The name BIRA91 brings an image of a cold and fresh can of beer in mind, decorated by their infamous mascot. It might come as a surprise to the uninformed that this brand has not been in the market for too long. Their raging success can be a reason for the surprise. Bira 91 is a craft beer brand manufacturing company parented by B9 Beverages Pvt. Ltd. It was launched in 2015. The company set up their very first brewery unit, in the Flanders region of Belgium where they used a craft distillery to manufacture the beer with ingredients from specially acquired from France, Belgium, Himalayas, and Bavarian Farms. This exquisitely-made beer imported to India, then.
THE FOUNDER of Bira91
BIRA91 was founded by Ankur Jain. He is an entrepreneur who moved to the US from India to pursue his bachelor’s from Illinois Institute of Technology in 2002. Ankur Jain was a budding entrepreneur through and through. His first venture in Healthcare Revenue Management was in New York. After finding a buyer for his healthcare start-up he came back to India. He tried giving a job a shot but went back to venture after a year.
Initially, Jain started with a beer distribution company, through which he started importing 20-30 types of beer varieties which were rare in India. He put in the knowledge from this venture into finally creating BIRA91. His tryst with import made him aware of the preferences of the younger generation towards lighter flavours and wheat beer. It also helped him figure out the correct price point Indian consumers were happy to shell.
After bootstrapping the import business, Jain finally raised his first round of seed capital worth $6 million (INR40 Crore) by institutional funding in 2015 from Sequoia Capital. Ironically this huge investment was Sequoia’s first investment in the Alcohol Beverage segment). Super Angels like Deepinder Goyal of Zomato and Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal, Rohit Bansal (Co-founders – Snapdeal), Ashish Dhawan (ChrysCapital) and Mayank Singhal were among the investors in the Series A funding in this venture. Soon, BIRA91 was tied up with players like The Beer Café and Zomato. This was supposed to be a move to help improve penetration into the market.
In 2018, the company raised a further amount of $50 million from Sofina, a Belgian family-owned fund, and its existing investors.
Further in May 2019, Bira 91 raised the funding of $4.3M from Sixth Sense Ventures in its Pre-Series C round.
Each brand name comes with a story and BIRA91 is no exception. The name ‘BIRA’ is the endearment, in the Punjabi language: meaning a fellow brother and the ‘91’ represents India’s Country Code. The reverse B in the logo represents a spirit of irreverence. The monkey mascot aims at presenting the brand with a playful identity. It was made considering the urban millennial as the key consumer of Bira 91.
Bira 91 has recently launched its brand merchandise that includes T-shirts, growlers, bags, ice buckets, and beer mugs.
The company has a collection of five beers –
- Bira 91 White – This is a wheat beer with low bitterness and alcohol content of 4%.
- Blonde: Bira 91- this is an extra hoppy craft lager
- Bira 91 Light – This a low-calorie lunchtime lager
- Bira 91 Strong – As the name suggests this is a high-intensity wheat beer with a higher percentage of alcohol content at 7%.and
- The Bira 91 Indian Pale Ale – This is the first IPA brewed and bottled in India.
The first two variants launched by Bira were Blonde and White. The company worked on its packaging, making it fun and distinct to attract the younger crowd. Light and Strong varieties set foot into the Indian Market, in June 2017 and IPA rolled-in, around October 2017.
From the Founder
Jain says, “We have been growing almost 200 per cent in the last five years.” Sharing the ethos of the brand, he adds, “As consumers are picking beer more for taste than ever before, our belief is that for this generation of consumers Bira means beer. We feel over the next 10 years, there is going to be consistent growth. Ups and downs are natural. But for this sector, the next 10 years look phenomenal.”
He shares it hasn’t been easy to set the kind of team he always wanted. For him, it’s a combination of seasoned professionals and the younger team which calls the shots. With offices across Delhi, Bombay, Bengaluru, and Goa, the team size has increased to 550. The next challenge for Bira is to keep it fresh while brewing it in bigger quantities.
Jain shares, “It’s incredibly tough to make beers at large scale consistently. There is a lot of science and supply chain planning involved. You have to factor in a lot of external factors. It’s something large beer companies are chasing to achieve.”
A few factors can accredit the overall success of this emerging beer brand. One is the awareness of the need of the market and working on it. Another can be due to the fact that they set their sights on a defined consumer group-the millennials and revolved the brand and packaging accordingly. One more factor can be their thirst for more, ever since they have set their mark in the market, they have been aspiring for more, they have been ready to succeed and things have been escalating, because of rigorous expansion.
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