“For some odd reason the people who used to drink Kingfisher, don’t want to drink it anymore and Budweiser is pricey. Bira 91 rests at a point that gives a diverse range of flavour, at a price that is affordable.”
A craft beer is noted for its gourmet unconventional feel. Just like the beerpreneur Ankur Jain himself. Jain graduated from Illinois Institute of Technology then went to work at Motorola, and later decided to develop a health app in the boroughs of Brooklyn, New York. Jain never really liked beer until he came across the iconic Brooklyn Brewery and its flavorful beers.
Thus began Jain’s journey to becoming a beerpreneur – he sold his health app and started importing craft beers to India. Jain went on a tour of Belgium to see how the beers were crafted. One night while staying at an abbey with a brewery, it struck Ankur that beers can be tasty – have a sweet flavour, a hint of honey and vanilla - among a bouquet of exotic flavours. And that tasty beers can be made anywhere in the world.
That’s how a craft beer, totally Indian but belonging to the world came to be. “Bira 91 doesn’t really mean anything, but it sounds similar to ‘Birey’, or ‘Virey’ as they often use in Punjab to describe the Brave One,” says Jain. He wishes 91 was his year of birth but actually stands for India’s international dialing code.
Bira 91, for starters is completely Indian, as envisaged by its founder. They have manufacturing facilities in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
With Rs 150 crore in revenue this year, the company has seen a 5x growth over last year. Jain expects Rs 600 crore to be spent by Bira 91 fans next year.
To Jain, the biggest thing Bira 91 has done for India is to give the millennials a beer they can call their own. “For some odd reason the people who used to drink Kingfisher, don’t want to drink it anymore and Budweiser is pricey. Bira 91 rests at a point that gives a diverse range of flavour, at a price that is affordable,” says Jain.
From envisioning Bira 91 as the beer to millennials, Jain has also managed to get Bira 91 into the dignified labyrinths of the United Nations.
“Not many know, but there’s an exclusive United Nations North Delegates Lounge where all the Prime Ministers, Presidents, Secretaries and dignitaries from all over the world come to unwind during General Assembly. We approached the UN management team at the lounge to have Bira 91 featured as a beer of the month.” The UN loved the idea of a craft beer coming out of India. It defied preconceived notions in a pleasant way. “In May Bira 91 was featured as the UN’s beer of the month,” says Jain.
Disruption has never tasted sweeter, but it’s not always cheers and hurrah. “Every day we push to stabilise business yet, at the same time, keep disrupting the market. One thing we are very proud of at Bira 91 is, despite the need to keep expanding rapidly, we have not compromised on the process of developing new flavours even if it takes 3-6 months,” says the 36-year-old Jain.
The wise Jain takes his leave with these words: “Don’t go with popular wisdom all the time, you won’t ever do anything disruptive or new that way”.