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Alcohol shift


An alumnus of Cambridge Judge Business School, Ashwin Balivada (MBA 2015), is producing free hand sanitiser in Goa, India on production lines normally used to produce Scotch whisky.

An alumnus of the MBA programme at Cambridge Judge Business School, Ashwin Balivada (MBA 2015), has converted his family’s India distillery business into a temporary production facility for hand sanitiser given away free to hospitals, police and other organisations to help combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The Goa-based Cheers Group, which usually produces such liquor brands as The Labrodog Blended Scotch Whisky, Ginsin London Dry Gin and The Three Monkeys Indian Single Malt Whisky, said it produced more than 250,000 bottles of hand sanitiser in the first 15 days after converting one of its production lines in mid-March.

The company, launched in 2010, usually produces about one million bottles per month of its various liquor brands across 21 countries.

“Around the 14 of March, I realised that there could be a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in India, after studying the pattern in the US, Europe and China,” says Ashwin, CEO of Cheers Group. “By then there was already an acute shortage of hand sanitiser in India, so we started to manufacture it through our existing production lines.”

The hand sanitiser was initially bottled in the company’s 2000 ml and 750 ml liquor bottles used for Labrodog Blended Scotch Whisky, but the company has in the past week begun manufacturing handier 25 ml dispensing bottles for the hand sanitiser.

“As per World Health Organisation guidelines due to the medical emergency of COVID-19, and as per the notification issued by the central government, we can make hand sanitisers with potable ethyl alcohol,” says Ashwin. “So basically, in the existing infrastructure of tanks and bottling lines, we have made the hand sanitisers.”

Ashwin says that he began supplying about 25 litres of hand sanitiser to a government hospital in Goa in mid-March, and quickly received inquiries from about 1,000 other organisations in 50 cities. Groups seeking the free hand sanitiser need to email the company and the state excise authorities, as alcohol is heavily taxed in India and needs to be carefully accounted for.