Half a decade ago, hard seltzers made a big splash in the global market. We spoke to the men behind one of India’s pioneers in clean, low-calorie alco-bev products.

It wouldn’t be amiss to say that hard seltzers — a highball drink blending carbonated water, alcohol, and flavourings — have been one of the biggest recent trends in the global alco-bev landscape. One of India’s biggest players in this space is Wild Drum. Low in calories, gluten-free, and available in both 4.75% and 8% variants, Vineet Shivhare and Manan Trivedi’s health-conscious alternative to traditional alcoholic beverages has proven itself since its August 2021 launch. Here’s some key takeaways from our conversation with the duo behind India’s own push towards a hard seltzer revolution.

Both of you are Regent’s University, London alumni — tell us about how you met, and decided to start this brand journey?

We have been friends for fifteen years — ever since our first year of college. Our journey with the brand started when my family in America pointed out this new-age alcohol which had taken America by storm and seemed to be the right answer to today’s demand of having fun yet being smart, by consuming alcohol in the healthiest possible manner.

Hard seltzers are the healthiest alcoholic drink — they’re extremely low on calories and sugar while also being glutenfree and vegan. A good product leading to an outburst of possibilities and ideas made me reach out to my closest friend who held unparalleled knowledge and experience in the liquor business. We shared a fun and happy part of our lives together in college and our bond of trust and brotherhood made it an extremely easy and obvious partnership, which led to the inception of Wild Drum.

Wild Drum launched back in August ’21 — why did you guys decide to enter the hard seltzer market as one of the first movers in the industry?

Hard Seltzer is the future of alcohol and has already made its mark on the global stage. Both of us, being 3rd and 4th generation entrepreneurs, have always enjoyed working hard and taking up new challenges. We also strongly believe in backing our choice of challenges with in-depth market research and constant ground level interactions through our businesses. Becoming one of the first movers is the hardest and most rewarding place to be, making it the perfect choice for us both.

Can you share some details on sales and demand figures across the last couple years?

The initial sales were slow, as placements and education were challenging but post that, the company has since seen a rapid increase in consumer acceptance with repeated increased sales in all 3 states of operation — Goa, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. Since we started, we sold over 6,00,000 cans in about eleven months.

Why the interest in low ABV% alcohol?

The market for low abv percentage and mainly the ready to drink (RTD) segment is dominated by beer, with a market share of over 98%. Hard seltzer has taken over 8% of the beer market in America — making it a perfect alternative to beer. Low abv% drinks are mainly consumed by people under 35 years of age. India in turn has a much higher population percentage within this age group — making it a clear market for low abv% drinks.

Vineet, how did your family’s background in the brewery business help you establish Wild Drum?

Managing a brewery and extensive distribution network helped me establish adequate quality measures from day one at the factory to assure superior and consistent production each time. Furthermore, the distribution experience helped us partner with the best distributors and retailers. Managing large inventories across many territories has also been managed by me for several years, something that helped us a lot with Wild Drum.

Manan, tell us about how you approached packaging and marketing your product for a relatively younger crowd — did you face any hurdles with matching their constantly evolving preferences?

Traveling extensively and always being connected to people well under and over our ages has helped us always be connected to all kinds of trends. The youth are more expressive, productive, creative, and more cautious about their choices than ever before, so designing a language around them came quite naturally as we related to them.

What’s your preferred alcohol to drink other than hard seltzer?

I prefer tequila and gin — Vineet prefers whiskey and Jagermeister.

Images: Wild Drum
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