Indian Alcohol Importing – A Bitter-Sweet Relationship

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Indian alcohol importing industry is extremely challenging with a potential to be very lucrative. Social drinking is quickly becoming a part of the culture. Metropolitan cities in India have a variety of pubs, breweries, lounges and bars.

Visiting these places before I got into this industry, I used to think, how hard could it be? I was convinced it wasn’t so complicated.  Back then I was unaware of what it takes to set up establishments that serve alcohol. Little did I know that I would actually need to learn exactly how HARD it is.  Irony of my Life! I am going to share a bit of what I have learned about the Indian alcohol industry, since moving back home last April.

Importing Alcohol Into India 101

Like everyone else, I too hopped onto my computer, opened up Google and typed how to import alcohol into India? To my surprise there was no detailed information that gives you the step-by-step process, including the government websites.

Why don’t they give you the information like they do in America? Or Europe? Simple, because the government doesn’t think this information needs to be up on the website for the general public to view.

After many meetings with my attorney, I have learned that the Indian government stopped issuing importing licenses in 1947.  Obtaining one is a challenge and requires diligence, determination and connections. Thus, my diligence and determination has quadrupled. My business connections have increased exponentially and the hunt is on! My quest continues as I create an Indian alcohol importing branch to empower family run businesses on both sides of the Pacific ocean.

Importing Alcohol into India is not for the meek.

Challenges in the Indian market

My quest has definitely not been “a bed of roses” or a stroll on the beach. As the Indian culture shifts to include alcohol, there will be the inevitable pendulum swings in both social and legal acceptance.

Since the market is lucrative, the government intervention into this industry is more. In 2017, India faced two major issues that impacted the alcohol industry.

  • Goods & Services Tax – GST was implemented as a single taxation structure for all over India as opposed having many state taxation levels/laws. It came into effect on 1/07/2017. While all goods and services came under GST taxation, alcohol is the exception. It still comes under individual state taxation. Each of India’s 29 states has different alcohol laws. A few “dry states” ban alcohol still. Understanding these state taxation systems is essential.
  • 500 Meter Ban – Literally that’s what it was called. All establishments that serve alcohol and are within 500 meters of either a state or national highway were to be shut. This was governmental reaction to the increasing number of alcohol related accidents. A lot of facilities were impacted and had to be closed down. Understandably, this immediately led to the decline of alcohol sales and imports.

The GST changes and 500 Meter Ban happened one after the other, it took months to resume the business!

Indian Society & Laws Changing

As both Indian society shifts and the legal system works to incorporate these changes, we can expect missteps and overreactions. It reminds me of America’s Prohibition and the repeal of it. The ripple effects were interesting. These are no different in India.

These challenges, “tip of the iceberg” to changes in the Indian alcohol import market. It is very exciting to be on the tipping point in social and economic history as India surges ahead, re-defining cultural and business norms.

Initializing an Indian Alcohol Importing Business

I would say starting a business anywhere in the world has its pros and cons. The biggest pro for India is the market, it’s lucrative and the demand is there. Any Millennial would love to open up a brewery/bar if you look at the turnover in this industry. It seems so effortless, running this business. Sadly, that’s a facade.

In India, the price point is very crucial, as nationally the average Indian income is low. One of the biggest cons is that the spending power of an average in Indian is lower than an American or an European. Currently due to the margins, taxations and duties are so high even the “2 buck chuck” wines imported into India land up costing over $20.

Closing Thoughts on Indian Alcohol Importing …

Indians do have a bittersweet relationship with alcohol. (You could say it has a very high IBU!) Yes most of the millennial in Indians enjoy social drinking, be it a glass of wine or a pint of beer. But are often not able to experience imported alcohol due to a limited selection.

While the challenges are many, we are creating trade opportunities and relationships for our family run businesses. Just working with importers, I talked to people from different areas of the Indian market illuminated many of the challenges the smaller family businesses have encountered over the years.

Due to my interactions with many different people in the Indian alcohol market, it is clear to me that there are several untapped areas within India for us to enter. Therefore seeing the opportunity, the Indian curiosity to try new beverages and creating a new importing channel,  excites me making me forget all the paper work challenges and research I have done.

We at CKJY Exports are constantly looking for opportunities and markets that others have ignored. Thus creating trade opportunities for our family run wineries, craft breweries and hard cideries here in Indian family run shops, restaurants and hotels is exciting. Indian alcohol importing is both a CKJY Exports goal and priority. Building trade opportunities and relationships for family businesses is exciting, isn’t it?

CKJY Exports is striving to bring the best Cases and Kegs Just for You!

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