Get full access to one story every week, and to summaries of all other stories. Just create a free account

Somewhere along the way, Bira just stopped being itself.

An unorthodox, low-bitterness craft beer brand, Bira 91 started out in 2015 challenging everything that beer had stood for in India. Everything from its name to its logo screamed millennial, fun, and well-thought-out, and for a while there, beer didn’t seem like an industrial product. But, India’s first bottled craft beer brand isn’t very crafty anymore—hasn’t been for a while.

B9 Beverages-owned Bira brought craft beer to urban masses when there was close to no competition. Now, there are more than 45 brands (such as Chhattisgarh-based Simba, Mumbai-based White Owl and Gurugram-based White Rhino) in the same premium price range as Bira—Rs 100-150 ($1.4-2.2)  for a 330 ml bottle. All of these in four short years. And now, beer drinkers often complain about the low quality of Bira’s product, say executives at two South Delhi restaurants.

Bira, backed by venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, has been pushing hard to fight this burgeoning competition. And it has taken a few hits. For a brand that was looking to break even by FY19, Bira doubled its consolidated losses in the financial year that ended March 2018—the latest year for which figures are available—to Rs 102 crore ($14.7 million, highest so far) from Rs 55 crore ($7.9 million) in the previous year, on the back of heavy marketing and promotions, according to data sourced from Tofler.

While the company did grow its consolidated revenue five-fold to Rs 160 crore ($23 million) on the back of its entry into new markets as well as the launch of new variants like light beer and Indian Pale Ale, much of the growth came at the cost of the bottomline. In fact, for the year ended March 2019, industry executives believe that Bira’s losses will mount in light of increased production capacities and marketing expenses. In 2018, the company also entered global markets like the US, Nepal and Singapore.

In the face of so much competition, “Bira has reached a saturation point in its top few cities,” said a former top executive at Bira who recently left the company to pursue another venture. He didn’t want to be named as he didn’t want to comment on his former employer. But Bira’s problems go beyond competition. There are production issues (which are taking away its craft title), possible fund crunch and internal management conflict.

To arrest these issues, Bira is breaking character. As contradictory as it may sound, just last month, Bira launched a mass-market strong beer brand called Boom and slinked into the market it once was supposed to disrupt with its craft beer portfolio. Priced between Rs 130 ($1.87) and Rs 160 ($2.3) for a 650 ml bottle, depending on the state, Boom will compete with the likes of the age-old, low-priced Kingfisher from United Breweries and Tuborg from Carlsberg.

AUTHOR

Harveen Ahluwalia

In her last assignment, Harveen was at Mint, the business daily published by HT Media. At Mint, where she spent about two years, she wrote stories on retail, food and the media business. Harveen is a B.Com (H) graduate from Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi. She has a diploma in journalism from the Times School of Journalism. Like many folks at The Ken, Harveen talks and tweets a lot. When she isn’t writing or reading, she likes to sketch and doodle. She can be reached at harveen at the-ken dot com.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 6 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 6 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 6 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected]m or follow us on Twitter.