Bira91 taps into customers to brew new launches, Technology News, ETtech

Illustration: Rahul Awasthi
Illustration: Rahul Awasthi

Sequoia-backed craft beer brand Bira91 is turning to customers and other beer connoisseurs to help come up with new releases.

On its fifth birthday, the company said it was looking to launch 40-50 different limited release beers in the next one year to chance upon those winning brews.

At its new taproom in Bengaluru, Bira91 said it would launch one new beer a week, brewed in small batches at its newest brewery in Mysore.

Along with the high-paced release cycle, the company is hoping to receive feedback on the new brews right from customers before it makes the highest rated ones available on shelves.

“We will release almost 40-50 beers just this year and every time a consumer comes in and buys a beer, they can vote for it, rate it and give us feedback,” said Ankur Jain, founder and CEO of Bira91. “It’s almost like crowdsourcing the next Bira91 release, which is not limited in any way.”

Bira will rely on its team of brew masters stationed at each of its four breweries to come up with the new limited release beers. The company’s team of 24 brewers, along with a similarly sized quality assurance team will drive the ambitious programme that the company’s release cycle hinges on.

With seven beers in its portfolio and an eighth on the way, Jain said the company was bracing for high growth in the next one year, bolstered by increased production capacity, a larger distribution and a growing number of new drinkers whose first beer is a craft beer rather than the traditional lager.

Rahul Singh, founder and CEO of Beer Cafe, said that the taproom was a great way for Bira to showcase its creativity to customers as well as reaffirm its status as a maker of craft beers which often gets lost when companies grow commercially. “It’s their way of showing the world that Bira still understands craft and reinforce their brand positioning,” added Singh.

While Bira’s taproom is still only an experiment, the company is really pinning its hopes on the concept driving its innovation cycle not only to attract customers but also investors. The company’s last round — which boosted its valuation to around a quarter of a billion dollars — came in 2018, with investments last year having come at the same valuation.

In the year ended March 31, 2019, Bira’s revenue grew 15% to Rs 183 crore while losses doubled to Rs 202 crore.

Jain attributes the slowdown to supply constraints which he says are long gone, with the company estimated to clock 70% year-on-year growth in the ongoing financial year despite a flat market.

“We’ve been responsible for almost a third of the overall beer market growth in the year in terms of value,” added Jain. “We’ve doubled our market share and that’s been possible because when we started calendar 2019, we had a capacity of 4-5 million cases in the full year, but when we ended the year our capacity had grown to 20 million cases.”

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