Absolut Rolls Out Tiger-Themed Second Indian Edition for Global Travel Retail to Raise Funds for Forest Guards
THE Swedish vodka brand Absolut, a subsidiary of the global alcoholic beverage giant Pernod Ricard, rolled out its second India-specific edition for the travel retail sector this past weekend at The Oberoi Vanya Vilas in Ranthambhore, Rajasthan.
No. 1 in global travel retail sales and also the No. 5 best-selling liquor brand in the world (according to company numbers), Absolut rolled out its first India-themed, limited-edition bottle in 2015 and the vodka chosen for the occasion was mango- and pepper-flavoured. The crowd-sourced art work that was then commissioned for the bottle was a colourfully chaotic representation of India by Mumbai-based Shaheen Baig. “The design,” said an official media release from Absolut, “captures the spirit of ecstatic chaos and brings alive the vibrant, multi-faceted nation that is India.” It was available in only two duty-free outlets in the international airports in Delhi and Mumbai.
This year’s Absolut.India bottle, which features the ‘Rising and Roaring’ tiger as imagined by the National Institute of Design (NID)-trained, an architect and interior designer Ajay Boga from Hyderabad, is the original, not flavoured, vodka. It will be available only in 12 international duty-free outlets and the money earned from its sales is to be set aside by Pernod Ricard for the welfare of forest guards in national parks across the country. Boga’s design in the tone of blue we associate with the brand, shows a male tiger’s face embellished by a peacock at the centre and a melange of traditional Indian motifs.
The bottle, appropriately, was launched at Vanya Vilas, bordering the Ranthambhore National Park, which started its life as the Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary in 1955 and was declared one of the exclusive Project Tiger reserves in 1973. Interestingly, Vanya Vilas, which has 25 luxury tents spread over 20 acres, sprawls across the land that once belonged to the late Fateh Singh Rathore, who was a leading figure in the national effort to promote tiger conservation.
The Absolut.India initiative is being led by Sashidhar Vempala, a senior Pernod Ricard executive who’s also an acclaimed wildlife documentary maker and founder of the NGO, The Guardbook (http://theguardbook.com/), which he launched in 2015 for the welfare of what he calls the nation’s first line of defence against poachers.
The forest guards, who stay away from their families with their assistants, live in the most primitive conditions, which Vempala (Instagram handle: @sashidhar_vempala) has documented in four short films, including The Smiles of the Forest, dedicated to the guards in Madhya Pradesh. The Guardbook, incidentally, is a “cashless” NGO, which connects corporate donors with projects designed by forest authorities for the welfare of the guards.
By safeguarding the interests of the forest’s guardians, Vempala points out, we can make a real difference to the future of the planet. On the survival of the tigers is hinged the future of the sources of fresh water in our forests, explains the jungle life chronicler who spends every weekend in a national park. Each male tiger, which is by nature a solitary animal, has a territory of about 100 sq. km. marked for himself and his ‘harem’ of female tigers command another 10 sq. km. each.
Humans don’t tread into these territories to chop trees for wood because they fear the tiger. And the trees, protected by the king of the jungle, preserve the fresh water balance in the ecosystem — a balance that is under growing threat as a result of other (all human induced) factors. Fortunately for us, the tigers population is rising all over again in the country (hence the Absolut.India tagline ‘Rising and Roaring).
As Pune-based conservator Sushil Chikane (http://yourjourneys.co.in/about-us) pointed out to me during the vodka launch, this may be leading to the ‘problem’ of the ‘excess’ cats walking off on their own to unfamiliar territories to establish independent homes (he cited instances of tigers from Ranthambhore walking all the way to the Chambal valley in Madhya Pradesh), but it calls for a celebration. And if the tiger population is rising, the unsung heroes of this success story are the forest guards, who work day and night for a pittance.
Vempala states the facts. India accounts for 16 per cent of the global fresh water consumption, but produces only 4 per cent of it, and 50 per cent of this precious, dwindling resource comes from protected forests. We owe it to Absolut.India to bring this logic home.