Of Cricket, Whiskey and Aspirational Brand Strategy – Strategy With RS

On 20th June 1999, I was in London, for work. On that day, the ICC World Cup final was being played between Australia and Pakistan, in London.

When I was walking down Oxford Street, I found no palpable excitement among Londoners. They were going about their life – as if it was just another day. But it was not so among the people of the Indian subcontinent – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka & Bangladesh. They were excitedly discussing the outcome of the match – vocally and passionately.

I knew back home, the live coverage of the match would have our nation glued.

This paradox got me wondering – what is it in cricket that it has become a religion in India and the subcontinent?

The paradox becomes even more convoluted because the origin of cricket does not lie in the subcontinent. It was the Britishers who introduced it to the Indian subcontinent.

The irony is that they did not make any effort to popularize it – in fact, they acted on the contrary! They restricted the playing of cricket to among themselves.

Then how did cricket become so popular among the masses?

The answer is encapsulated in one word – Aspiration.

Let me explain!

Since the Britishers ruled India, they were held in high esteem and were deemed as role models – people aspired to emulate their lifestyle. Cricket was one part of their lifestyle hence the game became aspirational.

Rich and elite Indians – which included royalty, rich Parsi and Hindu community members took to playing cricket among themselves since they could not play with the ‘rulers’. And the masses turned up to watch them play.

With the passage of time, matches started being played among these teams and the British – the colonial rulers. For these matches, even more so, the crowd turned up – rooting for the local team to defeat their colonial rulers, at least on the cricket field! (Source: The Economist – Why Indians love cricket?)

As more and more Indians turned up to watch these cricket matches, many of them started playing it. This trend gathered momentum and the popularity of cricket started soaring – young boys started playing it wherever they found space – no matter how small – be it gullies or streets or housing complex compounds.

Result: Cricket has transcended from being a sport of the elite to that of the masses. So intense is the passion for the game that the BCCI, the cricket governing body in India, is not only the richest but more powerful than the English Board, where cricket originated.

Is cricket the only example of a British culture icon that has become popular in India?

Whiskey is another example. When the British came to India, their men brought Scotch whiskey with them which they consumed in the confines of their bungalows or in exclusive ‘only for British’ clubs.

This lifestyle did not go unnoticed and the rich and elite aspired to emulate it. They took to drinking whiskey, making the drink even more aspirational for men among the masses.

More and more ‘common’ men took to drinking whiskey attempting to emulate the lifestyle of the rich, famous and the aspirational class. Gradually, whiskey came to be identified as a drink for the gentleman. No wonder whiskey accounts for more than 65% of alcoholic consumption in India!

Bottom Line: Create an aspiration for your products and walk all the way to the bank.



About the Author:


In this series, Rajesh Srivastava, Business Strategist and Visiting Faculty at IIM Indore gives you a regular dose of strategy case studies to help you think and keep you one step ahead as a professional as compared to your peers. Rajesh is an alumnus of IIM Bangalore and IIT Kanpur and has over 2 decades of experience in the FMCG industry. All previous Strategy with RS posts can be found here.