Creating an Indian Beer Brand

Ex-Techie and workaholic, Ankur Jain has been focussed in his drive to create what he claims will be India's as well as the USA's number one premium beer brand. BW Hotelier spoke with Jain about his vision and the hurdles he has had to overcome.


ACCORDING TO Ankur Jain, Founder and CEO of B9 Beverages, makers of BIRA91, the recent liquor ban hasn’t really hit his revenues, though he confessed that sales in Maharashtra and Goa were hit and shrunk by as much as five to seven percent. He added that “we expect this will have a short term impact because some of the bars and restaurants are now relocating beyond 500 metres (of National Highways and thus not falling under the purview of the ban) and this shift is about to happen in next quarter.”

Just two years of its launch BIRA91 has created a buzz in the market. So, how did the whole idea of brewing beer begin, we asked the ex-techie turned beerprenuer. “I spent around 10 years in the U.S of which five years were in New York where I was doing a health care start up in Brooklyn. My office was down the street from Brooklyn Brewery, one of the icons of American craft beer and I was there every Saturday and Sunday. When I moved back to India, I figured out that the beer here didn’t have a lot fizz in it--that gap was very apparent, so I decided to fill this gap.”

According to Jain, people pick their beer on the basis of alcohol content. BIRA91 has created its own taste while keeping in mind the globally accepted flavours. “Taste is very subjective but eventually when you start discovering new brands and new styles, you step towards the journey of being a beer expert. People look for great beers, we create one,” says Jain.

“We actually didn’t have a strategy, but saw a big gap in the market for three things: The first gap was for beer which was tasty and delicious. The second gap was for a craft beer and we placed the bet that people wanted a better experience and that could be delivered through freshly poured beer on tap so we created the country’s largest tap network over the last two years and now we are the largest craft beer brand in India. The third thing we noticed was the gap for a brand that spoke authentically to young urban Indians, the choices before BIRA91 became available were limited to Kingfisher, and then international brands like Budweiser, Carlsberg, Tuborg and others. We felt that young Indians wanted a beer which was born and produced in India. So we created a beer with a definite Indian identity,” Jain said while revealing his marketing strategy.

Jain’s five year plan is to create a first logo brand to come out of India. “We are going big on India and we expect to be the number one premium brand in India and United States. We intend to create a first global brand of craft beer out of India” says Jain.

No doubt every venture passes some hurdles while establishing itself in the market but for 91Beverages the major challenge was the supply chain and government policies. Recently there was a shortage of BIRA all over India which Jain claimed was due to the shortage of bottles being supplied to the company from a subsidiary in Haryana. “Our challenge is to fix the supply chain and ensure that our supply is meeting the demand” concluded Jain.

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