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Lalit Khaitan: The New Liquor Baron Who Became India’s Newest Billionaire at 80

Lalit Khaitan is the chairman and managing director of Radico Khaitan, one of the largest and oldest manufacturers of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in India. He is also India’s newest billionaire, according to Forbes, with a net worth of $1 billion as of December 20231

He achieved this feat at the age of 80, after leading his company for over five decades and transforming it from a bulk spirits supplier to a leading IMFL player with a portfolio of over 15 brands, including four millionaire brands2. In this article, we will explore the life and career of Lalit Khaitan, and how he built his liquor empire.

Early Life and Education

Lalit Khaitan was born in 1943 in Kolkata, to a traditional Marwari family. His father, GN Khaitan, was a businessman who dealt in jute, tea, and coal. Lalit Khaitan had a keen interest in business from a young age, and helped his father in his ventures.

He also excelled in academics, and completed his graduation in commerce from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. He then went on to pursue his MBA from IIM Ahmedabad, one of the premier management institutes in India. He also holds a doctorate in business administration from the University of California, Berkeley3.

Entry into the Liquor Industry

Lalit Khaitan’s entry into the liquor industry was accidental, rather than planned. In 1972, his father acquired a struggling distillery in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, as part of a debt settlement. The distillery was producing country liquor and industrial alcohol, and was facing stiff competition from the established players. Lalit Khaitan, who was then 29 years old, decided to take charge of the distillery and turn it around.

He renamed it as Rampur Distillery and Chemical Company, and started producing rectified spirit, a raw material for IMFL. He also invested in modernizing the plant and machinery, and improving the quality and efficiency of the production. He also established a strong distribution network across the country, and started supplying bulk spirits to the leading IMFL companies, such as United Breweries, Shaw Wallace, and Mohan Meakin4.

Foray into the Branded Business

Lalit Khaitan’s vision was to create his own brands of IMFL, rather than being just a supplier to others. He realized that the branded business had more potential for growth and profitability, and also offered more control and recognition. He also sensed the changing consumer preferences and the increasing demand for premium and quality products. He decided to take the plunge in 1998, and launched his first brand, 8PM Whisky.

The brand was an instant hit, and sold one million cases in the first year itself, creating a record in the Indian liquor industry and entering the Limca Book of World Records. The success of 8PM Whisky gave Lalit Khaitan the confidence and the capital to launch more brands, such as Contessa Rum, Old Admiral Brandy, and Magic Moments Vodka. He also changed the name of his company to Radico Khaitan, to reflect his focus on the branded business5.

Expansion and Diversification

Lalit Khaitan’s strategy was to offer a range of products across different segments and price points, catering to the diverse tastes and preferences of the Indian consumers. He also focused on innovation, research and development, and marketing, to create a strong brand identity and recall. He also expanded his production capacity and distribution network, to meet the growing demand and reach new markets.

He also diversified his business into other sectors, such as e-commerce, cloud computing, and education, through various subsidiaries and joint ventures. He also explored the international markets, and started exporting his products to over 85 countries. He also acquired a stake in Network18, a media and entertainment conglomerate, to enhance his visibility and influence6.

Recognition and Awards

Lalit Khaitan has been widely recognized and awarded for his contribution to the Indian liquor industry and the economy. He has been associated with various industry bodies and associations, such as PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ASSOCHAM, All India Distillers Association, and UP Distillers Association. He has also represented India in several international delegations and forums, and has been involved in various social and educational initiatives. Some of the awards and honors that he has received include:

  • Bharatiya Udyog Ratan Award by the Government of India in 2004
  • National Industrial Excellence Award by the World Economic Progress Society in 2006
  • Lifetime Achievement Award by the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies in 2007
  • Legend of the Industry Award by Spiritz Magazine in 2014
  • Forbes India Leadership Award for Outstanding Entrepreneurship in 2018
  • Forbes Billionaire List in 20237

Conclusion

Lalit Khaitan is a remarkable entrepreneur and leader, who has built a liquor empire from scratch, and has become India’s newest billionaire at the age of 80. He has shown resilience, perseverance, and innovation, in overcoming various challenges and opportunities in the liquor industry. He has also created a legacy of quality and excellence, and has established Radico Khaitan as one of the most respected and admired liquor companies in India and the world. He is an inspiration and a role model for many aspiring and established entrepreneurs, and a pride for the nation.

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Written by 365PodCast

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