| Cowboy flavour
New Delhi, Nov. 6: Philip Morris International, the Switzerland-based tobacco business of Philip Morris, is launching its Marlboro cigarettes in India, without involving its Indian affiliate Godfrey Philips India (GPI).
With a 51 per cent stake, the Modi family is the majority shareholder in Philip Morris’s Indian arm in which the global tobacco giant has a 36 per cent equity holding.
The Marlboro cigarettes will be launched in Mumbai and then sold in other metros of western India. Based on initial sales, Philip Morris plans a national rollout of Marlboro.
“We have apprised GPI about the launch. Marlboro is not in conflict with any product of the GPI portfolio, not even their premium products,” said Ajit Sahgal, general manager, Philip Morris Services India SA.
The holding company of Philip Morris is Altria Group Inc, which had revenues of $80.4 billion last year.
The Marlboro brand is already available in the grey market in India and Philip Morris wants to basically cash in on this. However, things may be slightly difficult for them as the product will cost Rs 75 for a pack of 20 cigarettes. The same pack in the grey market is available for about Rs 10 less.
Mumbai-based Barakat Foods will distribute Marlboro in India, through a non-exclusive arrangement.
“Philip Morris, has a brand integrity group world-wide which monitors and conducts raids on illegal imports as also raids on counterfeits. It will be effective in countering any illegal trade of the Marlboro brand,” said Sahagal. Initially, Marlboro Full Flavor and Lights will be introduced in the metropolitan areas of western India.
The total market for cigarettes in India is estimated to be around 86 billion units, out of which 5 per cent belongs to the premium products category.
Marlboro will operate in the upper segment, within the premium category. India Kings and Benson & Hedges are the other major brands in this segment.