Gautom Menon, Chief Brand Officer, Wild Tiger Rum
As far as Make in India is concerned, it is a great initiative, very inspiring slogan. But it is only for the 25 sectors it caters to. Unfortunately, liquor is not a direct beneficiary of it. As for the
liquor Industry, we have to make it for ourselves.
Wild Tiger rum has been a work in progress for nearly a decade. Earlier this year we launched it in the producing state of Kerala, God’s own country. But try doing business there and it’s more like devil’s own backyard. I tell you this from my own experience. We were ready to have export orders for Wild Tiger rum from UAE and USA. But the problem arose with regard to
the label on the rum bottle. The state told us that we had to print in the regional language liquor warnings like ‘Do not drink and drive’, ‘Alcohol consumption is injurious to health.’ They insisted that we print these warnings in Malayalam and English. Ours was a fancy label. With all these warnings, minimum of five, half the bottle was a label. After doing so much planning and
conceptualization about the label, it was really heart-wrenching to see the label with all these warnings.
We went back and forth with the excise department of Kerala. Finally after eight months, they said that you cannot do this and you have to print warnings in the regional language on the bottle. But in the USA, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which regulates anything connected with alcohol or tobacco, asked me that you cannot print on the label a regional language that Americans do not understand.
We lost lots of time, money and effort. Finally we went to the court. The High court literally smashed the Government for creating a stumbling block in exports. They asked why would
you deny something going out of the country? We won the case. But our problem was not yet over. When everything was ready for exports, the authorities came back and said that we needed an import permit from the UAE where also we were going to export. We explained there is no trade commissioner in UAE.
Their system is a little different from India and we won’t be able to get the import permit. But the authorities did not budge. We again went back and forth. Then we decided to play a game. We told the authorities that we had spoken to the Sheikh of Sharjah and he said he would give the letter but the request had to come from the Sheikh of Kerala. And then we explained them that as you don’t have a Sheikh here, similarly they don’t have a trade commissioner. So they understood our point and the stumbling block was cleared.
In terms of facilitating exports, the centre, states and producers should come together. I have some suggestions. The central government should appoint a chief of export promotion for exporters in a state to approach if they face any impediments from the local government. In most of the embassies, there is a commercial attaché who tries to foster trade. We were very
heartened by the fact that the Embassy of Finland and Estonia got in touch with us. They read about us in some media and they connected us with some reporters and now we are on the verge of doing business with them.
The district collector should be rewarded for good export performances in their jurisdiction. Customs and ports should be asked to encourage more exports. There should be a nationwide
rating index for ranking the export-friendly state. Since the time we have launched this product I have been on the road most of the year travelling around the world for trade exhibitions. One thing I can tell you is that we have to get off this mindset that India is cheap and economical. We must get over this whole fixation with imported goods. I can tell you that India in the west
is perceived as an exotic country.