RSS Feeds

Advanced search

You are in:


Indian market guru leads new advisory team

India is one of the fastest growing, most progressive, but also most regulated, markets in the world. Felicity Murray talks to industry veteran Vijay Rekhi about his time at USL and his new venture

Vijay Rekhi Vizanar

Vijay Rekhi has spent the past four decades in the alcoholic beverages industry in senior roles at UB Group in India. As president and managing director of UB Group’s United Spirits (USL) for 15 years, he led India’s largest beverage alcohol industry to global volume leadership and shifted the paradigm to revenue-led organic growth for the UB Group through the premiumisation of its brands portfolio.

As MD of USL, he and his team had ensured global leadership by volume in the domain of spirits, surpassing even Diageo, which became the major shareholder two years ago.

During his stewardship, not only did USL acquire global leadership, he says, but also performed exceptionally for shareholders whose stake value kept on increasing. "We incentivised and rewarded employees through various means and attracted consumers to increasingly franchise USL’s product portfolio through consistent high quality, innovations and top of the mind recall promotions." Rekhi believes his FMCG background and outlook was singularly helpful in this regard.

Due to shareholding and management changes at USL, Rekhi has stepped out of the UB fold in 2014 to become an advisor. He has set up an advisory company to provide turnkey solutions to alcobev and FMCG companies. Under the banner Vizanar Alcobev & FMCG Advisors Limited, he has taken on board a team of experts comprising specialists from different domains, most of whom have worked with Rekhi in the past.

Rekhi is also retained by KPMG as a senior advisor and has a clutch of advisory roles within the beverage alcohol domain.

“Vizanar is my entrepreneurial venture,” he says. “It is an independent advisory set up to offer FMCG/beverage alcohol companies a single window to facilitate entry into these two verticals,” he explains. “We offer an array of services including business intelligence, brand value maximisation, business expansion and brand acquisitions.

“The team works alongside clients in the capacity of advisory engagement as operational involvement. Vizanar evaluates high-value opportunities, assessing key challenges to provide tailored solutions that deliver sustained growth.

"Our multi-functional initiatives are aimed at strategic, financial, operational and strategic financial transformations, enabling our clients to to achieve increase revenues, improve margins build brands.

Vizanar consults on a broad range of services in a variety of disciplines but he says: "Ultimately all our efforts are directed towards brand development - the creation, establishment and management of winning brands across segments and price points. We have expertise in creating strong appeal for products including positioning, identity, bottle design, carton packaging and 360 degree communications.”

I asked Rekhi, an acknowledged expert on the Indian alcoholic beverages market, for his perspective on the latest trends in this market, how it has changed in recent years and the direction it is taking.

“Market consolidation with recent instances of acquisitions is an apparent change,” he replies. “However, contrary to popular perception, Indian companies will continue to give a tough chase to the international players in specific segments and flavours. For international players, local brands in the portfolio in addition to BIOs and BIIs will be a key success metric.

“Another new trend," he adds, "is the emergence of agile regional local brand players across alcobev categories and price points and this trend is here to stay. The industry is growing rapidly in the semi premium segment attracting several new brands in specific regions within India. Over time, it is possible that highly valued regional brands will emerge be acquired by large Indian and international companies to gain vertical traction with consumers.

“At a product category level, brown spirits especially whisky continue to be the most preferred choice across price points. White spirits have not met industry growth estimates and remain dormant in specific markets in India.”

His key advice to beverage brand owners wanting to target the Indian market, and Indian producers wanting to expand into other markets is “to be innovative and offer a range of beverages for production and marketing the world over”.

“My advice to both Indian and international alcohol brand owners," he says, "would also be to collaborate with local stake holders to reduce the learning curve and accelerate the process of entry into the Indian market.”

He adds that they should also take a long-term view – this market has the youngest population in the world and it is the fastest growing.

Vijay Rekhi can be contacted at –  

10 August 2015