NEW DELHI, September 28
When the going gets tough, get creative.
As a puritan government clamps down upon liquor advertising, axing ads on cable TV, Mount Shivalik is desperately seeking ways to convince the drinker to have a tipple.
Have a beer, have fun. With this message, Mount Shivalik, the brewers of the American beer Stroh's in India is now going on to the Net, with two websites, www.mountshivalik.com and www.go4strohs.com. In an effort to capture eyeballs, bottles of Stroh's will carry the web addresses.
The web sites, claim company officials, are intended to harp on the benefits of drinking beer in moderation. Says Monish Bali, director, marketing, Mount Shivalik, "Our aim is to promote responsible drinking. Nobody can deny that beer is healthier than hard liquor." For all its claims on the benefits of beer drinking, the company produces the aptly named Dynamite Whisky, in Bihar. "Only in small segments," Bali is quick to add.
This is the latest in a series of direct marketing and advertising tactics that the company has adopted to get over government efforts to inhibit liquor advertising.
The company has already sponsored Polo matches. Currently, Mount Shivalik is co-sponsoring the World Cup Polo Challenge 2000, with the South African team playing under the colours of Mount Shivalik.
Other tactics that the company has adopted are link ups with at least 70 per cent of the five-star hotels in Delhi, tie ups with exclusive clubs, and point of sale/purchase marketing strategies such as display of banner advertising, giving away of cups with the Stroh logo etc.
The company is also linking up Stroh's with the idea of America, along the lines of "Foster — Austrahlian for Beer" campaign. The idea is to sell the idea of Stroh's as an all-American brand. Most of the advertising is also imported from America. Ironically, the Stroh Brewery Company actually originated in Kirn in Germany, and then shifted to America. The Pabst Brewing Company, USA, acquired the Stroh Brewery in April 1999. The combined production of Stroh and Pabst is in excess of 14 million barrels per year, with an annual turnover of more than $1 billion, making it the fourth largest brewery in the United States.
Stroh's was the first international beer to come to the Indian market in 1994, with a tie up with Mount Shivalik. The first mover advantage, however, has faded away, and competition in the premium beer segment is brutal.
The market leader is Kingfisher from the United Breweries (UB) stable with around 50 per cent of the market, according to industry estimates. Stroh's has 25 per cent of the market share, with the rest being divided between the German Haake Beck, the Australian Foster's and San Miguel. For its super strong Thunderbolt, which has maximum sales in Punjab, Mount Shivalik has a 15 per cent market share.
Kingfisher has been able to capture the lion's share of the market, while Foster's is confined mainly to the west of the country. Indian brands compete on price, but Stroh's, which is five rupees more expensive than any other brand, cannot do so. One major reason is the insistence of the American Stroh Company that a bottle be used only once. Company sources say that this leads to an expense of Rs 4 per bottle.
Pricing has a major effect on the beer market. For example, in Uttar Pradesh, when changes in excise policy brought down the price to 60 per cent of what it was, sales doubled.
The company first tried to sell Stroh's in cans, but the idea did not quite catch on, and so Mount Shivalik has switched to the bottle.
With cutthroat competition and a government liquor policy as whimsical as the monsoon, Mount Shivalik will have to be very creative to sell beer.
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