Blog: Olly WehringDiageo in India - Still many rivers to cross?

Olly Wehring | 12 November 2008

A fascinating meet-up last night in London, when Diageo invited us along to its inaugural press dinner. Present at the bunfight were, among others, CEO Paul Walsh and CFO Nick Rose. I took the opportunity to quiz some of Diageo's top bods about the company's intentions in India, following recent speculation linking Diageo to talks with The UB Group.

The Indian behemoth's chairman, Dr Vijay Mallya, told me earlier this month that the two companies “keep talking about matters of mutual interest”.

“They've got a very strong portfolio of brands, I have a very strong route-to-market and so we talk about possibilities of cooperation,” he said. “But there's nothing concrete.”

What one Diageo exec suggested to me, however, is that, much as UB does have a distribution footprint to crow about in the country, that footprint may not be the kind that would suit Diageo's brands in India. A fair point, with the exception of the Whyte & Mackay brands, UB's portfolio is heavily- - if not solely - geared towards Indian brands. Would an outlet that sells UB's Kingfisher beer brand be the right point-of-sale for Smirnoff?

Whatever, it would appear that Diageo is sitting tight until the long-running saga over excise barriers for foreign spirits brands is resolved. I fear that this matter will need putting to bed before Diageo's attention switches to how it ups its presence in the Indian market.


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