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Published on: Feb. 22, 2021, 10:57 a.m.
Salud Beverages cheers to a new lifestyle
  • Shetty: creating a refreshing cocktail

By Sekhar Seshan. Consulting Editor, Business India

It’s an ‘urban lifestyle brand,’ says Ajay Shetty about his latest venture, Salud Beverages. While the Bengaluru-based company’s flagship offering G&T 2.0 is India's first ready-to-drink gin and tonic, it has also launched merchandise and its own music labels.  “Digital media obviously has a better reach – and we aim to get a part of India’s Rs3,000-crore market for gin, which is going through a global revival. Tonic, too, is big with a volume of Rs500 crore.”

Pointing out that his is a gender-agnostic drink, Shetty is taking away the negative connotation of his product being a ‘hard drink’, he says it contains only 6 per cent alcohol, while beer has 4-5 per cent. “So, when you mix 30 ml of it with 150 ml of water, it becomes milder,” he explains. “This makes it a refreshing drink rather than one to get high on.” He wants this product line to connect people of all age groups, culture and lifestyle in what he calls Salud Life.

Says Shetty: "The idea started as just a beverage brand, but soon evolved into a lifestyle brand purely through the impact of our marketing strategy and the need for it in a market like India. Our vision is that where people come together to celebrate life, with a touch of exclusivity, Salud aims to change the way they unwind with our spirit in a bottle.” The pandemic, he points out, has also changed the way people drink: they now want things on the go.

Aiming at a target consumer group which begins with those who have just started drinking to people of about 40, he has also turned to social media as the best way to market his products. He also uses YouTube to popularise Salud Live and Salud sessions for his music.

Great potential

Salud uses only the best ingredients from wherever it needs to source them around the world, he insists. The junipers and cucumbers are from the UK, the lavender flavouring from France; and the blending is done in Cento, Italy. The final blending is with Indian quinine and demineralised water before the whole thing is carbonated and bottled. “We have our own bottling plant, with a capacity to meet the next two to three years’’ demand,” he says, adding that he has enough funding from venture capitalists and other investors till he reaches the series A stage, unlike his earlier venture, Myra Vineyards, which was self-funded. Shetty, a former banker with Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch, had sold Myra to a Singapore-French fund, VisVires Capital in end-2018.

“From the beginning, we saw great potential in the brand and the people behind it,” says his advisor and investor Prasad Vanga, founder & CEO, Anthill Ventures. “With so much passion and belief in their products, we are excited to introduce Salud to the world.” Rana Daggubati, actor and a serial entrepreneur, while being another advisor and investor, is excited, too. “When Salud approached me with their vision, long-term plan, brand ethos and product portfolio, it was an easy decision to make,” he adds.

While Shetty himself says the lavender-flavoured product is “one of the highest-selling gin in the world”, his fellow Bengalurian, brand guru Harish Bijoor, feels that basics always work best, and the basic in this market is the gin-and-tonic mix. “I do believe these flavours – lavender and cucumber  – are a bit off the track, but they are the bells and whistles to attract attention.” For example, he points out, plain vanilla sells best in the ice-cream market, but India has 106 varieties. He however likes the brand name – which means ‘celebration of life’ in Spanish. “Premixes are also a good idea, as the work for the lazy and a generation on the go,” he adds.

With the low-sugar tonic and quinine adding the ‘health’ quotient, the cost of Rs130 for a 275-ml bottle of Salud marks the launch of ‘a completely new kind of drinking’, he says. “I see myself as a kind of pied piper leading a new generation to a range of cost-effective, refreshing drinks. The market was pressing for something like this!” As Tevye sang in Fiddler on the Roof: L’chaim, l’chaim, to life!”

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