I AMPRI VILEGED to be the Chairman of United Spirits. When I joined the USL Boardin April 2015 it was because the promising opportunity ahead was so evident that I wantedto be a part of this companys future. Everything that I have witnessed in the lastseveral months makes me confident that the Company is on the right track to deliver onthat promise. Three things stand out: (i) the Companys commitment to the higheststandards of corporate governance and intense focus on compliance and ethical conduct ineverything we do (ii) a strong move to strengthen commercial and operational controlsand institute robust systems and processes and (iii) making the right investments be it in talent or brands or our manufacturing facilities. In all of the above theCompany has been fully supported by its principal shareholder Diageo.
Despite many positive factors on the countrys economic front a matter of concernis an increasing recourse to Prohibition by a number of States in India. And yet there isenough evidence to show that Prohibition doesnt curb alcoholism or social ills. Ibelieve rather than proceeding on the assumption that Prohibition is the solution to anumber of social issues formulation of a Public Policy on this issue deserves a widerdebate that includes the adverse consequences of Prohibition particularly the impetusProhibition provides to the production and sale of illicit liquor with resultantill-effects on public health. We are all too familiar with regular tragedies involvingloss of human lives linked to the production and sale of illicit liquor. In addition tothe loss of livelihoods the loss of alcohol as a major source of a States taxrevenues negatively impacts its finances as well as the sustainability of welfareprogrammes for the underprivileged of the State. Prohibition also restricts the harnessingof the full potential of tourism in India and the concerned States. It is imperative thatmakers of Public Policy draw lessons from the consequences of short-lived attempts tointroduce Prohibition in a few States. Rather than making ad hoc or opportunisticdecisions for short-term gains I fervently hope they take a holistic and pragmaticapproach to formulate a well-balanced and sustainable policy.
India presents one of the most exciting opportunities in the world. The country isforging ahead as the fastest growing economy. What makes India particularly attractive isnot just the economic growth but what constitutes and drives it. An upwardly mobileaspirational middle-class and a vast number of consumers moving towards affluence isensuring that the core consumption fundamentals remain robust even as we increase ourCompanys efforts to curb irresponsible drinking as well as drink-driving a corethrust of our Companys CSR programme.
USL is well positioned to leverage this opportunity with full support and encouragementfrom its principal shareholder Diageo a global leader in its own right. From its strongleadership and management to its dedicated employees from its much-loved brands to theexciting consumer proposition these brands present from its strong network of tradepartners and relationships to its nationwide manufacturing footprint - USL is well set upfor success. We have made good strides in our transformational journey and while there ismore work to be done to reduce complexity in the way we work and simplify the organisationstructure to deliver efficiency and growth I am confident that every single buildingblock we put in place last year has set us firmly on the runway to success.
I thank you for your continued faith and support.
Mahendra Kumar Sharma