'Old Monk' Kapil Mohan, boss of Mohan Meakin, passes away

Kapil Mohan, the chairman and managing director of Mohan Meakin Ltd - the company which makes the iconic Old Monk rum among other liquors and non-alcoholic beverages – died on Saturday at the age of 88, reportedly of cardiac arrest.

Mohan had not been well for some time, and expired in Mohan Nagar Area in Ghaziabad. His last rites were reportedly performed on Sunday.

Kapil Mohan took charge of the Dyer Meakin Breweries following the death of his elder brother V R Mohan in the early 1970s, and was at the helm of the company for over 40 years. He was reportedly the brain behind Old Monk, the dark rum in a hard glass bottle, as well as Solan No1 whisky and Golden Eagle beer, all top sellers in their time.

Remarkably, Mohan was himself a teetotaller who hardly ever downed a peg in his life, and one who famously said he would not advertise as long as he was at the helm of the firm.

''We do not advertise. I will not, and as long as I am in this chair, we will not (advertise),'' Mohan had said in an interview in 2012. ''The best way of my advertising is the product: When it comes to you and you taste it, you look at the difference and ask what is it? That is the best advertisement.''

Old Monk rum was launched on 19 December 1954, when it was the only aged liquor made in India, claiming to be seven years old, yet very affordably priced. Brewed in the Himalayas, for a long time Old Monk was one of the best selling rums in the world and the biggest Indian Made Foreign Liquor brand as well. Many of the older generation of Indians have fond memories of it being their favourite tipple.

However, between 2010 and 2014, there was a decline of over 50 per cent in its sales as preference turned to white rums and vodka. At one point there was a rumour that the brand would be discontinued, but this has not happened.

After Old Monk's launch, the company developed three distilleries, two breweries and a wide range of new franchises across the country. The company has, over the years, spread itself into various businesses including malt houses, breakfast food, fruit products and juices.

Mohan Meakin reportedly sold only 3.9 million cases of Old Monk in 2014 which were a quarter of what they were in the 1960s.

Mohan was the president of the municipal committee in Himachal Pradesh's Solan, where the company had its distillery and brewery. In fact, one of the secrets of the success of Old Monk and other brands was the fact that the water was sourced from the same natural spring in Solan as it was 150 years ago, when the facilities were first set up. People close to him say the Padma Shri awardee was averse to change and wanted things done the traditional way.

But the younger generation had other ideas. In mid 2000s, the family saw a separation with Rakesh 'Rocky' Mohan (son of V R Mohan), Kapil's nephew breaking away. He eventually sold the company's Lucknow facility to the Wave group of Ponty Chadha. In a short span of time, Chadha, who was seen close to the then chief minister Mayawati, brought under his control the liquor business in Uttar Pradesh and other Northern states.

The slide in Mohan Meakin's fortunes coincided with the rise of Chadha. Meakin's, which was once listed on the Calcutta Stock Exchange, has since been delisted. Currently, Mohan Meakin Ltd is a multi-faceted business house with a turnover exceeding Rs400 crore.