How This Entrepreneur is Creating India's First Indigenous Beer Biz

Short Description
In an exclusive interaction with Restaurant India, Prabhtej Singh Bhatia, Founder, Simba talks about setting up India's first indigenous craft beer.
  • Nusra Deputy Features Editor
Restaurant India

Tell us about Simba. How is it different from others in the market?

When I was studying in the UK, I saw a huge beer market with different styles and variants of beer which were hugely missing in India. Back in India the only difference between the beers were the labels. Since every beer was providing the same style and similar quality, I felt that overall per capita consumption was also fairly low. In 2009, I decided to start my own brand to make craft beers and applied for the brewery license. In 2012, we got into the construction of brewery business by setting up the plant in Chhattisgarh. Getting into manufacturing was a new experience for us, so for two years we started contract manufacturing for SABMiller. Running brewery for a global brand gave us the required experience as it taught us the different nuances of the industry where we understood the parameters to be considered for delivering quality consistently and hence gradually we mastered the art.

In 2016, we completely exited our distribution and retail business and officially launched our own brand by putting in huge investment by setting up the brewery only for Simba. Much before I decided to start a brewery, I had my heart set on the name Simba. So we didn’t really go through a naming exercise when we launched it. I loved the name already and it fit perfectly with the brand we wanted to create for our brewery - authentic and pioneering. The one thing that sets us apart is that we have our own Brewery, which was the only craft brewery in the country at the time, this gives us an edge over our competitors as most of them outsource the product.

How have you priced your beer?

Rs 110 for Wit and Rs 150 for Stout pint

Who do you target as your target audience?

Simba is a very fresh yet coming of age brand that is appealing to mass audience from a first time drinker to a whisky lover. Millennials with a higher level of education who are aware of craft beer mechanism and have an exposure to global trends are the ones who will appreciate our product. Also Consumption trends towards quality and premium products and people with higher spending capacities are our targeted audience. We are preparing ourselves for the next generation, people now do not want to drink what their father used to drink, so we are trying to diversify from the traditional brew.

Tell us about your retail as well as HORECA presence.

We have maximum coverage of retail outlets + placement in premium liquor stores with high visibility

HORECA – placement & association with all premium and strategic outlets across Tier 1 & 2 cities.

What is the quantity of beer brewed per month at your brewery?

300,000 cases per month capacity

What were the challenges faced while setting up the brewery?

India has a large liquor market than a beer market. The major challenges would be managing the growth and demand. Among the many challenges we faced setting up the business, one of it being getting the land for setting up the brewery as the nearby villagers were not supportive for opening up a liquor factory. Also a major hurdle was acquiring a Brewing License. Since our family was always in the liquor business of retailing, we had the idea about the industry and distribution. However in 2009, I decided to start my own brand to make craft beers and applied for the brewery license right before going to college and the license was issued to us after I graduated. It was a challenge to bring together the old traditional methods to create something new and fresh for the market.

Tell us about the varieties of beer you brew. From where do you get the raw materials?

Simba craft beer is available in 4 styles; 2 distinctive variants, including Simba Wit, Simba Stout and 2 regular flavours including Strong & Lager (only available in Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Assam at the moment). Simba Wit is a refreshing beer made with a hint of orange peel, coriander and lemongrass. It is light bodied which makes it crisp and easy-drinking. Simba Stout is a dark beer, with an ebony colour and voluptuous mahogany head. It has a rich creamy acquired taste with a bold hearty flavour.

 India doesn’t have good quality malts yet, hence we did not want to take risk on that and most of our ingredients are imported. Some raw materials are procured from local markets like rice comes from Chhatisgarh, water is from the river nearby after undergoing water treatment facility which becomes equal to as good quality as found in Europe. We get imported malts i.e barley and wheat from Germany & France. Different varieties of Yeast are sourced some from Germany and UK. We’re currently experimenting with several different styles of craft beers at the brewery. Once we are happy and satisfied with the new flavours, we will bring them to our customers.

Tell us about expansion plan both in India as well as global markets?

Currently we are available in 8 markets in India. After a successful stint in Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and popular destinations like Goa, Delhi NCR and Bangalore recently, we're really excited to and looking forward to our launches in Mumbai and Kolkata soon. With the growing demand, we have acquired the license to increase our own capacity for our unit in Chattisgarh, we will be looking to setup a new unit in 6-12 months from now.

What trend you see happening in 2019 when it comes to changing drinking culture?

In coming times, there will be newer variants and experimental brews. New age brands are willing to try and test with new flavours with the evolving drinking culture. Also many craft beer brands will start venturing into Tier 2 cities aggressively.

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