The world’s largest spirits company is gatecrashing Indian weddings with booze and bartenders

Image: Reuters/David W Cerny
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The big fat Indian wedding is setting the bar.

The world’s largest seller of spirits, Diageo Plc, which counts India as its second-largest market, is tapping the wedding business in the country to spruce up sales. The company, which sells popular brands such as Johnnie Walker whisky and Smirnoff vodka, will set up branded bars at weddings and offer its bartending services.

“You might have heard about Indian weddings being a big party. A great opportunity to build our brands and sample at scale,” Anand Kripalu, chief executive officer of United Spirits (USL), which is majority owned by Diageo, said in an analyst presentation on May 09.

Kripalu added that the move will help the liquor major, which sells 200 million cases annually in the country, “recruit new consumers.” The company declined to share specific details on its plans for the wedding market since it is in a silent period prior to announcing its annual results.

Boozy affair

Weddings are big business in India.

A big ticket Indian wedding can cost upwards of $75,000, according to a 2016 report by Goldman Sachs (pdf), more than double of the average cost of American and Chinese weddings. The budget for alcohol, a key component of weddings in some parts of the country, could be as high as 20%. And Goldman Sachs anticipates that, given India’s young demography, the sheer number of weddings are going to be on a rise over the next five years.

🎧 For more intel on the wedding industry, listen to the Quartz Obsession podcast episode on Indian weddings. Or subscribe via: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher.

United Spirits’ move to push its brands into the wedding market comes at a time when regulatory and policy challenges have battered sales in India’s liquor industry. Sales at the liquor major (pdf) grew at a sluggish pace of 3% in the quarter ended December 31, 2016, following the government’s decision to ban high-value currency notes. More recently, a ban on serving alcohol close to highways has further dented sales for most liquor companies in India.

Hopefully, the band baaja baaraat can lift the mood, and get the booze flowing.