India’s beer market has for long been ruled by three big multinationals — the Heineken-owned United Breweries, Carlsberg and AB InBev. But 38-year-old Ankur Jain’s homegrown craft beer brand, Bira 91, is brawling it out with the biggies at pubs and homes. Between challenging a mammoth incumbent, Kingfisher, in the premium category, to becoming the most sought after beer in metro pubs, the quirky monkey sold 2.6 million cases last year. With its focus on light tasting beer and unique brand positioning, it has caught the fancy of millennials, a target segment that the incumbents took for granted. In less than three years, the brand has cornered 14% share in key markets such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. After tasting success in India, Bira 91 wants to repeat the same in Asian markets and the US. While it’s still early to predict if Bira 91 can win globally, back home it has ended up giving MNC players a hangover.
It was in June 2015, Ankur Jain invited 20 people through Facebook to a restaurant at Delhi’s Hauz Khas for a hip hop evening. The idea was to promote his three-month-old craft beer brand Bira 91. To his surprise, 200 people turned up on a Tuesday evening and that too for a party that was not even free. “People were ordering and reordering Bira 91, despite having other options at the restaurant. Soon, we ran out of beer. That night, I realised, we are on to something,” says the 38-year-old founder of the Delhi-based craft beer start-up.
More than three years later, Bira 91 with its quirky monkey logo, is now available in seven markets — Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Pune, Chandigarh and Goa. And it has already challenged the old market leader, at least in the premium segment. In Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, the key metros, Bira 91 enjoys 14% market share in the premium beer category, where the next contender Kingfisher Ultra is at 7%. Heineken overall, with its other brands has a 20% share but the playful Bira 91 has a story of sweat hidden under its label.
Hop, skip and jump
Ankur Jain calls himself a Delhi boy. He completed his schooling in Delhi and flew to Chicago to pursue Computer Science. As a techie, he worked at Motorola briefly at the company’s healthcare division.