Facebook has innumerable number of pages and groups devoted to it, one of them being COMRADE, an abbreviation for the Council of Old Monk Rum Addicted Drinkers and Eccentrics. While some of the pages describe it as the ‘Scotch’ of Rums, others are more effusive in their praise: for them, Old Monk is the “beautiful brown liquid in a unique square bottle that sets it apart from any other booze in the world”.
To be sure, none of these have been created by Mohan Meakin, the producers of Old Monk. The Ghaziabad-based company in fact hasn’t spent a single rupee on advertising ever since it was launched in 1954. The largest selling dark rum brand in the world with 8.4 million cases, followed by UB’s Celebrations at 6.5 million cases, has also not altered its branding, bottling or packaging even once.
But that is set to change soon, with Old Monk getting ready for a makeover. The bottles will soon don a new avatar by flaunting fancy sticker labels meant to enhance their look. The purpose: a shift in positioning from a product targeted just at middle-income group customers to a more premium one. The initial sampling of the new variant has already hit wholesale points and distributors across the country.
The premium variety would be available at a price point of Rs 600 per quarts (full bottle). Mohan Meakin says the product will be available all across India within seven months. The Rs 600 price tag is steep, considering that its other variants cost much less — Old Monk Regular (Rs 225 per quarts), Old Monk Gold Reserve Rum (Rs 300 per quarts) and Old Monk Supreme (Rs 420 per quarts), which are made of seven year-, 12 year- and 18 year-old spirit respectively. The premium variant will be made of Signature whisky.
S N Maingi, deputy general manager - marketing and sales, Mohan Meakin, says the company aims to corner about 70 per cent market share in this price zone within a year of its launch. “Our strategy is to launch Old Monk variants in maximum price segments to tap consumers of all income groups. The premium brand is a part of this initiative. We will soon launch another variant at a much lower price point. But we want to position our brand as a premium dark rum brand and not just a mass brand,” Maingi says.
Old Monk is growing at 15 per cent every year. With the launch of the premium variant, the company targets to ramp it up to 22 per cent in this fiscal. The rum presently contributes 25 per cent to the company’s total turnover. “Its contribution to total turnover will shoot up to 35-40 per cent by 2013”, according to B.N Varma, regional marketing manager, Mohan Meakin. The target is to sell 9.9 million Old Monk cases this year.
Varma says that the marketing strategy is to have a major control on most of the wholesale points across country. “We have a dedicated sales team in each state to keep a tab on the supply chain. Our strong foothold across wholesale points and distributors gives us the edge. Many brands have tried to play catch-up through schemes, promotional offers and advertisements, but none has been able to replicate our success.”
The company is also ramping up its sales team. Varma says that Old Monk is reaching out to more than 100,000 liquor shops across the country. “With about 150-200 sales staff, we have our people reaching out to even subdivisions of a district. Our effort is to make this product available at every counter in the country — be it restaurants, pubs, five star hotels or even ordinary shops”, he adds.