After a professional career spanning over three decades in the alcobev sector – heading sales, marketing and strategy departments – Dr Mohan Krishna decided to venture on his own in the year 2008, at the age of 49.
With an investment of Rs 25 lakh, Mohan – also known as the “world’s first liquor marketing professional with a PhD” – established the Cheers Group in Goa. He began with a small IMFL unit and bottling plant on rented premises, and launched two premium products.
After test-marketing in Goa, Mohan successfully launched his products in the largest domestic beverage alcohol market at the beginning of the 21st century, undivided Andhra Pradesh.
His Staggy and Hatric brands of whiskies went on to become big sellers in the domestic and international markets. Many of his single malts and Scotch blends now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best spirits in the world.
The Chairman and Managing Director has roped in his daughter, Dr. Divya Balivada (Director), to bring in freshness, energy, efficiency and speed to the business.
Among craft and spirits brands (other than his own) that he thinks have excelled in India, Eight-Finger Eddie of Goa Brewing Co. stands out for Mohan. “It brings nostalgia of the ‘70s of Goa,” he says.
What is his all-time favourite drink? Pat comes the unhesitating reply: “Single malt!”
Ever since Divya joined her father in 2017, immediately after completing her dental studies, she has been nurturing products ranging from the prestige to super-premium segments. “In fact, we are the only Indian held company to have a portfolio of our own Indian single malts and 12-YO blended Scotch whiskies,” she notes.
The Group’s top-line crossed Rs. 108 crore in 2020-21, showing a robust growth of 15%, in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant business disruption. “This shows our strength in distribution and the loyal base of our consumers across the segments we operate in,” Divya says.
Her focus has been introducing a great product for the price segment that Cheers Group intends to be in. She introduced hand-crafted, premium wooden boxes for Cheers’ luxury segment portfolios: Indian single malt and 12-YO Scotch.
“I believe packaging plays a key role in attracting the target audience in the luxury segment. Building on the fine skills of wooden carved detailing and sleek bottle design, our packaging design adds to the premiumness of our whiskies.”
What are the most important lessons from her father? “To a large extent we operate in a flat organisational structure. I continue to maintain that. He taught us that, no matter how small a job is, if done with dedication, it never leaves you unsatisfied,” she says.
For Divya, innovation in alcobev means breaking free from the noise. “It is important to stand out with your product on a shelf of 100 other brands. Coming up with different ways to be seen despite is innovation to me,” she says. “The first step to being picked up from a shelf is to be seen amidst the clutter of various brands.”
What is her all-time favourite drink? “I’m a beer person. But I do enjoy single malts and rye whiskies. I believe that every whisky has a story of its own.”