Hearst Magazines International - the publisher of Cosmopolitan and Esquire, has set the plans rolling for brand licensing as an expansion strategy in India. As reported by Mint, the publisher has plans to sett up premium whiskey lounges across the country. The company will launch Esquire whiskey and cigar lounges, in partnership with franchise solutions company Franchise India Holdings Ltd. The corporate licensing deal, that was mediated by New York-based sports and event management firm International Management Group (IMG), will mark Esquire’s foray into the restaurant and alcohol segment. In words of Gaurav Marya, Chairman at Franchise India, “Esquire lounges will mark the entry of the brand not only in India, but also in the restaurant and alcohol sector globally. In the last few years, many home-grown bars and pubs have come up in India, but there has been no international player." "With Esquire, the idea is to create a gentlemen’s club and this will also be India’s first membership club.” Globally, Hearst Magazines is one of the world’s largest publishers of monthly magazines, with 21 US titles and nearly 300 international editions. Esquire is Hearst’s men’s general interest magazine with 24 editions around the world. In India, Hearst publishes only two titles—Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar. “The Esquire brand has global recognition, epitomizing cool confidence, wit and style; the lounges will reflect that, offering guests a truly unique experience,” said Steve Ross, vice-president, global chief licensing director at Hearst Magazines, in a statement on Tuesday. “This partnership is an excellent opportunity to create a new business with a best-in-class operator and bring the spirit of our brand to a new audience.” The first Esquire lounge is set to launch in central Delhi in early 2018. This would be followed by 14 more lounges in other major cities. The Indian spirits industry is predominantly a brown market with whiskey, rum and brandy together contributing almost 95% to the total sales and white spirits (gin and vodka) having less than 6% share, according to data from consulting firm KPMG. Over the past few years, the spirits market growth has slowed down (from double-digit to single-digit volume growth) due to decline in the regular segment.