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Wine Retailing in India

Posted: Monday, 02 April 2012 11:19

Global Perspective: Wine Retailing in India

Apr 02 : Retail in wine is relatively a new phenomenon in India- in a state of infancy like wine as a beverage. There have been no wine-specialty stores or national retail players due to the stringent laws. Ironically, thousands of licensed retails shops have existed for decades throughout India-known as ‘Wine Shops’ but in reality they have been liquor vends from where spirits and later beer were sold. The confusion still exists as wine retail has been gradually added to these mom and pop stores licensed by the individual State governments on an annual basis. Subhash Arora attempts to make a sense of the confusion prevailing.

Almost 40% of all wine sold in India is low-end or fortified Indian wine which is still sold through such shops under the licensing constraints and individual shop-ownership basis. Over a half of the balance and premium wines are sold through hotels. Around 70% of the entry level imported wines are sold through retail while in case of premium labels the ratio is reversed.

Due to licensing constraints, wine retail continued to be a fragmented industry till about five years ago. Licenses were issued by the State government against auctions or tenders, based on the assessed need. Government agencies are at times given preference or even monopolize in some states. In Delhi, for instance retail was allowed only through state government agencies- DSIDC, DTDC, DCCWS and DCS are 4 such agencies which have now over a third of the 434 shops in Delhi under the Delhi government. These were not specialists in marketing liquor or wine but were given an opportunity for added source of income. DSIDC with a cluster of around 20 shops selling wines, is a retail leader in Delhi.

The private trade was opened up less than a decade ago, initially allowing only Indian wines and later foreign wines as well through the retail channel. Though the license may be on a long term lease and need to be renewed every year, the qualifying individual is allowed only one license. A few circumvent the law by using the names of family members but the control is generally through loose partnership and informal syndicates which keep on changing the shareholding pattern every year. Thus, no stand-alone ‘wine shop’ qualifies to be a big retail outlet.

Situation has been similar in other cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Pune where these retail shops were allowed to sell wine as well. Initially, they worked as retail counters, open to dust and heat and without any air-conditioning, where one would stand in front of the counter and pick up whatever was doled out by the salesman. But this has gradually changed over the last few years when the sale of imported wines and liquor was allowed and the gradual awakening through education stressed the  need to stored properly and that proper display was an important marketing tool. The scenario has also changed with the liberalization by most state governments.

Two years ago, the Delhi government allowed retail of wine through supermarkets and stores in the shopping malls. Though initially the reaction was slow because of high rents, 20 such shops now sell wine and liquor in Delhi alone, with DSIDC taking the lead. The same phenomenon has taken place in cities like Mumbai, Bangaluru (Bangalore) and Chandigarh and States like, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana and West Bengal. UP has a 51/49 partnership with a private sector entrepreneur and controls all liquor stores. (With the change of government last month, this policy will be under Review)

In Mumbai where no such controls exist, there are chains of stores selling wines-notable being Nature’s Basket owned by the family owned business of Godrej. With floor space ranging from 180 sq feet to 2000 sq feet at prime locations within supermarkets, Living Liquidz is currently Mumbai' s only branded liquor retail chain to have tie-ups with Hypercity , Gourmet City , Reliance Fresh , Adity Birla Retai group, Spinach, Tata Star Bazaar and more. All in all, Living Liquidz has 11 eponymous shops and 23 stand-alone shops in Maharashtra..

Retailing Wine through organised Retail

Due to current restrictions in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in Retail-the foreign ownership in multi brand stores like Wal-Mart, Tesco and Carrefour must be less than 51%, so Wal-mart, Metro and Carrefour are operating in the wholesale segment only. While, the imminent change in policy (it has been announced but not yet enforced due to political considerations) will change the Retail scenario significantly, currently the Indian chains having minority foreign interest have been doing well and are already taking wine initiatives. They are opening supermarkets and hypermarkets and adding wine and spirits to their portfolio in compliance with the local sales laws.

Top of the heap- Pan India is Spencer’s Retail. It has 14 supermarkets and hypermarkets selling wine and spirits meandering through complex State laws. Starting with one store in a Mumbai suburb in 2006, the company sells wines in all stores. ‘Nine of these stores in Hyderabad, Kolkata and Bangalore serve full spectrum of wine,’ says Mohit Kampani, Chief Merchandising and Operations. While their Kolkata store is very modern and the signature store, they sell over 1000 cases a month all told- the split being even in terms of value though the Indian wines whereas Indian wines are 70% of the volume sold, he says. The chain is committed to stay the top wine destination and a basic differntiater where wine drives the customers to the store. Three of the stores have even trainee sommeliers to guide the customers and train the rest of the group.

Another fast growing supermarket and hypermarket chain Spar is also committed to retail of wines. Under license from the Netherland-based international food stores chain has tied up with Dubai based Landmark group and already opened 10 retail stores in Bangalore (3), Hyderabad (2), Mangalore (1), Pune (1), Coimbatore (1), Delhi (1) and Gurgaon (1). It sells wine in 6 of its stores and is a leading chain in Bangalore for wines with Gurgaon soon to follow lead.

In Delhi, new supermarkets must operate for one year before applying for license to retail wines. Spar completes a year on January 26 when it will apply for the license for wine and beer. The company is opening 4 more stores in next 3 months and plans to touch 25 stores by the end of 2013, targeting wine retail in all such stores where legislation allows.

Nature’s Basket, another gourmet retailer chain, owned by well known company Godrej is the third in the hierarchy. Started in 2005, it was the first supermarket chain to start selling wine and stored in acceptable ambience at that. It has 19 stores across the country- Mumbai (9), New Delhi (4), Gurgaon (2), Pune (2), Hyderabad (1) and Bengaluru (1) and plans to reach 32 within the next two years.  Emphasizing on selling premium wines only, it is the retailer to watch.

There are other recently opened supermarket chains which do not give enough importance to selling wines directly and have at least partially outsourced the activity. Hypercity , Gourmet City , Reliance Fresh , Aditya Birla Retail group, Spinach and Tata Star Bazaar are a few  such chains. They have been working with Living Liquidz in Mumbai which has over 40 such stores and is expanding fast because of relaxation in rules and special permission at lower cost for wines. Jeuben Wines is an progressive wine and spirit retailer with 4 outlets.

Similarly, Bangalore where it is easy and inexpensive to get an excise license to sell wines and beer in a wine boutique, a few groups of vendors has come up recently- more notable ones are Drops Total Spirits, Classic Group’s Modern Trade Outlet chain under the brand of ‘Not Just Wine & Cheese’ and Madhuloka each with around 8-10 outlets- a pointer towards multi-branch specialty retail stores in future where the State laws allow.

The last retail bastion could be the Indian army canteens- known as Canteen Stores Department-spread over throughout India, retailing a host of products including wine to the Defence Service personnel. Unfortunately, storage is still an issue with these ‘canteens’ and the sales of around 15,000 cases do not justify their being included in the Top Five retailers.

Subhash Arora

The article was written based on an intensive survey of Retail Marketing in India by the Indian Wine Academy and was first published in the February issue of Germany-based Meininger’s Wine Business International magazine of which Subhash Arora has been the India  Correspondent since its inception. The information is  up-to-date till January 2012 and there has been no significant changes in the policy or the players- Editor

Click Here to view Media Report



Subhash Arora Says:

You have to talk about it to the excise department in Lucknow. Only they have the authority and can give the license. Arora

Posted @ March 03, 2018 10:00


Ajay giri Says:

I wanna know how to apply for license of a wine shop..i want to open a beer bar in Lucknow please kindly help me. Mo 8563964243

Posted @ March 02, 2018 15:20


Subhash Arora Says:

Online Sales are not allowed. Arora

Posted @ October 16, 2015 13:20


Sairam Prasad Says:

Can we sell wines through online? What is the license needed?

Posted @ October 16, 2015 12:00


Jagannathan Says:

Dear sir, thanks for your most informative article. For importing wine from Europe, isit necessary to get permission from FSSAI apart fromIEC. What other certification is necessary for import ans retailing it in domestic market?

Posted @ October 09, 2015 11:50


Subhash Arora Says:

Sorry, not possible in India for wines and alcohols. I doubt if it will be possible for decades or ever. Subhash Arora

Posted @ July 01, 2015 16:47


Raman Kumar Mishra Says:

I want know that is it possible to start wine selling online like flipkart and other online company and whats the possible way to start the business.

Posted @ July 01, 2015 16:00


Vikram Raj Says:

Hi, I want to start a wine shop in Delhi. Plz tell me how to apply for the licence and other formalities like whom to contact and all. Thanks & Regards Vikram Raj +91-9990924474

Posted @ August 30, 2014 10:55


Madhur Says:

Hi subhash, the article is a real eye opener to the wine retailing across India. Like Meenu, even I am keen to know more about the regulations and licensing required to start up a wine/ other liquor distribution business. I would be very thankful if you could share any other research which you would have done or you could share where can I get such details.

Posted @ May 23, 2012 12:11


Subhash Arora Says:

Sorry, it is not allowed legally-though some people have found quasi-legal ways to circumvent the law. Arora

Posted @ April 29, 2012 10:55


Sabyasachi Mishra Says:

hi,Thanks for nice article.I want to open online wine shop.E.g-any one can order wine through internet.Is it possible or not.pls help.

Posted @ April 29, 2012 10:45


Subhash Arora Says:

Meenu, Many people have taken this article with my permission and posted on their official websites in several countries. I have also done an extensive research on the Wine Structure in India and that could asnswer a lot of your qustions.I have written the article for Meininger's Wine Business International. I can write or disclose any information only after it is published in their next issue, otherwise it will be unethical. I will let you know as soon as it is published. Subhash

Posted @ April 17, 2012 10:40


Meenu Kohli Says:

Hi Subhash, Was in Bordeaux last week for en-primeur tastings and it was funny that one of the senior person in a transport company sent us an article on ‘Wine retail in India’ written by you. It was very nicely article and gave a good perspective. Wine retailing will further become a challenge it seems with additional fee on the registration in Gurgaon. If you have some material on licenses and fee structure in various states, it’ll be very kind if you can share it with me as it’ll be helpful to understand the details. Many thanks & best regards, Meenu

Posted @ April 17, 2012 10:30


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