Kaama Breweries, which imports Witlinger brand of beer from U.K., plans to start brewing it in India shortly under the close watch of the UK-based master brewer, Bill Dobson
“We wanted to cater to customers who were looking for good craft beer in India, which we typically get from microbreweries only,” recalls Anuj Kuswah. When he realised that the demand for it was growing, he launched India’s first craft beer brand ‘Witlinger’, in bottles, under the stables of Kaama Breweries. The beer was initially launched in 2014 in draughts (kegs) to test the market. After almost a year of test marketing, in 2016, Kaama started importing and selling the Witlinger Wheat Ale beer from Witlinger UK. This particular brew has over 130 years of traditional brewing heritage, knowledge and expertise.
What started with 1,500 cases a month increased to close to 10,000 cases in March 2017. “However, over the next couple of months we are planning to start brewing the product in the India,” says he. The company has tied up with a brewer in Raipur for the same and will be bringing the master brewer, Bill Dobson, from Witlinger UK, to brew it in India to ensure quality. “When we import, the distribution is restricted because of the customs duty. But when it is brewed in India, it’s easy to distribute the product,” states Kuswah. He expects the overall business to increase by four times once this happens. To help in this growth, it plans to increase its team size to 70 from the current 45.
Over the next couple of months the company is planning to start brewing the beer in the India. It has tied up with a brewer in Raipur for this and will be bringing in the master brewer, Bill Dobson, from Witlinger UK, to brew in India and maintain consistency in taste
Understanding the India Market
Craft Beer is a niche segment in India and is seeing demand and presence in only select markets, particularly metros. And, Witlinger has launched two variants, Witlinger Wheat Ale and Witlinger Lager; available at Rs. 150 and Rs. 160 per bottle in Delhi and Mumbai respectively. With a strong presence in Delhi and Goa, the company plans to reach out to Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, and Chandigarh markets in 2017.
“We cannot advertise alcohol in India, so we’re focussing on trade discounts, promotions and support events,” states Kuswah. The company is running a promotion on its new initiative called Nowrolling – rolling the bottle before it is served. “Since Witlinger wheat beer is unfiltered, we need to roll the bottle before it is served. This also gives a good aroma to the beer,” he explains.
Becoming The Market Leader in Craft Beer
To aid growth, the company is planning to raise another round of funds in the next couple of months, to be used for trade discounts and promotions. In 2016, it raised close to US $1.4 million from Amit Anand and Jasmeet Singh Marwah.
The market size for beer in India is about 320 million cases a year, out of which craft beer is less than one per cent and this number is only expected to increase. According to Kuswah, what’s driving demand for this brew is the taste of craft beer which is much better than a commercially brewed beer. “Given that we have the first mover advantage, we would like to become the number one craft beer maker in the market in the next three years,” says Kuswah on a concluding note.
Insights from Witlinger
Product development Approach: Owing to customs duty causing restricted import and therefore distribution, over the next couple of months, the company plans to start brewing the UK-based beer in the India. For this, it has tied up with a brewer in Raipur.
Market Development Approach: With a strong presence in Delhi and Goa, the company plans to reach out to Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, and Chandigarh markets in 2017.
Marketing Approach: Since alcohol cannot be advertised openly, the company relies on trade discounts, promotions and support events.