Bira 91’s founder Ankur Jain returned to India in 2007 after running a healthcare startup in New York. He initially started importing a few beers to get a to hold in the sector, having had no prior experience in the liquor business. “By 2014, I realised it was time for us to introduce a brand that resonated with the young urban population of India with key focus areas being taste, flavour and quality,” Jain said.
In a market dominated by Kingfisher Strong and Haywards, millennial consumers wanted a different beer and in Bira they found what Bira 91 was formally launched in February 2015 as an alternative to the international brews imported to India with quirky and contemporary packaging.
Bring in the happy hours
Bira 91 became an instant hit among the urban crowd with sales surging from 150,000 cases in 2015, its launch year, to an anticipated 700,000 cases in 2016. Beer is expensive compared to spirits because alcoholic drinks are taxed by volume in India, however, Bira was made available for Rs 90 for 330 ml bottle.
A beer that is healthier than milk
Bira 91, recently launched one of the first low calorie beers to be introduced in the Indian market (90 calories for a 330 ml bottle). According to Jain, said, “Bira 91 Light is the lowest calorie option for any alcoholic beverage in the bar. It is lower than a glass of champagne, much lower than Breezers, wine, or cocktails. Heck, its even lower than a glass of milk or orange juice!”
Light vs Strong
On the other hand Bira 91 Strong is a “High Intensity Wheat beer” this is the first strong beer based on wheat. This beer is top fermented ale giving the beer a unique and rich taste that is low on bitterness, high on honey and caramel notes.
At about 7% alcohol by volume, the beer is designed to usher a revolution of taste to the mass market and aims to disrupt the mainstream beer market.
Raising the bar
Bira 91 is now looking to clock sales of Rs 150 crore this fiscal. Bira 91 is finalising a $25-million (Rs 160 crore) fundraise led by private equity major TPG Growth. This is the craft beer brand’s third financing round. The two-year-old beer startup B9 Beverages, the company behind Bira 91, has in all raised $22 million so far from venture capital fund Sequoia Capital and a set of angels.
Beer-tapping the market
Bira 91, where the 91 stands for India’s country code, is currently available across 15 cities. The company is focusing on the premium beer space and will have presence in 8 more cities this quarter.
Till last year, the company had a brewing unit in Belgium and now Jain has moved the process to their manufacturing unit in Indore. He is also planning on another one in Nagpur. Like Jain, many of the company’s employees don’t have previous experience in the liquor business as he believes outsiders are more willing to challenge the norms.