I’m sitting with Navin at the Starbucks located right behind the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai.
One thing you’d like to change about the Indian market:
From a consumer perspective, at least the import duty structure, so that a lot more varieties and brands can be imported. Obviously that will come at at cost to the local industry, so we need to weigh benefits and disadvantages. The benefits are of course, that the consumer will have more choice. If the consumer has more choice, there’s also more competition for the local producers, and we can expect more variety of beers which are flavourful and have character. The duties especially in Maharashtra are very very high. I wish that would change. From a micro brewer or small brewer perspective, I wish the policy was such that it would encourage people like us to set up small units. We are an SSI (small scale industry), but our cost structures are high and disparate compared to those for a large brewery. Also, we can only sell in kegs and not in bottles. Whether we make money or whether we survive after 2 to 3 years, is all up in the air. If the government is preaching Make in India then they should help us make good beer also.
Who do you think sets drinking trends in India?
Most of the large commercial breweries set the trends. Say UB (United Breweries) with an Oktoberfest, will pull crowds and get mind share. Specialised whisky, wine or beer players operate in a very small segment, they are not in any position to set trends.
What according to you is the most overrated drinking fad / drink in India at the moment?
I don’t think there is anything which is over rated. It’s how you perceive things at a particular point in time. You might even think that wine, craft beer, single malt are all fads at different points of time.
I do think that what should not happen is that people guzzle on cheap booze, and get drunk and fall down. Instead of that, the message should focus on responsible drinking. “Drink something which tastes better. ” Because of internet there is increased exposure towards craft beer, good wine, good whisky and a lot more people are getting exposed.
What’s the next big thing for India?
Make in India – Indians can make great beverages – why should we think that something which is overseas is the best. Look at the Japanese and the whisky they are making. Look at IPA, a beer made for India, which India has forgotten.
Which is your favourite beverage brand ad campaign?
There are some beer ads I like, although I don’t remember which brands. I also like what Sam Adams does online in terms of its content.
Which is your favourite Bar in India and why?
Woodside Inn in Colaba is a great bar for a beer drinker and the Harbour Bar at the Taj Mahal hotel is a great bar for the occasional visit.
One fictional character that you’d like to share a drink with?
Iron Man! – I’m a superhero fan. I’d love to sit down with him and drink some concoction which possibly gets some Adamantium into my body. I’d love to sit down with the Avengers and have a drink with them
If you were stranded alone on a deserted island, what’s the one drink that you’d long for?
Any lager which is not watered down, or an ale, which is light but flavourful. For the evening a cocktail like the White Russian, but made with coconut milk not cream.