Secunderabad to Scotland: Daru Dr Mohan Krishna, first Indian to set up distillery

From launching a small distillery in Goa in 2008, his Cheers Group with a turnover of over Rs 120 crore will soon be going public to achieve the target of Rs 500 crore

By CR Gowri Shanker  Published on  22 Aug 2022 7:04 AM GMT
Secunderabad to Scotland: Daru Dr Mohan Krishna, first Indian to set up distillery

Hyderabad: When Secunderabad-based liquor baron Dr. Balivada Mohan Krishna started `Cheers Group' in 2008, little did he realize that one day he will have the honor of becoming the first Indian to set up a distillery in Scotland. Coming from a humble background, Balivada Mohan Krishna has earned a sobriquet of `Daru doctor' by sheer dint of his hard work CMD of Goa-based Cheers Group, he is the world's first Ph.D. holder in liquor marketing.

From launching a small distillery in Goa in 2008, his Cheers Group with a turnover of over Rs 120 crore will soon be going public to achieve the target of Rs 500 crore. There is no looking back for Dr. Mohan Krishna, who began his journey as a Rs 300 per month salesman for Premier Enterprises, a liquor distribution firm in Secunderabad in 1980 to CMD of a multi-crore company.

"Hard work, family support, ups and downs, and a bit of luck helped me in my success. We are the only Indian company to have a Scotch whisky portfolio competing against international brands. We are planning to set up `Glen Monarch Distillery' in Scotland, a first by an Asian soon" Dr. Krishna told Newsmeter. "We began our journey with a small Distillery unit—Imperial Distillery in rented premises in Goa in 2008 with the support of wife Anuradha. Our first successful flagship brand was Staggy whisky under the company name Cheers Group. The initial investment was Rs 25 lakh," he said.

Son Ashwin Balivada after graduating from NIT joined the family business in 2010. Later he acquired a Business Management degree from Cambridge University, UK. "Over a period, we launched Labrodog Scotch and Three Monkeys Indian Single Malt whisky, among others which became flagship brands and won many international awards," said Ashwin. As the business grew, Dr. Krishna roped in his daughter Dr. Divya Balivada as Director in 2017. A dental surgeon, Divya has acquired business talent from Edinburgh University, Scotland. "We are the only Indian-held company to have our own 12-year-old blended Scotch whiskies," she said.

Despite Covid 19 pandemic, the group crossed Rs 108 crore in 2020-21. "It's not just quality liquor, we focus on the packaging which attracts connoisseurs of liquor in the luxury segment. We like to stand out with our product on a shelf of 100 odd brands. Quality and innovations help in the fast-moving of our products," she said.

Ashwin who is Executive Director, Cheers group, also looks after the overseas business and launched brands in Europe. Very soon, he is planning to launch Three Monkeys Indian Single malt whisky in US and France.

Labrodog Scotch marked a golden milestone for Cheers Group as it not only proved to be an attractive brand for liquor lovers with a superior blend but also its presentation in a well-crafted green bottle with wooden case packaging in the competitive scotch whisky market in India and the world. Dr. Krishna said the market is vibrant and growing rapidly. "Liquor market is very good in India now and growing fast. The market is absorbing new Made in India brands apart from international brands," he said

Labrodog Scotch and Three Monkeys Single malt from our stable will hit the international airports soon with new gift pack versions, said Ashwin.

"Labrodog received rave reviews when it was launched across the country from all sections of people, especially liquor connoisseurs. Our brands are competing with international brands and earned the goodwill of people," he added. Cheers group had won more than 100 awards over the years. Recently it bagged 11 national awards for its various brands for excellence at the India Star awards by the Indian Institute of Packaging, a Government of India institution.

The group's innovative beverage alcohol conglomerate portfolio spreads across wine, spirits, and Ready-to-Drink (RTD) including manufacturer and exporter of new-age beverages.

Its acclaimed brands include Three Monkeys Indian Single Malt whisky, The Labrodog Blended Scotch whisky Aged 12 years and regular, Glendog Blended Scotch whisky, Scottish Legend Blended Scotch whisky, Mc Glenn Blended Scotch whisky, Facewood Barrel fired whisky, Ginsin London Dry Gin, Maltage Aged whisky, Doberman Super Premium whisky, Van Louise Brandy, Staggy Green Blended whisky, Staggy XO brandy, Monque XXX rum, and HVEN Cashew Fenny.

Dr. Mohan Krishna has an interesting background, coming from a grassroots level with a dad in the army (a War veteran now aged 97 is the driving force). Hailing from "Balivada" a tiny village in Srikakulam of Andhra Pradesh. Born to Balivada Pagadalamma and Balivada Jagannadha Rao in Pune Military Hospital, did his early education in Fort William Central school in Kolkata. Later studied in Dhanupuram village in Srikakulam.

He also studied in Zilla Parishad High School in Karkhana and Mudfort, Army School in Ramakrishna Puram, and completed 11th standard in Central School, Picket in Secunderabad. He then did B. Com from Nizam College, Hyderabad and Arts and Science College, Secunderabad and MBA, Marketing and Finance from Osmania University, and finally Ph.D. in Business Management (Strategies for Marketing New Liquor Brands in India) which is a first of its kind in the world.

Dr. Mohan Krishna has been conferred the prestigious Chanakya Award 'Global Indian of the Year' by the Public Relations Council of India, presented by the Goa Chief Minister Dr. Pramod Sawant, recipient of "Alcobev marketing guru" and "Marketing scientist of the millennium" awards. He has published over 2000 articles on beverage alcohol in various journals and magazines of international repute and appeared on TV channels across the world.

He is an industry veteran with rich and profound experience also worked in senior positions with SAB Miller (the world's No. 1 beer company), Shaw Wallace, and United Spirits (now Diageo). During his career, he has been instrumental in launching and building many leading global brands.

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