was considered a fringe player in the spirits industry, dominated by the one and only Vijay Mallya. By 2005, Mallya’s United Spirits (USL) had emerged as the undisputed numero uno of the liquor industry. No one dared pick a fight with him. And yet, thrice in less than a decade, Seagram (and later Pernod Ricard) refused to smoke the peace pipe with him, forcing Mallya to declare war.
Senior Assistant Editor Prince Mathews Thomas traces the contours of this decade-long battle that has changed the course of the Indian liquor industry forever. It has all the colour and the anecdotal detail surrounding the face-off between the two central protagonists — Mallya, the flamboyant, well-connected local giant and the reclusive Uberoi. And it makes for a truly sizzling business story.
So sit back and enjoy the cover story — and a lot more that this edition packs in. And as always, please do drop me a line with your feedback.P.S. We’re now less than a fortnight away from our inaugural Forbes India Leadership Awards. A stellar cast of India’s outstanding entrepreneurs and business leaders will be recognised for their transformational leadership at the special awards night on October 21 at the Trident, Mumbai. A special edition, to be released that same evening, will bring you up, close and personal with each of these 10 entrepreneurs. Remember to book your copy now!
(This story appears in the 07 October, 2011 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)