About 10 years ago when liquor multinationals ventured into the Indian marketplace, industry pundits anticipated a death-knell for Indian premium whisky brands over time. Belying all such predictions, Royal Challenge from the Shaw Wallace stable has become the first premium whisky brand to become a millionaire brand in India by clocking sales of one million cases a year.
The company says the marketshare of Royal Challenge has gradually risen to stand at 65 per cent today in the premium segment, leaving behind the likes of Blender’s Pride from Seagram. Royal Challenge is Shaw Wallace’s sixth brand to enter the hall of fame as a millionaire brand. The liquor major has a millionaire brand in all the brown spirits segments and these include Director's Special Whisky, Haywards Fine Whisky, Old Tavern Whisky, Old Adventurer Rum and John ExShaw Brandy.
What made Royal Challenge click beating international brands in the same price range? AKMA Shamsuddin, President, Shaw Wallace & Company Ltd, says, “We think the reason is the highest value for the lowest price. Many consumers drink it and mistake it for Scotch. Also, originally RC was positioned as a product meant for those already arrived at the middle age, like CEOs and directors on company boards. But over time, we have reduced the age of our target audience. More and more new consumers are getting into RC.”
Launched in 1982, Royal Challenge, within two years of its launch, touched sales of one lakh cases. In 1990, it crossed the five-lakh case mark. For long, it has held high aspirational value for the upwardly mobile. Says Shamsuddin, “We maintain consistent quality and give the consumers what he really perceives as value. RC is miles ahead of the competition. We also make sure that product marketing, in terms of visibility and quality of events we get associated with, is excellent.”
To celebrate the million-case achievement, RC has joined hands with the armed forces to organise golfing events for officers at various centres. As the company says, it is the first initiative of its kind by a brand to hold golfing events on such a large scale.
The domestic premium whisky segment witnessed nearly 10 per cent organic growth in 2003-04. The growth has been fuelled by increasing numbers of core customers in the age bracket of 30-40 years.