NEW DELHI: Brigadier (retd) Kapil Mohan was to the nation’s alcohol lovers what Beethoven was to composing music.
But not many knew that Mohan — the man behind the success of the iconic rum brand Old Monk — was a teetotaller. He gave India, and the world, a fine drink at an affordable price tag. Such was its brand image that the company, Mohan Meakin, rarely had to spend on promotion.
Sales, and popularity, were driven by word-of-mouth publicity.
The man behind giving rum a cult status is no more. Mohan, a Padma Shri recipient referred to as ‘monk’ by many, passed away at the age of 88 on January 6 at his residence in Ghaziabad.
The story of Old Monk dates back to December 1954 when NN Mohan, father of Kapil Mohan, rolled out a distinctive brand of dark rum whose alcohol content till date remains just below 50 per cent. Soon, the product became a favourite among men who had a weak spot for strong drinks.
But it was under the leadership of junior Mohan, who took over the company’s reins in the 1970s, that the brand became synonymous with dark rum in India. He geared the company to become the largest-selling liquor brand for nearly four decades.
Under his leadership, Mohan Meakin became the biggest Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) brand with revenues exceeding `400 crore and kept on diversifying into the food & beverage segment.
Kapil Mohan, who passed away last Saturday, played a big role in establishing Old Monk as a brand and in buttressing the recall value of the dark rum. One of the biggest reasons that led to the popularity of the brand was its association with the Indian Army. Having served in the Army, Mohan knew what suits men in uniform, especially those deputed in extreme conditions.
While it enjoyed patronage from military canteens, the brand was also a hit with youngsters. For many, Old Monk was the go-to drink in happiness and in sorrow.
Despite availability of new technology, Mohan kept using the traditional method of making rum to keep the taste intact. As Major (retd) Arjun Sinha put it, “Old Monk is for brave hearts. It keeps all-extreme weather conditions at bay, doesn’t give a hangover, and tastes like a royal drink.” At 80, Sinha still sips his favourite drink once in a fortnight and has many stories to share where Old Monk took the centre stage.
Arnab Chatterjee, 23, a Calcutta University student, said: “Old Monk is cheap, yet classy. It is the permanent member of every family and friends gathering.”
However, with the emergence of new brands and a shift in the drinking pattern of Indians, Old Monk’s popularity has somewhat waned. From being the undisputed single brand leader till 2002, it has lost its market share.
According to market research firm Euromonitor, Old Monk’s share stood at close to 5 per cent of the Indian rum market in 2014 with McDowell’s Celebration Rum emerging as the market leader.
Market experts say Old Monk can still stage a comeback if proper marketing and promotional activities are taken. The brand has heavy emotional appeal, they point out. However, the company, Mohan Meakin, which is currently headed by Mohan’s nephews Hemant and Vinay, might have to reinvent the brand to get back its glory days.