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The story behind a made-in-India whisky that reached Cannes

In an interview with Lounge, Diageo’s chief business development officer talks about Godawan whisky and the changing consumer tastes 

Diageo’s chief business development officer Shweta Jain at Cannes.
Diageo’s chief business development officer Shweta Jain at Cannes. (Courtesy Diageo)

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"We want to celebrate India,” says Shweta Jain over a Zoom call. She’s the chief business development officer of Diageo, a leading producer of spirits and beers, and currently in the French city of Cannes. She’s just wrapped up the launch of an artisanal single malt at the 75th Cannes Film Festival.

The drink, Godawan, is special for more than one reason: it is a made-in-India spirit that celebrates the whisky-making craft of Rajasthan. “People don’t know about India’s expertise in the spirits space,” says Jain. 

In an interview with Lounge, she talks about the drink, which was also launched in Dubai on 28 May, the changing tastes of the Indian consumer and more. Edited excerpts:

What’s the connection with Rajasthan?
That’s where it was created. Each bottle can be traced back to a cluster of barley farms in Rajasthan… so it offers transparency. It gets its provenance from extreme temperatures, lending it a subtle complexity. Modern affluent Indians are looking for luxury that makes them feel rooted and enriched. So, Godawan was created keeping that in mind.

Why did you decide to present it a Cannes?
We wanted the world to know what Indian single malts have to offer. There’s not much awareness. The artisans of Rajasthan are not just brilliant in embroidery, weaving and painting, but also whisky making. We want the global, even the Indian, consumer to know the taste of India.

How would you say the Indian consumer has evolved?
The interest in artisanal craft spirits has increased a lot. More consumers are getting comfortable when it comes to experimenting. But more than anything, Indian consumers are really getting into mindful luxury experiences.

Mindful luxury experiences?
Spirits is one segment where consumers are conscious about the sourcing of ingredients, the provenance, the ritual of enjoying the drink, the heritage of where it was made.

Has covid played a big role in bringing about this change?
It has. One of the things that happened during covid is that it changed people’s perception. Earlier, there was a belief that access to top-end luxury products wasn’t easy in India, and that you could only get them abroad. During covid, when people couldn’t travel, they started paying more attention and realized that options were available in India too. Discovery became the core motivator. Also, shops started offering more options. The other thing that changed was that when people, especially millennials and post-millennials, started stepping out they began appreciating homegrown brands more.

You think millennials and post-millennials are driving the change more in the segment?
Oh, absolutely. It’s not just your Delhi and Mumbai folks who want to try new things. The wider set of Indian consumers residing in tier two and three towns, from Ranchi to Nashik, are consuming and learning about different spirits. They have a home bar, which could give any other bar in the world a run for its money.

Also read | How Indian food won hearts at Cannes


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